Tips on assessment

In CEL, assignments are often more variable and open-ended than traditional classroom assessments. Assessments should allow students to demonstrate that they have achieved the learning outcomes for their specific CEL and provide opportunities for students to reflect on and demonstrate applications of newly-acquired knowledge and skills. Consider framing your assessment around assessment of learning objectives and assessment of reflection.

Challenges to traditional assessment strategies

As CEL often looks different from traditional lecture-based courses, there are a few challenges with using a traditional assessment strategy of exams and papers.

Challenges include:

  • Varied, unpredictable nature of CEL
  • Variety of experiences students might be engaging in
  • Process is as important as a final product

Strategies for assessment of CEL

Considering the above challenges to traditional assessment, we suggest thinking about alternative approaches to assessing CEL.

Consider using:

  • Common assessment elements across various experiences, such as: presentations, reports, case studies, data analysis, etc.
    • include evidence of knowledge application, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration and teamwork, initiative and leadership, and professionalism
  • Co-created criteria for assessment (including co-created rubrics that the student may help shape to fit their specific project)
  • Self-awareness tools and exercises
  • One-on-one (student and instructor) assessments such as an exit interview
  • Self-assessment and peer-assessment
  • Feedback from community partner(s)

Assessing reflection activities

In addition, because reflection is an integral component of CEL, it is important to consider how reflection can make up part of the assessment strategy.

The subjective nature of assessing reflective activities and assignments can make assessment of CEL opportunities challenging. Bourner (2003) proposes examining the connections between assessment of critical thinking and critical reflection. He describes how critical thinking and reflection both have a two-stage structure that can be developed and assessed: bringing into conscious awareness and asking and responding to searching questions. For example, surface reflection, where students demonstrate that they can describe an experience, and deep reflection, where students engage with their experience in a questioning way and as a result learn more from their experience.

By assessing reflection, the importance of this crucial part of the learning process in EL is communicated. As Bourner (2003) points out, most students pay closer attention to what is assessed and “within the academy, assessment confers legitimacy” (p. 268).

Incorporate into reflection:

  • The table below is an example of standards for critical reflection from Ash & Clayton (2009) that could be incorporated into an assessment

Standards for Assessing Critical Reflection


  • Connection between experience and learning


  • Expands on ideas and uses examples


  • Statements are factually correct


  • Specific information included


  • Statements connect to main idea


  • Explains reasons behind conclusions


  • Considers multiple perspectives


  • Reasoning makes sense


  • Attention to focus


  • Others’ perspectives are accurately prescribed

Support for your Initiatives

The CEL Office is available to support community at any stage of a collaboration.

This includes the following supports:

  • Brainstorm potential collaborations between your initiative and student learning
  • Connect you with relevant resources and expertise at UVic.
  • Provide guidance as you develop a CEL project with instructors and students
  • Help you navigate UVic systems and processes.

Engagement with Indigenous Communities

UVic’s Office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement (IACE) provides support and resources for community members and organizations including:

  • Support for employers looking to work with Indigenous co-operative education or community internship students
  • Support for representatives of an Indigenous nation, community or organization interested in exploring partnership opportunities with UVic

Explore Grant and Funding Options

Many community-engaged learning focused grants and funding options available to staff and faculty at UVic require applicants to have partnerships with the community. If you are interested in exploring a project with faculty and staff at UVic, contact us for more information and we can help connect you to appropriate faculty or unit contacts. 

Join the CEL Community of Practice

The Community-Engaged Learning Office has co-developed a community-of-practice that provides opportunities to network with other CEL participants and build capacity for excellent CEL delivery.