Best Practices in Assessing Community Engagement (BPACE)


Best Practices in Assessing Community Engagement (BPACE or “Bee-Pace”) is a catalog of learning opportunities for faculty and staff in higher education. Through BPACE, participants can increase their knowledge and skills around not only various inquiry practices—assessment, evaluation, tracking, monitoring—but also the variety of initiatives, programs, or pedagogies that connect campus with community—our people, assets, organizations, issues or problems.


Since 2014, Indiana Campus Compact has made it a priority to provide our partners with support and services that focus on assessing community-campus engagement in higher education. The widely used label of “assessment” or the action of “assessing” community-campus engagement in higher education does not, however, do justice to the myriad of task, activities, and duties that encompass asking questions about, improving practice around, or in general, inquiring about our community-campus engagement activities[1]. Because community-campus engagement can be understood as a broad array of activities there also needs to be a broad array of inquiry activities about community-campus engagement.

Please view the catalog of support we offer in this niche of community engagement inquiry.

Through the leadership, creativity, and expertise of Indiana Campus Compact staff and our stakeholders, we have identified six key areas of inquiry that are typically focused on when exploring the inputs, outputs, and outcomes (short, medium, and long-term) of community-campus engagement. These themes also align well with the topics of articles that explore, empirically, something about “the impact” of community-campus engagement, which we see published in peer-reviewed journals across our disciplines and fields. The themes that we have identified to best encompass the inquiry we need to support across our partner campuses can be found in the tabs below.

If you have questions about BPACE, or other aspects of Indiana Campus Compact’s assessment work, email us at contactus {at} incampuscompact(.)org.

BPACE Catalog


The next session of the Assessing Student Learning Outcomes track of BPACE begins in late-January 2021. Registration will open in November 2020.



Participants develop an assessment plan or project that targets students’ civic learning and development (e.g., working with others, civic communication, civic identity, civic literacy or knowledge). Participating in this tract of BPACE is beneficial to individuals and institutions seeking guidance in implementing, maintaining, strengthening, or expanding their current assessment plans to include a civic dimension.

BPACE Alumna Andrea Wise shares what participating in the experience meant to her




Currently the student learning outcomes (SLO) track of BPACE takes place online. Participants utilize the Canvas learning management platform for asynchronous activities and will participate in synchronous, online meetings held via Zoom.


Individuals in faculty or staff roles who are responsible for or oversee a course or program that involves students in a highly engaged learning practice (e.g., service-learning, experiential learning, internship, capstone project, undergraduate mentored research, learning community). Participants are expected to come with a specific curriculum, project, learning experience, or course in mind.


After completing the SLO track of BPACE attendees can expect to:

  • List and compare a variety of civic outcomes and how they apply to your course, program, curriculum, discipline, etc.
  • Identify appropriate assessment tools that align with the intended outcome and evaluate tools for applicability.
  • Practice applying assessment tools (direct or indirect) to student artifacts in order to measure civic learning and development.
  • Design a comprehensive, coherent, and transparent teaching and learning experience that enhances students’ civic learning and development.

Community of practice (CoP) on Information Technology (IT)

This BPACE track was offered during the 2019 – 2020 academic year and is only offered every three years. We intent to offer it again in the 2022 – 2023 academic year.

Dynamics of a Community

  • A domain- specific knowledge of a particular topic.
  • A population – sharing of individual expertise and networks in a group.
  • A practice- frameworks, ideas, tools, information, styles, stories, and/or documents.

The domain of our community: best practices in collecting and utilizing data to inform our practices, jobs, campuses and communities.

The population of our community: community engagement professionals

The practice: initiating and sustaining information technology platforms to track and monitory community-campus partnerships, activities, initiatives, etc.

