The term “high impact practices” has been part of the higher education landscape since Kuh described these practices in 2008. These practices are tools that campuses can use to help students succeed in college, often by making connections across diverse aspects of college experience.
High impact practices include
- First Year Experiences
- Common Intellectual Experiences
- Learning Communities
- Writing Intensive Courses
- Collaborative Assignments and Projects
- Undergraduate Research
- Diversity and Global Learning
- Service Learning/Community Based Learning
- Capstone Courses and Projects
For more information about these, visit the Association of American Colleges and Universities website, which provides an overview based on Kuh’s High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter (2008). According to AACU, Kuh “presents data from the National Survey of Student Engagement about these practices and explains why they benefit all students, but also seem to benefit underserved students even more than their more advantaged peers”. Kuh has also demonstrated that underserved students generally have less access to these practices.
Further publications from AACU have explored several of the high impact practices in more details, considering differences among students, and implementation strategies that make them more likely to succeed. Jayne E. Brownell and Lynn E. Swaner (2010), in Five High-Impact Practices: Research on Learning Outcomes, Completion, and Quality, examined first-year seminars, learning communities, service learning, undergraduate research, and capstone experiences. They focused on differences between traditional and underserved students, and found that underserved students were particularly likely to benefit. You can access an excerpt of their paper.
More recently, Kuh, O’Connell and Reed (2013) have recognized that many campuses still have a long way to go to successfully implement high impact practices. Specifically, there are many educational practices that are important in building successful high impact experiences. These practices include many that faculty members will recognize as important to successful teaching:
- setting performance expectations at appropriately high levels,
- significant time and effort put in by students across an extended period of time,
- interactions with faculty and peers about substantive matters,
- experiences with diversity,
- frequent, constructive and timely feedback,
- Periodic structured opportunities to reflect on and integrate learning
- Opportunities to discover relevance of learning through real life application
- Public demonstrations of competence.
Kuh, O’Connell and Reed also argue that high impact experiences should be integrated within higher education, and that students should not be able to avoid having a high impact experience. It is not just for select campuses, or for certain individuals. Campuses should provide curricular pathways for all students, to “provide multiple, scaffolded encounters with high-impact practices …” High impact practices should be incorporated in and the incorporation of these high-impact practices in an “unavoidable curriculum,” and in both face-to-face and online classes. Other researchers have explored the role of high impact practices at community colleges.
AACU has developed a campus toolkit for exploring and implementing high impact practices.
The Wabash National Study on Liberal Education has also used the National Survey of Student Engagement and the Student Experience Survey to explore high impact practices, and the extent to which students experience them. The research has included questions about student experiences with high impact practices, and other effective teaching practices such as good teaching and high quality interactions with faculty, academic challenge and high expectations, diversity experiences, and deep learning (as defined by NSSE).
So what does it mean for us?
- It is important to be aware of high impact practices and think about ways to implement them.
- It is important to be intentional in our implementation of high impact practices, paying attention to institutional context and practices associated with effective teaching.
- It is important to frame high impact experiences for students so that they are able to recognize the value of them.
- High impact experiences might look different at different points in a student’s college career.