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Student Development -  Goals and Framework

Page history last edited by Rachayita Shah 3 months ago

Front Page / Bonner Program Resources / Student Development / Goals and Framework


Bonner Student Development




The Bonner Program seeks to develop the skills, knowledge, experience, and commitment of students who are engaged in community service throughout the four years of their Bonner Program experience.


While each campus in the program network will have its own way of defining the various student development learning outcomes, the Bonner Program framework provides both conceptual and concrete strategies to enable students to excel in the context of the program at their particular campus. Developmentally appropriate learning outcomes linked to a comprehensive training calendar provide a solid foundation for students as they engage in service work. 


The primary components of the Bonner Program Framework are: 

These components are developed to guide students' path for community engagement and campuses' curriculum and training development to support students in the process. 


Bonner Student Development Framework

The Bonner Program is built along a four-year developmental model for students. This model translates into a scaffolded set of expectations and experiences, both in the context of community service and engagement and within students' academic and co-curricular learning. Students in the Bonner Program make a multi-year commitment to service, and engage in developmentally appropriate curricular and co-curricular experiences. As a result, they become more involved and qualified to take on additional responsibilities and leadership roles as they advance in the Program. Growth and development occurs in multiple settings such as the individual student's service site, cohort-based Bonner meetings, trainings, and academic courses.  


The chart below (the Bonner developmental Model) shows how Bonners' community engagement roles evolve over their four years in the program, starting with engaging in direct client-service, then taking on leadership roles in small projects, to handling more complex capacity-building projects.




Service Leadership Roles 

Many Bonners will find themselves taking on a formal leadership role as an intern or member of the Bonner Leadership Team. See the Bonner Student Leadership section to learn more about the many roles or the Bonner Leadership Teams section to explore the creative ways that campuses have engaged students to strengthen the Bonner Program, campus-wide engagement, or community partnerships. 


Capacity-Building Projects 

With the increasing focus on deepening and expanding the capacity of nonprofit partners and the local community, juniors and seniors should also be stepping it up in their service work. See the Guide on Capacity Building to learn more. Here, the students may revisit their positions and Bonner CLAs, perhaps in conjunction with advising, to take on a project like curriculum design, program evaluation, grant writing, research, and more. In the Documents to Download section, you will find some trainings that are helpful to prepare students for these roles.


Community-Based and Policy Research 

Some programs are making the expectation that students work on a research project during the junior and/or senior year. Again, this fits with the ongoing learning and leadership development of students, as well as with increased academic expectations in majors, minors, and programs. This can include a Community-Based Research  CBR) project, where the student addresses community-identified needs for knowledge and information while also earning hours and credit for this work. In the Documents to Download section, you'll find some helpful trainings for students.


Social Action Projects/Campaigns

As students progress through the Bonner developmental model, they are gradually exposed to the many manifestations of community and civic engagement. It is the intention that as they reach their junior and senior year, they will have engaged in direct service, begun working on building capacity at their service site, and gained a deeper understanding of the complex policies and issues at play within their service site. At this point in their Bonner journey, it is the hope that students are exposed to the many avenues in which they may foster social change. In order to build their skills and confidence as agents of change, empower and train upperclassmen students to develop and implement their own social action campaign. At this time, the predominant way this can be accomplished is through partnership with a faculty member to teach a social action course. However, staff can also adapt the social change guide to better fit their program and campus needs. On the Social Action and Community Organizing page, you can find resources and examples that can support you in implementing this initiative.


Social Innovation Projects

Social Innovation is defined as a novel solution to a social problem. Bonners are doing intensive service in the community, with intentional support, training, reflection, and education to help them process their work and impact. Because of this, students have one of the most insightful experiences that can spark social innovation that is focused on local community work. To harness this inspiration, the Bonner Foundation is hoping to launch the Social Innovation Fund, a source of funding for Bonner social innovation projects. This fund is open to applications from all Bonners in the network. Additionally, Bonner Scholars can also apply to use Community Funds for this purpose as well. Given this opportunity, student leaders can deepen their level of engagement with their service site and community by taking on a social innovation project, and building their leadership abilities through team-based project management.


Common Commitments

About ten years after the establishment of the Bonner Program, the Bonner Foundation brought together staff and students involved in the program to articulate a common language about the goals and values of the program. Through a series of focus groups and discussion sessions at various Bonner-sponsored gatherings, six Common Commitments were identified as representing the collective beliefs about the types of values and personal commitments that those connected through the Program encounter and explore.  Each Bonner Program weaves the exploration of the Common Commitments into their work in various ways, including reflection activities, trainings, film screenings and discussions, and coursework.  



Cornerstone Activities

The Cornerstone Activities are designed to be hallmarks of the Student Development Model. A Cornerstone Activity has been designated for each level of the model:



Bonner Student Learning Outcomes and Rubric

Over the past decade, the Bonner Foundation and colleges and universities in its network have begun to formalize a set of learning outcomes connected to the co-curricular, curricular, and integrative experiences associated with its four-year civic engagement program. This rubric draws on rubrics developed as part of the VALUE initiative of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, including the Civic Engagement, Civic Values, Civic Knowledge, and Integrative Learning Rubrics. It is developed for program staff and students to reflect on how well the curricular, co-curricular, and integrative experiences help enhance students' civic knowledge and skills. Click below to view the rubric.

