- The Case for ACE – Research on the value of civic engagement as a high-impact teaching practice, for supporting a diverse student body, for developing skills employers value, for building content knowledge, and for contributing to civic life.
- You might also watch this video, created by Allyvia Garza, Solveig Hanes, Gabriel Marinho, and Christian Schlaefer as their ACE project in Sian Christie’s “Organizational Storytelling” course, Fall 2019, to hear from them how to ACE can be valuable.
There are many ways to learn more about the local community and ways to connect to priorities.
- Start with you–your own interests (personal and professional), your own community involvement, and your own network of connections! The most successful ACE projects occur when faculty themselves are invested in an issue or the work of an organization.
- The ACE website has an entire section dedicated to Issue Areas that list a variety of local and regional nonprofits and organizations who are working towards goals in these areas.
- There is also an ongoing list of community projects that you could consider tapping into through an ACE collaboration.
- Schedule a time to talk with the ACE office.
The Academic Civic Engagement Program provides individualized consultations with faculty interested in adding an ACE component to a course. In general, setting up an ACE component the first time it is offered is the most time-consuming step and therefore, it is recommended that planning begin 3-5 months ahead of time, depending on the complexity of the project. One reason for advance planning is to allow for coordination with community partner organizations, who may need to adjust their schedules or plan for supervision of students in order to participate. The following worksheet introduces things to think about as you begin designing an ACE project.
- Civic Engagement Course Design Worksheet (pdf) – A list of things to think about as you design an ACE project
- ACE Partnership Worksheet (pdf) – This form intends to clarify roles, responsibilities, expectations, and outcomes between community partners, faculty, and students that are associated with academic civic engagement (ACE) projects within a course. Ideally, faculty and community partner(s) work collaboratively to develop shared aims for the ACE project; then faculty relay expectations and project parameters to students in course materials (e.g., on the course syllabus, share this form, etc.)
Here is a handy checklist of best practices for ACE courses that help make it impactful for students and community partners alike!
Project/activity that is beneficial to the community partner or the general “community” at large (as you’re defining it)?
Clear and transparent project/activity description that makes the explicit connection between the course content and the activity?
Logistical information that is easily accessible by students: transportation, partner contact information, background check forms, etc?
Adequate preparation for the students to work within the community and with diverse individuals? Could include partner as guest speaker beforehand, ACE office presentation, reviewing professional work expectations, etc.
Critical reflection at least once before, during, and after ACE activity (ideally, all three!) with guiding questions related to your course goals?
Way(s) to assess student learning that results from the ACE activity?
The decision is up to each individual instructor as determined by guidelines established by the Academic Civic Engagement Advisory Committee. For guidelines on what constitutes an ACE course and instructions for how to make this designation, please read the document, ACE Designation for Classes (pdf). Including text in ACE course syllabi to define and describe these activities will help students engage more effectively with off-campus and on-campus entities by raising their awareness of academic civic engagement terminology, aims, learning objectives and best practices. For suggestions, see the following guide, Suggested Text for ACE Class Syllabi.
The ACE Program offers one-on-one consulting to help you identify community partners, manage logistics, design and set up the ACE project, and learn about best practices. We offer funding for implementation of ACE courses, for teaching assistants, and for professional travel. We help facilitate Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorizations for international students (only needed for certain ACE courses). In addition, we offer in-class orientations for students and assistance with completing their ACE projects.
- Assessment resources from Campus Compact – A collection of assessment resources specifically for civic engagement. Scroll down the page to the heading, “Select Evaluation Resources,” for a comprehensive set of links.
- Assessment resources from SERC – While designed for a geoscience audience, this set of resources is broadly applicable across the curriculum. Topics addressed include: “What is Assessment?” “Why is Assessment Important?” “How to Use an Assortment of Assessment Strategies”, and “Examples of Assessment in Various Learning Settings.” The How to Use an Assortment of Assessment Strategies page explains how to use a variety of strategies including rubrics, ConceptMaps, ConcepTests, evaluating cooperative learning, knowledge surveys, exams, portfolios, and more.
- AAC&U VALUE Rubrics – The Civic Engagement Rubric, Intercultural Knowledge and Competence Rubric, and Integrative Learning Rubric are three that align well with ACE courses and projects. Adapt as needed to make the most sense for your course.
- Workshops – Links to upcoming events sponsored at St. Olaf. On the workshop pages, find resources such as presentation slides and handouts for past professional development workshops.
- Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts (CILA) – Upcoming conversations and workshops often have pedagogical tips and tools that are applicable to ACE courses.
