Civic Learning Assessment Guide for Course Instructors

As the University of Hawai‘i aspires to be the world’s foremost indigenous serving university, civic learning and community engagement are becoming increasingly important in curricula. Here is a quick introductory guide on how to assess civic learning in your courses.

General Assessment Principles

  1. Clearly define civic student learning outcomes (SLOs).
  2. Use direct evidence of learning when possible to make learning outcomes observable.
  3. Align the evaluation criteria with the SLOs and the task requirements.

Construct student learning outcomes (SLOs) related to civic learning

Civic learning outcomes can include many dimensions of civic and disciplinary knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Two fundamental frameworks in higher education provide general directions for writing civic learning outcome statements for a four-year college graduate:

VALUE rubric guided sample SLOs: Students are able to

  1. connect/apply academic knowledge to civic life/communities
  2. collaborate with communities to achieve civic aims (e.g., collaborate effectively with community partners to identify and propose solutions to community issues.)
  3. adapt/adjust attitude and promote diversity of communities and cultures (e.g., adapt one’s own attitudes and beliefs through working with community partners; open to perspectives of members in the community from diverse backgrounds.) 
  4. establish civic-identity and commitment (e.g., Students reflect on what they learned about themselves as it relates to a sense of civic identity; Students exhibit a strong commitment to actions that improve the quality of life in a community.)
  5. effectively communicate to promote civic understanding and action (e.g., Students express, listen, and adapt messages based on civic contexts and others’ perspectives)
  6. participate in civic context (e.g., students participate in service-learning)

DQP guided sample SLOs at the Bachelor’s level:

  1. Students identify significant civic issues supported by quantitative evidence.
  2. Students can explain diverse positions and evaluate the issue.
  3. Students develop and justify a position on a public issue and relate this position to alternate views.
  4. Students collaborate with others in developing and implementing an approach to a civic issue.
  5. Students can evaluate activities and actions in addressing a civic issue.

These learning outcome statements are very general and are suitable as intuitional-level learning outcomes. Instructors would want to align their course learning outcomes with the institutional level outcomes and make their SLOs statements more meaningful and specific for students to understand.

Use direct evidence of student learning to make SLOs observable

Definition of direct evidence: Direct evidence of learning refers to students’ performance, behavior, or products that allow others to make direct inferences on students’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Direct evidence demonstrates the actual learning that has occurred relating to the intended outcome.

Examples of direct evidence or close-to-direct evidence of learning

SLO DomainFormatWays to strengthen
1. Civic knowledge
2. Connection of disciplinary knowledge and civic issues
3. Intellectual skills (ethical reasoning)
•Open-ended quiz questions
• Analysis essay
• (Literature) research report
• Research poster
• Case studies
• Scenario analysis
• Debate
• Multi-media presentations
Design authentic assignments:
• Public blogs
• Writing a newspaper article
• Writing a letter
• Make a poster/video/website for the public
4. Civic participatory skills (collaboration, intercultural competency, work across differences, team leadership)• Structured observation checklist
• Unstructured observation log
• Peer/Community partner evaluation form
• Students self-reflection essay (substantiated by examples and insights)
Use multiple sources of evidence but make it manageable. For example, combine:
1. Community partner’s 5-item checklist and
2. Students’ detailed and thorough reflection on their collaboration skills

Provide students guidance or scaffold self-reflection (provide examples, offer on-going reflection opportunities, provide timely feedback)
5. Civic dispositional outcomes (motivation, self-efficacy, sense of responsibility)• Behavior observation log (e.g., number of times self-initiated volunteer service provided.)
• Student self-reflection essay (substantiated by examples and insights)
Provide students guidance or scaffold self-reflection (provide examples, offer on-going reflection opportunities, provide timely feedback)
6. Civic participation• Action/Participation logHave community partner/supervisor sign/verify the log

Designing student self-reflection task

Criticism of self-reflection: It does not provide direct evidence of learning because it is based on students’ self-report.

Usefulness of self-reflection: Self-reflection is a very useful assessment tool and close-to-direct evidence when:

  • students are trained to reflect objectively through guidance, examples, and feedback
  • students provide concrete examples and contextual details
  • instructors use other evidence (e.g., observations, peer evaluations) to refine and validate their reflection tasks

It is one of the most important assessment tools for civic learning assessment.

Sample Reflection Prompts

Learning DomainSample Learning DomainSample reflection prompts
(Aligned with VALUE Outcome A above)
Use knowledge to identify and interpret civic issues1. Describe a community issue that you are engaged in this semester. Use the theories, concepts, and approaches that you have learned in the class to explain the civic issue. Describe your analysis and perspective in detail with examples and elaborations so that people outside of our class can understand your experience. Consider the following aspect in your explanation [pick the ones most relevant to your course]:
- 1a. What is the issue and how it impacts social, economic, and environmental life?
- 1b. Which biological, physical, and social life were most impacted? How are those impacts connected and influence each other?
- 1c. Of the group affected most by the issue, who has a voice in this issue? Are they privileged or oppressed?
- 1d. What are the causes in the present and past? Which ones are major causes?
- 1e. List, compare, and synthesize different perspectives on this issue? What are the assumptions, contexts, and biases that influence these perspectives?
- 1f. How did your experience involved in community project/service-learning influenced your understanding of the concepts, principles, and/or approaches taught in the course?
Use knowledge to solve civic issues1. Describe a community issue that you are engaged in this semester. Use the theories, concepts, and approaches that you have learned in the class to explain the civic issue.
Analytical Skill
(Aligned with VALUE Outcome C above)
Adapt one’s position based on the analysis and integration of multiple perspectives to interpret a civil issue1. Describe a community issue that you are engaged in this semester. Interpret the issue from multiple perspectives. Name 3 or more perspectives, explain these perspectives, and analyze how the lived experience, power in society, assumptions, fear/motivation, and/or sources of information that shaped these perspectives. Sample perspectives can be from:
• Those in power
• Those without a voice and oppressed
• Community
• Government
• Cooperation
• Certain agencies
• People holding different political views
• People with different cultural/economic/religious background
Describe how these perspectives influence your position on the issue.
Participatory skills
(Aligned with VALUE Outcome B above)
Be able to work across differences to achieve a social aim4. Reflect on your community engagement project experience. Describe specific scenarios that you used collaborative strategies to work with people of different opinions and move the group forward. In your reflection, include:
• the civic aim that the group is trying to achieve.
• 3 strategies that you have used, the scenario that you used them, and the influence that these strategies had on the group progress.
• Changes (or no changes) in your confidence and willingness to work (with community partners) on other civic issues in the future.
Civic disposition
(Aligned with VALUE Outcome D)
Students are motivated and dedicated in5. In carrying out your community project, describe the process that you went through to understand the community issue and how you go about it in addressing this issue with your community collaborators.
Because of your project experience, do you feel more confident or more disheartened in addressing other community issues? Share your insights in detail.
What civic participation opportunities do you plan to engage in in the future? [examples include…]

Sample Reflection Assignment

Align the evaluation criteria with the SLOs and the task requirements.

  • Consider using nationally or research-based rubrics:
  • Select the rubric dimension and language that align with the learning outcome that you intend to address.
  • Present the evaluation criteria to your students when assigning the task.
  • Do give examples and annotations to the rubric so that it’s meaningful and comprehensive to both your colleagues and your students.