Bonner Program Learning Outcomes Rubric 2023.



Knowledge Areas

The following knowledge areas were identified as topics to educate and broaden students' understanding of the often complex issues they may confront during their direct service experiences.  Through the following lenses, students may examine root causes, which policy options work well, and which do not, and what may be needed for long-term solutions: 


  • Place-based knowledge
    • Connected to the community where the student is serving, such as knowledge of local context, history, economics, politics, and issues 
  • Issue-based knowledge (Local, National, Global)
    • Poverty
    • Homelessness
    • Hunger
    • Distribution of wealth
    • Distribution of food
    • Health care
    • Environmental concerns 
  • Civic Knowledge
    • Structure and roles of government 
    • Analyzing the implications of policies 
    • Ways to be involved in shaping public policy 


Bonner Civic and Community Engagement Trainings include modules that address a number of these topics. 


Bonner Skill Set 

First developed in 2003-04 through collaborative efforts of students, campus administrators, community partners in the Bonner network and Foundation staff, the Bonner Skill Sets were created to connect to and complement both the Common Commitments and the Student Development Model. It is the hope that every Bonner graduate will have increased their mastery and grown in their ability in each of the skills listed below after four years in the Program.  To facilitate student achievement,  we have developed an extensive series of training modules which can be found on and downloaded from our Bonner Civic and Community Engagement Trainings.


Personal Skills Leadership Skills Professional Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Balance/Boundaries
  • Communication
  • Decision Making
  • Organization
  • Planning
  • Reflection
  • Time Management
  • Goal Setting
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Delegation
  • Planning
  • Public Speaking
  • Running a Meeting
  • Teamwork
  • Working with Diverse Groups
  • Budgeting
  • Evaluation/Research
  • Event Planning
  • Fundraising
  • Grant Writing
  • Marketing/Public Relations
  • Mediation
  • Networking
  • Public Education/Advocacy
  • Volunteer Management 




Reflection is a critical learning process derived from questioning, examining, and analyzing events and experiences. In our context, it is the time spent thinking, evaluating, and assessing one's service work, what it means, and how it affects us and the world. By practicing critical reflection, students deepen their understanding of issues, make connections, gain new skills, and become more effective in their service work.


Commonly thought of as an inward, passive process, reflection can be dynamic when paired with service, becoming very much an outward, active process. Exploring values, sharing fears and successes, and recognizing the connection between individual efforts and those of other groups are all elements of reflection that draw on the community service experience, transforming it into a learning opportunity.


Bonner Programs are called upon to integrate reflection in a consistent way throughout the year. Reflection can occur in formal and informal settings. Informal reflection can take place in many different venues during group travel to service sites, personal journaling, and late night conversation with peers. Structured and formal reflection is also critical in learning through service and can help shape a Bonner student's ideas, beliefs, and actions. 


The Experiential Learning Cycle explains a cyclical process of thinking and acting through five steps. It highlights the importance of reflection for students in their application of learning.


Experiencing — The Activity Phase
Participants have a common experience, such as doing a service project together or participating in the Bonner First Year Service trip. In the context of that service, learning does occur; but if the process stops there, long-lasting learning and internalization of the meaning of these experiences may not happen.


Sharing Exchanging — Reactions and Observations
Participants share what happened and how they experience it. In this step, observations are shared, including what students saw and heard, and how they felt about the experience. In the context of sharing about service, participants may share stories or observations about what they did, interactions they had, and how those interactions affected them.  For example, freshmen Bonners might participate in a reflection session at the end of the day during the First Year Trip.


Processing — WHAT Happened and WHY
In this step, participants grapple with what they experienced, thinking about what happened and why it happened/happens. In the context of service, for example, a participant who works at a homeless shelter may begin to process their observations and ask questions about the nature and cause of homelessness, or what types of services seem most useful.  A volunteer might have a chance to apply new learning from an interaction with a homeless person, or the experience of serving that sheds new insight.


Generalizing —  Relating Experiences to Everyday Life
In this step, participants become active learners, beginning to connect their experiences to everyday life, or to sift through their own mental models or constructions of the world around them. They may begin to generate insights about an issue, responses to the questions they raised through experience and observation, or begin to ask a set of deeper questions for research.  For example, a volunteer may decide he or she wants to look into mental health care and related policies for the homeless.


Applying —  Using Experiences in Everyday Life
In this step, participants begin to apply their experiences and insights into new actions and endeavors. They can be guided by asking the question "how will you use what you learned?" For instance, the volunteer may decide to get involved in writing an issue brief for a public policy course on mental health factors affecting homelessness.


Our Bonner Civic and Community Engagement Trainings includes resources for a range of reflection activities.