Evaluating Civic Engagement

Civic engagement activities and courses might might incorporate both geoscience habits and skills and civic learning. Which skills and habits will you emphasize? Those should frame your assessment decisions. Civic engagement offers the opportunity to build geoscience skills and habits, workforce skills, and good citizen traits like: awareness, openness and valuing of diverse groups, strategies for building empathy, personal agency, or a desire to participate in the community. How will you know that your geoscience students learned, gained agency, or developed cultural understanding from their civic engagement course or experience? Below are tools and examples for measuring attitudes, learning, or program measures of success (e.g. community outcomes, engagement hours). Consider measuring both discipline specific and civic engagement skills in your courses and programs. Skills and habits important to geoscience and civic decision making include systems thinking, reflection, equity, and justice.

General Civic Engagement Assessment Tools (many could be used as pre and post course or event assessments):

  1. Faculty Focus, Student Reflection Exercises. Provides case studies of reflection in different types of civic engagement courses.
  2. Kalamazoo College, Center for Civic Engagement, Structured Reflection. Includes links to structured reflection tools including: What? So What? Now What? (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 51kB Apr13 18) reflection process and a guide to leading reflection.
  3. InTeGrate Project, Assessment and Project Evaluation. Describes interdisciplinary sustainability education project that spans from course to geoscience community-wide assessment. Attitudinal and systems thinking measurement tools may be of interest to those exploring the impacts of civic education.
  4. Torney‐Purta, J., Cabrera, J. C., Roohr, K. C., Liu, O. L., & Rios, J. A. (2015). Assessing civic competency and engagement in higher education: Research background, frameworks, and directions for next‐generation assessment. ETS Research Report Series, 2015(2), 1-48.This includes a comprehensive look at many civic engagement assessment tools.
  5. Science Education for New Civic Engagement (SENCER) Student Assessment of their Learning Gains. This is a civic engagement assessment tool evaluates research and synthesis skills, attitudes (i.e. enthusiasm, confidence, willingness to ask for help), and integrated learning (i.e. making personal and systems connections). This survey includes flexibility to add course-specific assessment questions. Examples of survey tools used by other instructors are available. SENCER also offers tips on course design around a civic-engagement rubric.
  6. Shiarella, A. H., McCarthy, A. M., & Tucker, 2000, Development and construct validity of scores on the community service attitudes scale. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 60(2), 286-300. See tool: Post-Course Community Service Attitudes Scale Assessment. This tool measures demographic factors, college interests, and metrics associated with helping behaviors (Schwartz). These include perceptions (i.e. awareness of community challenges, perceptions of service, personal ability to make change, and connectedness or personal responsibility), moral obligation (i.e. norms, empathy), reassessment (i.e. costs, benefits, seriousness) and helping, or intention to continue engagement.
  7. Racial Equity Tools, Evaluate; Racial Equity Tools. Assess, document, and learn from your racial equity work. Explore power and privilege.
  8. Wabash, Center for Inquiry, Study Instruments. Includes tools for measuring student attitudes about diversity, social justice, leadership, purpose, and political influence.

Civic Engagement Student Project or Associated Attitudes Assessment:

  1. AAC&U, Civic Engagement Value Rubric. This rubric is designed to assess civic engagement. It feature: diversity of communities and cultures, knowledge relevant to ones civic life, civic identity, civic communication, reflection, and civic collaboration. It complements projects featuring research skills and habits (e.g. build contextual understanding of research) in service to the community.
  2. Bruckner, Monica, Science Education Resource Center (SERC) Assessment of Service Learning Projects.This provides strategies for assessing student projects that often include written or oral communication to peers and community partners. Strategies center around building project skills more than attitudes.
  3. Campus Compact, Learning and Assessment of Global Citizenship. Includes frameworks for developing and assessing global education civic experiences with links to many relevant journal articles.
  4. Yale Climate Communications Project, Global Warmings Six Americas Screening Tool. See how your students attitudes shift after learning new climate information, or have students compare their own responses to results from the national survey.

Civic Engagement Program or Institutional Assessment

  1. AAC&U, Case Studies: Civic Learning in the Major by Design Includes program service learning models that are described by institutional setting, engagement at distinct course levels (i.e. scaffolding), examples of courses including learning objectives, syllabi, and key civic projects, descriptions of internal and external influences supporting civic engagement, evidence for success (i.e. outcomes tracked), and advice for implementation. Two models are from earth and environmental programs.
  2. Campus Compact, Institutional Assessment. Indicators, rubrics, and benchmarking tools to help institutionalize civic engagement.
  3. Campus Compact, Carnegie Classification. Meeting Carnegie Classification criteria offers institutions a way to showcase their exemplary engagement. Criteria span curricular and co-curricular arenas.
  4. Corporation for National and Community Service Evidence Exchange. Explore service program goals and outcome reports. Provides ideas on tracking (e.g. project outcomes). Outcomes include categories such as the nature of engagement, audiences engaged, attitudes, shared resources, and synergies or unexpected outcomes from engagement.
  5. Hanover Research Public Engagement Strategies and Evaluation Provides ideas on outcomes associated with University civic engagement. Also includes links to benchmarking resources as programs or institutions work toward civic engagement goals.

Additional Advice

Social scientists frequently study awareness and attitudes surrounding resilience issues like climate change and natural hazards. Tools from research studies may be useful to understanding how your students view science issues and think about their roles as science users, community agents, or in addressing social justice.