Tool Reflection and Evaluation

TEFCE Toolbox | An Institutional Self-Reflection Framework for Community Engagement in Higher Education

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 02 December 2020

TEFCE project / Cite as: Farnell, T., Benneworth, P., Ćulum Ilić, B., Seeber, M., Šćukanec Schmidt. N. (2020). TEFCE Toolbox: An Institutional Self-Reflection Framework for Community Engagement in Higher Education. Zagreb: Institute for the Development of Education 

Dedication: The authors would like to dedicate this report to the memory of Paul Benneworth
(1976-2020), whose intellectual leadership and academic work was central to the development
of the TEFCE Toolbox

The TEFCE Toolbox for Community Engagement in Higher Education is an institutional self-reflection framework. The Toolbox provides tools for universities and communities to identify community engagement practices and reflect on their achievements and room for improvement. It thus supports community engagement without using metrics, ranking or bureaucratic self-assessment questionnaires.

Purpose of the TEFCE Toolbox

The TEFCE Toolbox for Community Engagement in Higher Education is a framework that stimulates universities and their communities to jointly carry out a process to examine their community engagement in a robust and comprehensive way. The TEFCE Toolbox serves as a reference tool for universities, communities and policymakers to better understand the dimensions of community engagement and as a practical tool for universities to determine how well they perform according to each dimension and to identify where they can improve.


While building upon previous international initiatives to assess community engagement, the TEFCE Toolbox provides a novel and innovative approach based on four principles:

  • (1) Commitment to authentic, mutually beneficial community engagement
  • (2) Empowerment of individual actors within and outside university
  • (3) Participative approach, combining bottom-up and top-down involvement
  • (4) Collaborative learning rather than comparison of competitive performance

Overview of the TEFCE Toolbox: the implementation stages

The application of the TEFCE Toolbox takes place through a sequence of stages undertaken by participating universities and involving university management, academic and professional staff, students and representatives of external communities.

  • STAGE 1: QUICK SCAN - Setting up team of university management, staff, students and community representatives and launching initial discussion on the type and extent of community engagement at the university.
  • STAGE 2: EVIDENCE COLLECTION - Collecting case studies of community-engaged practitioners throughout the university and from external communities.
  • STAGE 3: MAPPING REPORT - Based on collected practices, identifying good practices and assigning a level of community engagement of the university, resulting in a ‘mapping report’ (later integrated in the overall institutional report).
  • STAGE 4: PARTICIPATIVE DIALOGUE - Open discussions among university management, staff, students and the community on strengths and areas of improvement.
  • STAGE 5: INSTITUTIONAL REPORT - Comprehensive report which presents the TEFCE Toolbox mapping results, celebrates good practices and highlights areas for further improvement. 

Overview of the TEFCE Toolbox: the tools

Each stage of the TEFCE Toolbox involves the application of a different tools, as presented below:

  • TOOL 1: DIMENSIONS OF ENGAGEMENT - The first tool provides a summary classification of the range of activities through which community engagement can take place. Its purpose is thus to help users quickly understand the scope of what is meant by a community-engaged university and to help identify engagement practices at their institution.
  • TOOL 2: LEVELS OF ENGAGEMENT - The second tool provides a rubric defining different levels of engagement (from beginner to advanced) for each sub-dimension of the TEFCE Toolbox. Its purpose is to allow users to critically analyse the practices they have mapped with the previous tool and to reach conclusions regarding the level of engagement.
  • TOOL 3: INSTITUTIONAL COMMUNITY-ENGAGEMENT HEATMAP - The third tool provides a colour-coded matrix to synthesise the findings for each dimension and to further determine the extent to which community engagement is multifaceted and embedded at the university. Its purpose is to allow users to reach conclusions on the level of community engagement for each dimension and for the entire university, based on the previously mapped and analysed practices.
  • TOOL 4: ‘SLIPDOT’ ANALYSIS - The fourth and final tool provides a customised ‘SWOT’ analysis to facilitate selfreflection discussions (via workshops or focus groups) between all stakeholders about the results of the implementation of the entire TEFCE Toolbox process. Its purpose is to validate the conclusions, acknowledge achievements and define areas for improvements. 

The TEFCE Toolbox stages and tools interact as follows in practice: 

How to apply the TEFCE Toolbox
The TEFCE project team recommends to apply the TEFCE Toolbox at the level of the entire university, in order to advocate a whole-institution approach to supporting community engagement and to involve university management in the process. We also recommend to apply all stages of the TEFCE Toolbox in order to ensure a holistic approach that brings value to all participants.
However, the TEFCE Toolbox is an open-access and flexible tool that can also be applied at the department/faculty level and that could also be applied in different ways (e.g. focusing on a few dimensions only, starting only with a quick scan, etc).
The benefits of applying the TEFCE Toolbox are proportional to the efforts invested in its application. Based on our experience of piloting the Toolbox, the following resources are needed for its implementation over a 6-month period:
  • one coordinator to organise the Toolbox’s application, the evidence collection, meetings/workshops and produce the resulting report (approx. 10-20 working days)
  • one researcher (or expert) is needed to lead/ensure the quality of the mapping and analysis and the self-reflection process (approx. 5-10 days)
  • 7-10 working group members (including management, staff, students and community representatives) to participate at meetings/workshops (approx.. 1-3 days)
  • 20-40 university and community members to contribute to collection of practices (approx. 1 hour per participant to complete form).
The TEFCE project team is eager to support new institutions wishing to apply the TEFCE Toolbox, both during the TEFCE project’s implementation and after the end of the project (June 2021). You can contact them at: [email protected]



1. Community Engegement in Higher Education: What is it and why is it crucial today?

  • Defining community engagement in higher education
  • Dimensions of engagement 
  • Context-specific, authentic, multifaceted and embedded engagement 

2. TEFCE Toolbox: What is it and what is in for me? 

  • Purpose of the TEFCE Toolbox 
  • Target groups and benefits of the TEFCE Toolbox 
  • Overview of the TEFCE Toolbox: the implementation stages 
  • Overview of the TEFCE Toolbox: the tools 
  • How to apply the TEFCE Toolbox 
  • Guiding principles of the TEFCE Toolbox 

3. TEFCE Toolbox. Implementation stages







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