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Student Learning Outcomes - Overview

Page history last edited by Ariane Hoy 1 year, 4 months ago

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Student Learning Outcomes

Overview  |  Guides  |  Campus Examples  |  Documents to Download


At the core, colleges and universities aim to educate students. Nearly every institution has some reference to a public purpose in its mission statement. In that mission statement, there are often references to intended outcomes that tie to citizenship, leadership, ethics, or other ways that their graduates will lead meaningful lives and make contributions to the broader society. 


Yet, not every campus center (for community engagement) has articulated a formal set of student learning outcomes and an assessment plan for measuring them. Doing so is a good idea. Earning the highest accolades for campus community engagement, such as the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, requires showing the integration of assessment and evaluation. 


Integrating student learning outcomes is also likely to show positive results, as well as undergird continuous improvement. Below, in chronological order, are just a few of the large-scale empirical studies that have demonstrated the benefits of co-curricular, curricular, and integrated community service and engagement for student learning. This includes one directly from the Bonner Scholar Program.


Within the Bonner High-Impact Initiative, nearly two-thirds of the 24 campuses involved in that project from 2011-2014 worked on developing and formalizing student learning outcomes. As they did this, and the Bonner Foundation also looked at common outcome areas across civic engagement, a number of key themes have been identified. We encourage you to reflect on these as your campus and center develops student learning outcomes. While the language used may ultimately vary to fit your particular institutional context, these themes do indeed reflect the evolution of the broader field of academic and co-curricular community engagement.


Download copy of draft Bonner Learning Outcomes Rubric.pdf


This rubric includes outcomes and metrics from several rubrics available from the Association of American Colleges and Universities and its VALUE Initiative. Bonner Foundation staff (Ariane Hoy) was part of the faculty team involved in the development of the Civic Engagement, Civic Values, Civic Knowledge, and Integrative Learning rubrics.




Bonner Student Learning Outcomes 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. Below are the outcomes and the highest (capstone) level expression of them.



Goal for Graduating Seniors

Civic Agency
Ability to take action to address an issue or promote the public good

Student is able to act as an agent of change working collaboratively with community to build upon assets that positively impact a social issue or the public good.

Civic Identity
Sense of commitment and responsibility as a member of a community and society

Student can provide evidence of connecting his/her service and learning in ways that suggest s/he has a sense of civic identity and sustained commitment to civic involvement.

Critical Thinking and Perspective Taking

Ability to analyze and synthesize diverse perspectives

Student can consider and refer to diverse perspectives to complex subjects within natural and human systems in the face of multiple and even conflicting positions (i.e. cultural, disciplinary, and ethical.) 

Communication Skills
Ability to effectively communicate in diverse formats and forums

Student can effectively tailor communication strategies to effectively express oneself, listen to, and adapt to others to establish relationships to constructive action.

Diversity and Intercultural Competence
Understanding and capacity to learn from and with diverse others

Student can demonstrate evidence of refinement or change in own attitudes and beliefs because of working within and learning from diversity of communities and cultures. Student has promoted others' engagement with diverse and intercultural perspectives.

Ability to relate to and share feelings of diverse others

Student can compassionately draw connections between self and the feelings, perspectives, or life experiences of others across multiple dimensions of difference.

Integrative Learning

Connects relevant experience and academic knowledge

Student can meaningfully synthesize connections among experiences outside of the formal classroom (including life experiences and academic experiences such as internships and travel abroad) to deepen understanding of study and broaden their points of view.

Capacity to collaborate with and lead others to achieve a goal or common purpose

Student can demonstrate independent experience and initiative in leadership roles within complex or multiple civic engagement activities, which is accompanied by reflection or analysis about the purposes and accomplishments of one’s actions.

Place- and Issue- Knowledge 
Understanding of facets of a specific community or issue

Student can demonstrate and apply knowledge of a particular community and/or issue as evidenced in a culminating project or role.

Social Justice 

Abilities to examine and act to promote fairness and equity 

Student can collaborate with relevant stakeholders to analyze and take action to effectively address injustices.





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 



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: 


  • Public Policy
    • Structure and roles of government
    • Ways to be involved in shaping public policy
    • Analyzing the implications of governmental policies
  • Poverty
    • Roots and conditions of poverty
    • Implications
    • Possible solutions
  • International Perspective and Issues
    • Worldwide distribution of wealth
    • Global distribution of food
    • Health care
    • Environmental concerns
  • Issue-based knowledge
    • Connected to direct service areas, such as of homelessness or hunger
  • Place-based knowledge
    • Connected to the community where the student is serving, such as knowledge of local context, history, economics, politics, and issues 


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