A Conversation with the AAC&U Researchers about the 2022 Report

AAC&U Panel

On February 28, 2023, Duke Service-Learning sponsored a virtual discussion with Jessica Chittum, Kathryn Enke, and Ashley Finley, research scholars from the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).  The session focused the 2022 report, The Effects of Community-Based and Civic Engagement in Higher Education:  What we Know and Questions That Remain, and was followed by a discussion on research findings, replicable models for assessment, and action opportunities for institutions.  In the opening address, Dr. Finley reinforced the AAC&U committment to “advancing the democratic purposes of higher education by promoting equity, innovation, and excellence in liberal education.”   

We’re getting at what the essence of a liberal education is and the way that civic skills build that – which is to free the mind.  Which is to equip students with the whole of a set of skills that allows them to think for themselves.  – Dr. Ashley Finley, American Association of Colleges & Universities

Findings from the 2022 Report

High-Impact Practices

The AAC&U identifies High-impact practices (HIPs) as one of four key components of a contemporary liberal education.  The new report distinguishes  between Campus-Based HIPs and Community-Based HIPs, with service-learning and community-based learning identified as a community-based high impact practice.  In her introductions, Dr. Joan Clifford, Faculty Director of Duke Service-Learning, emphasized the importance of community-based high impact practices. 

It is relevant to our campus to know that community-based high impact practices have a greater impact on student outcomes than campus-based high impact practices.  Let us use today to expand the conversation on how community-based pedagogies could help shape Duke’s future undergraduate experience.  – Dr. Joan Clifford, Duke Service-Learning

Campus-Based HIPs
Community-Based HIPs

First-year seminars and experiences

Diversity, study away, and global learning

Collaborative assignmnents and projects

Internships and field experiences

Common intellectual experiences

Service learning and community-based learning

Undergraduate research


Learning communitities


Capstone courses and projects


Writing and inquiry-intensive courses





Evidence on Community-Based and Civic Engagement in Higher Education

The primary goal of the study  was to synthesize findings from existing research on the effectiveness  of community-based and civic engagement in higher education, lift up common themes across empirical studies, and to recommend areas of further inquiry.  From analysis of fifty-three studies, the researchers identified six positive outcomes for community-based and civic engagement in higher education:

1.     Increased personal and social responsibility

2.     Development of positive mindsets and dispositions

3.     Improved graduation and retention rates

4.     Learning gains

5.     Improved intellectual and practical skills

6.     Increased career-related skills

Researchers reiterated the demonstrated  impact of a multiple high impact undergraduate experiences and noted that many of the identified campus-based HIPs could be combined with community-based experiences.

Next Steps in Direct Assessment

The findings from the 2022 report focused on a meta-analysis of existing studies, laying the foundation for further work on direct measures of student outcomes.  In Phase II  of their work, the AAC&U has undertaken a large-scale assessment of student outcomes based on direct measures of performance.  They gathered student work samples from eighteen institutions and evaluated them using the AAC&U VALUE rubrics (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education).  From this initial work, they have recommended the following action opportunities  for campuses and researchers:

  • Broaden language of civic/community engagement to increase inclusion across experiences, including global learning, internships, clinicals and field work.
  • Expand research base to include multiple HIPs and institutional context
  • Incorporate direct assessment of civic and community-based skills
  • Systematize the examination of equity gaps – and link this to other campus DEI work.
  • Continue to build and crowdsource the annotated bibliography. 

The AAC&U welcomes faculty and staff interested in the  next phase of the student outcome research to join the Value Scoring Collaborative.