Click Here to Learn More about our Community of Practice Co-Chairs

  • Sherri Skarwitz, Tufts University (MA)
  • Heather Dalton-Miklozek, Indiana State University (IN)
  • Paul Valdez, Bowling Green State University (OH)
  • Sarah Beth Dempsey, St. Mary’s College of California (CA)
  • Christine Buckner, Illinois State University (IL)
  • Ellen Szarletta, Indiana University- Northwest (IN)

What. Today, many organizations but especially higher education, rely on information technology (IT) as a critical component in performing organizational objectives and advancing their mission or vision statements and strategic plan(s). When utilizing IT one must be concerned with issues related to supporting technology users and meeting their needs within an organizational and societal context. This involves but is not limited to the selection, creation, application, integration, and administration of information technologies. Further, a CEP must develop practices and knowledge surrounding the following IT domains: information and data management, networking, security, data storage, application development and programming, continuous onboarding and support of users—i.e., system administration and support—human-computer interaction (HCI), and much more. There is not much support for learning about or understanding best practices in those areas outside of formal, higher education programs of study—something our CEPs have limited resources (time, money, energy, etc.) to devote to outside of our already busy lives and the increasing expectations from decision-makers at our campuses.

Furthermore, very often the tasks associated with IT and the goals or purposes of it are in tension with the values and/or ethics of community or democratic engagement. These tensions and the values or ethics of community or democratic engagement have been noted by practitioner-scholars, in such artifacts as, Democratically Engaged Assessment or Community Engagement Professionals as Inquiring Practitioners for Organizational Learning. However, these tensions do need to be discussed and named in much more intentional and ongoing manner among the boots-on-the-ground practitioners of community engagement in higher education; these issues need to be discussed not just in peer-reviewed journal articles because they are much more dynamic and contemporaneous given the changing expectations surrounding CEPs.

So What. Under the leadership and guidance of Dr. H. Anne Weiss, the former Director of Strategic Measurement and Impact, Indiana Campus Compact recognizes the increasing responsibilities of our campus constituents to robustly track and monitor community-campus engagement. While very often this is not an explicit part of being a community engagement professional (CEP), during the tenure of being a CEP one quickly recognizes the need to know who is doing what, with whom (be it people, organizations, or other entities) for how long, with what resources, to what satisfaction, and what outputs, outcomes, or impact. Many CEPs do not, however, have a mastery of the specific knowledge that comes with utilizing information technology to gather data on the above points (i.e., data to answer questions about who, what, where, why, how, when, or the inputs, outputs, outcomes, impact, etc. of community-campus partnerships).


When it comes to the “best practices” of examining partnerships the only thing our field seems to agree on is that our partnerships with community must embody the ethics and values of democratic engagement.  And while we can understand that democratic engagement is our field’s beau ideal—an epitome, perfect model, or shining example—of how we can go about partnering with community, it does not necessarily help us understand how to examine the diverse characteristics, motivations, outputs, outcomes, or other circumstances that influence partnerships between community and university or college and its constituents.

Hence, there are many things to consider when examining community-campus partnerships, not just which ones approach our beau ideal of democratic engagement. Consequently, it can seem overwhelming to choose which direction to examine and at what point in time to examine them so that the results from this endeavor can prove useful to our campus and its partners. For example, here are a variety of ways one might begin to parse out how to examine partnerships:

  • The nature of the relationship(s): transactional, cooperative, or communal are just some of the labels that our field uses to characterize the nature of partnerships between campus constituents and community (its people and/or organizations). There are, however, many steps involved in even being able to discern which partnerships between your campus, its constituents, and the community “fit into” any of these labels.
  • The motivations for partnering with community: students’ learning, development, or application of knowledge; students’ philanthropic or civic spirit to serve or change the circumstances a certain population is facing (e.g., donation drive during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week); the faculty member’s research or expertise area and what they can offer a community-based organization, or; building the capacity of a community-based organization to (better) achieve its motivations. Knowing the motivations for pursuing partnerships does, however, require robust data collection from/with multiple populations involved in the partnerships.
  • Geographic area of focus: did your campus pursue a “near-west” or another strategic, geographically-bound area for developing partnerships with community (its people and/or organizations). Many campuses – based on a variety of exigencies – pursue partnerships within a certain zip code or other area of need near their campus. Unless you collect data regarding where the service actually occurred and what was actually done during at the community-based site, it may prove difficult to understand how geography plays a role in community-campus partnerships.
  • Time: Given that partnerships can ebb and flow over time, that they can last for a short moment, or they can build into a longer-term relationship, time can be an interesting factor to examine when looking through community-campus partnerships. We don’t have many empirically-based answers regarding how long it takes to move from a transactional type of partnership to a transformational or other type.
  • Outputs and Outcomes: What kinds of changes were the actors seeking? What kinds of products, widgets, gadgets, media, or other tangible goods were created in/with community partners? What kinds of outcomes do we care to examine? Do we care about how our partnerships with community have affected any number of social factors (e.g., 3rd grade reading levels; opioid epidemic or another public health concern; use of public transportation; influencing policy that relates to a public issue)? And don’t get us started on the word “affected”… what kind of “impact” do we expect to have? What do we even mean by impact? and/or should a university or college even pursue an agenda of showcasing how it “impacted” a particular community of people, social or public issue, and/or a community organization’s capacity to achieve their mission?

If you wish to facilitate a discussion about developing more resources and support for the field to understand best practices when it comes to examining partnerships please contact contactus {at} incampuscompact(.)org


The foundation of continuous improvement is a cycle of data collection (e.g., assessments, evaluations, and other methods), across various constituents, in order to improve community-campus partnerships, implement the necessary changes or improvements, measure the impact of those changes, and share that new knowledge with constituents so that we become learning organizations. With time and dedication, continuous improvement becomes a cycle that is self-sustaining and inspires greater engagement.

Indiana Campus Compact and the Assessment Institute

Indiana Campus Compact is proud to be a Contributing Partner to the nation’s oldest and largest assessment conference, the Assessment Institute. By strategically partnering with the Assessment Institute, we can showcase the best practices in collecting data to inform decision-making and continuously improve community-campus partnerships.

2020 Assessment Institute is being held virtually
October 25–28, 2020
View More Information
Registration for the 2020 Institute is complimentary
Register Here
Registration closes Monday, October 12, 2020.

Besides bringing together some of the best examples of tracking, monitoring, assessing or evaluating the various aspects of community-campus partnerships, we are also able to put forth a dynamic provocateur as the Keynote Speaker for the community engagement track at the Assessment Institute.

We are excited to announce that the 2020 Keynote Speaker for the Community Engagement track at the Assessment Institute will be Barbara Holland, PhD

We are excited for Dr. Holland to present a critical reflection on the path that assessment has taken since she, essentially, launched this niche of the community engagement field. Over 20 years ago, Dr. Holland was the first person to create a rubric regarding the levels of commitment a campus can make to service-learning (Holland, 1997), with many following in her footsteps. Given her focus on exploring the issues related to expanding, sustaining, and institutionalizing not only service-learning, but community engagement writ large, Dr. Holland will be able to provide a keen reflection on where the niche of assessing or evaluating community-campus partnerships could have gone, would go, or should have gone to, as we look back with her now, in 2020.

Previous Keynote Speakers

  • 2019: Dr. Nyeema Watson
  • 2018: Dr. Emily Janke
  • 2017: Dr. Mathew Johnson
  • 2016: Dr. Robert Reason

Faculty Development

We currently examine the learning and development of faculty who engage in campus-community partnerships to inform their teaching, to conduct research, or as a part of serving their community (e.g., sitting on a community organization’s Board of Directors) through our various programs devoted to faculty development. These programs offer faculty the opportunity to engage in a wide variety of experiences from collaborative peer-led learning communities to Compact sponsored research. As this area of the assessment field continues to develop, we seek to be at the forefront, not only providing opportunities for faculty of all types, rank, and employment status, but also continuing to examine how best to assess those experiences.