- Contact the Academic Civic Engagement Office – St. Olaf’s Assistant Director for Academic Civic Engagement Coordinator, Alyssa Herzog Melby, can help you find a community partner, assist with curricular development, provide funding, help link you to colleagues with similar interests, and help design assessment or student reflection tools.
- Contact a member of the Academic Civic Engagement Advisory Committee – ACE Advisory Committee members are faculty who are experienced in doing academic civic engagement and have offered their time to provide assistance to other interested faculty.
- Contact the Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts (CILA) – St. Olaf’s center for teaching and learning can provide pedagogic help, assist with designing projects for public scholarship, and direct you to teaching resources.
Issue Areas & Community Resources
Click on an issue area to discover local and regional organizations that are working within each sector. Organizations listed are not endorsed in any way by the Smith Center but are offered for informational purposes only.
ACE is a high-impact practice.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has defined “service-learning, community-based learning” as a high-impact educational practice.
In the report, “High Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter,” by George D. Kuh (AAC&U, 2008) presented the case for adopting these pedagogical strategies. Read an overview of this report on the AAC&U website.
Evidence and other Eight-Letter Words: Musings from the National Evaluator (link) – This article by the national evaluator for AAC&U’s Bringing Theory to Practice grant program reports on the link between learning, civic engagement and student well-being that is associated with “high impact practices.”
ACE can help with student success because it offers different ways of learning and demonstrating knowledge.
Student Success and Student Engagement: Leveraging Multiple Degrees of Achievement (link) – This article describes the benefits to student academic success that have been demonstrated by thoughtful incorporation of civic engagement into curricular activities.
Community as a resource for learning (pdf) – This paper “reviews ‘academic service learning’, i.e. experiential learning that takes place in the community as an integral part of the curriculum.” Written by Andrew Furco, University of Minnesota Associate Vice President for Public Engagement.
Research shows that “students who participate in service-learning are more likely to go to college, stay in college, and succeed academically,” according to Campus Compact’s report, “A Promising Connection: Increasing College Access and Success through Civic Engagement.”
“Carleton, St. Olaf, St. Scholastica, and University of Minnesota Duluth students who took STEM service-learning courses supported by a Learn and Serve America grant available through Minnesota Campus Compact showed significantly increased interest in studying STEM fields—from an average of 6.22 to 9.24 on a 10-point scale—and 85% agreed that the use of service-learning enhanced their understanding of the scientific content.” – Source: Minnesota Campus Compact.
ACE advances real-world skills that employers value.
A nation-wide survey of business leaders in 2008 sponsored by AAC&U showed that internships or community-based experiences are the best indicators of student’s job readiness.“When it comes to the assessment practices that employers trust to indicate a graduate’s level of knowledge and potential to succeed in the job world, employers dismiss tests of general content knowledge in favor of assessments of real-world and applied-learning approaches…. assessments that employers hold in high regard include evaluations of supervised internships, community-based projects, and comprehensive senior projects.” – AAC&U report, How Should Colleges Assess and Improve Student Learning?
In AAC&U’s 2015 Employer and Student Survey, “Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success,” conducted by Hart Research Associates, 80% of employers deem the ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings as very important (4) and “fully 60% of employers think that ALL college students should be expected to complete a significant applied learning project before they graduate” (6).
- Lead to new publishing—research on ACE teaching and learning and/or research with a community partner
- Engage students with different learning styles
- Attract highly motivated and engaged students
- Advance institutional learning outcomes and/or disciplinary expectations and values
- Access more networking opportunities with engaged faculty in other disciplines or institutions
- Personal meaning and fulfillment as civic professionals, such as outlined in Amy Koritz and Paul Schadewald’s article in Peer Review, “Be the Change: Academics as Civic Professionals“
The “community” can range from a geographic community (Northfield, Rice County, MN, the US, or an international community), an identity-based community (race/ethnicity, religion, gender, etc.), or a general idea of “for the public good.”
Most of the time, ACE involves work with local community partners, but can absolutely involve partners further afield and across various identities. While more work needs to be done to document impacts on the Northfield community of academic civic engagement, the benefits to our local community is evidenced by the interest and enthusiasm expressed by community partners in working with St. Olaf students, and by the long-term nature of many partnerships. The benefits are also shown by the number of courses and students in those courses that have engaged with the community. These numbers only scratch the surface of all civic engagement activities by St. Olaf students and faculty given the many other curricular and co-curricular community engagement opportunities that exist on-campus (internships, community-based work study, undergraduate research, volunteering, etc.).