Advancing community-engaged learning

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has announced that the University of Utah will be a participant in its national research entitled “Advancing Evidence on Civic and Community-Based Engagement in Higher Education.”  AAC&U designed this project to develop national baselines for student performance on civic and community-based learning outcomes. Project participants include two- and four-year institutions, both public and private. The project is supported by a grant from Lumina Foundation.

“On behalf of university students and faculty, I am inspired by what this selection from AAC&U says about the U’s good work, promise and potential in providing exceptional student experiences through community-engaged learning,” said T. Chase Hagood, the U’s senior associate vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of Undergraduate Studies. “Now is a critical time to affirm and conduct research on the myriad potentials and significant learning outcomes of community-engaged learning.”

A team, led by the Lowell Bennion Center for Community Engagement, will participate in workshops and training designed to help the U enhance the student experience with equity-focused civic learning, global learning and community-based experiences. The team will learn more about creating intentional academic assignments linked to civic learning outcomes and working with rubrics to assess students’ civic learning and competencies.

“Community-engaged learning has long been a signature part of a University of Utah education,” said Dean McGovern, executive director of the Bennion Center, “through these curricular and co-curricular experiences students gain awareness and skills that equip them to address the wicked problems facing our communities.  We are looking forward to helping to advance this work and learn how to enhance the delivery of these educational outcomes.”

Over the course of this academic year, the U’s team will collect and submit student work to AAC&U’s Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) Institute. A national team of researchers will analyze these academic artifacts. AAC&U will publish a report that will include recommendations for how individual campuses—and higher education as a whole—can best support civic learning and skill-building for all students.

The U defines community-engaged learning as a form of experiential education in which faculty, students and community partners engage in activities that address community-identified needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development. Reflection and reciprocity with community partners are key components of these experiences.

Amy Sibul, associate director for curriculum and scholarship at the Bennion Center added, “Our selection to this important national effort is a testament to the outstanding work of U students and faculty to link education and scholarship to community needs.”