Ashley Finley



Senior Advisor to the President and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Partnerships
Office of the President


Assessing Underserved Students' Engagement in High-Impact Practices
November 13, 2013

This publication presents findings from a national study conducted by AAC&U researchers to investigate the impact of engagement in high-impact practices on traditionally underserved populations (defined here as first-generation, minority, transfer, and low-income students).The mixed-method analysis includes student-level data on engaged learning at thirty-eight participating institutions-from the state higher education systems in California, Oregon, and Wisconsin-drawn from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), as well as qualitative data obtained through student focus groups held at nine selected campuses. This report serves as a guide for campus-based inquiry to further our understanding of underserved student engagement with high-impact practices. The publication also includes a toolkit on assessing equity in high-impact practices developed by the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California. This project is funded by TG Philanthropy. Assessing Underserved Students' Engagement in High-Impact Practices (pdf)

Using the VALUE Rubrics for Improvement of Learning and Authentic Assessment
June 26, 2013

This publication addresses key elements of, and questions frequently raised about, the development and use of the VALUE rubrics for assessment of student learning. It provides information about rubric-based assessment approaches—including validity, reliability, and rubric modification—and faculty training in the use of rubrics. Specific examples of how campuses are using the VALUE rubrics to improve student learning are also provided. Full case studies from twelve campuses are available online at

Making Progress? What We Know about the Achievement of Liberal Education Outcomes
July 11, 2012

This new report provides an up-to-date overview of national data from a variety of studies of student learning, including the NSSE, Wabash National Study, CIRP, PSRI, and others. It presents comparative data on achievement over time across an array of liberal education outcomes—such as critical thinking, writing, civic engagement, global competence, and social responsibility.

The report contrasts the very positive evidence drawn from what students think they have learned with the much more sobering evidence from national tests about what students actually can do in such areas as critical thinking, writing, and quantitative reasoning. It also reflects the growing evidence that how we construct the learning environment, e.g., by emphasizing high-impact practices, is a crucial component both in assessing learning and in raising students' level of achievement. Making Progress also underscores the educational value of new assessment practices, such as e-portfolios and scoring rubrics, that move students' actual work—papers, performances, research, etc.—to the center of assessment focus.

Civic Learning and Democratic Engagements: A Review of the Literature on Civic Engagement in Post-Secondary Education
January 10, 2012

Distributed at the Association of American Colleges & Universities 2012 Annual Meeting in conjunction with the release of A Crucible Moment: College Learning & Democracy's Future, this review includes six essential findings on students' civic learning and engagement:

  • More than 70 percent of all college students report participating in some form of volunteering, community service, or service learning during their time in college.
  • About one-half of college students report participating in credit-bearing service learning activities during their time in college.
  • Dozens of studies show that service learning is positively associated with a variety of civic learning outcomes.
  • Emerging evidence suggests that the more frequently students participate in a continuum of civic learning practices (e.g. service learning, meaningful cross-racial interactions on campus or in classrooms, or real-world problem-based learning), the more they make gains on a variety of civic outcomes.
  • Although over forty percent of all college students are enrolled at public two-year institutions, only about a quarter of these students report taking a course that included a service-learning experience.
  • Despite a wealth of positive evidence related to service-learning experiences, findings on a range of civic measures and social responsibility outcomes compared over time suggest that students’ civic learning is neither robust nor pervasive.
Civic Learning and Democratic Engagements: A Review of the Literature on Civic Engagement in Post‐Secondary Education
May 24, 2011

What civic engagement is, how students should go about it, and what it should do for them after the fact is both a philosophical debate and a research divide. Even a cursory review of the literature would demonstrate that we know the most about the empirical effects of civic engagement through the lens of service‐learning. Moreover, this research has produced a convincing amount of evidence on the positive effects of service‐learning across a range of student‐centered outcomes, including gains in learning, and aspects of personal and social development. But is service‐learning really civic engagement? A number of scholars have argued that most forms of service‐learning (or other forms of apolitical community engagement) fail to intentionally engage students in the activities and processes central to democratic‐building (i.e. deliberative dialogue, collaborative work, problem‐solving within diverse groups). In essence, these scholars argue it is not enough for students to engage in the community; they must also engage in the skills, values, and knowledge development that educate them to be better citizens.