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Brief Description

AAC&U defines High-Impact Practices (HIPs) as "techniques and designs for teaching and learning that have proven to be beneficial for student engagement and successful learning among students from many backgrounds. Through intentional program design and advanced pedagogy, these types of practices can enhance student learning and work to narrow gaps in achievement across student populations."  AAC&U identifies as HIPs the list of practices identified by Goerge Kuh in 2007.

Kuh's HIPs generally benefit all students, but they tend to benefit students from historically underserved populations even more.  Research indicates, though, that the students who can gain the most from HIPs typically have the least access to them.  Expanding access thus becomes a primary goal for successful implementation of HIPs. 

Research also indicates that HIPs can be implemented in a wide range of levels and qualities, and that the purpose of some HIPs (capstone courses, for example) can vary enormously both across and within institutions.  Careful design is thus another primary goal for successfully implementing a HIP into your course. 

Here is George Kuh's list of HIPs (2008): 

  • First-Year Seminars and Experiences
  • Common Intellectual Experiences
  • Learning Communities
  • Writing-Intensive Courses
  • Collaborative Assignments and Projects
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Diversity/Global Learning
  • Service Learning, Community-Based Learning
  • Internships
  • Capstone Courses and Projects

See brief descriptions of each HIP here. 

Summary of Research

George Kuh, founding director of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), designed student self-reporting instruments aimed at understanding how students engaged (or did not engage) in college.  In part, he aimed to identify teaching strategies that consistently implemented Chickering and Gamson's (1987) "good teaching practices in undergraduate education."  According to Chickering and Grasom, research suggests that good undergraduate teaching:

  • Encourages contact between students and faculty
  • Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students.
  • Encourages active learning.
  • Gives prompt feedback.
  • Emphasizes time on task.
  • Communicates high expectations.
  • Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

Analyses of the NSSE consistently indicate strong correlations between students' participation in Kuh's 10 practices with students' perceptions of learning gains and their expections for returning (retention rates). Benefits were particularly strong for students of color.  Subsequent research has demonstrated correlations between self-reported participation in Kuh's HIPs and students' actual grades and retention rates (CSU). 

When Kuh's HIPs are implemented well, they have several characteristics in common: "They demand considerable time and effort, facilitate learning outside of the classroom, require meaningful interactions with faculty and students, encourage collaboration with diverse others, and provide frequent and substantive feedback."  But, as Kuh noted, how HIPs are implemented vary dramatically from institution to institution, and even within single institutions. 

Additional research to demonstrate how to implement HIPs for maximum benefit is underway. See, for example, AAC&U publications like Essential Global Learning (2016) and Five High-Impact Practices: Research on Learning Outcomes, Completion, and Quality (2010).

Strategies to Address

Tie the HIP directly to learning in your discipline, and prepare students to participate. 

  • Start with your learning outcomes
  • Identify the skills, knowledge, and attitudes students will need in order to participate successfully
  • Design the process by which you will prepare students to participate in a HIP

Increase student access to HIPs by embedding them into a course. 

References/Resources

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987, March). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin. 39(7), 3–7.

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. Download a .,pdf for free here

National Survey of Student Engagement (2007). Experiences that matter: Enhancing student learning and success—Annual Report 2007. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research.  Read the report here.


Hoskins, D. (2016).  High-impact practices.  In Instructor's Guide to Inclusive Excellence. University of Wisconsin at La Crosse Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.uwlax.edu/catl/teaching-guides/instructors-guide-to-inclusive-excellence/equity-gaps-overview/high-impact-practices/