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. While many practices may seem very effective for at least some students, research consistently indicates that Kuh's HIPs generally benefit all students, and 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, diversity 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 HIPs are implemented well, they have eight characteristics in common (2013):

  1. Performance expectations set at appropriately high levels
  2. Significant investment of time and effort over an extended period of time
  3. Interactions with faculty and peers about substantive matters
  4. Experiences with diversity, wherein students are expected to and must contend with people and circumstances that differ from those with which students are familiar
  5. Frequent, timely and constructive feedback
  6. Periodic, structured opportunities to reflect and integrate learning
  7. Opportunities to discover relevance of learning through real-world applications
  8. Public demonstration of competence

Kuh also points out that other practices might typically meet the eight characteristics, such as performance ensembles and intercollegiate athletics, or could be designed to do so such as types of student employment that offer opportunities to connect coursework to work or writing for student publications. 

But, as Kuh noted, how HIPs are implemented vary dramatically from institution to institution, and even within single institutions. For example, what constitutes a "learning community" can vary considerable from one institution to another, and the goals of "diversity/global" courses can vary across even a single institution. Most of the current research has focused on practices with relatively high levels of agreement:  undergraduate research, service learning, study abroad, internships. 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. 

Include all 8 characteristics.

Consider developing a study to gauge the effectiveness of your changes -- many HIPs are ripe for lesson study, SoTL, or other kinds of educational research.

References/Resources

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987, March). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin. 39(7), 3–7. A search in Murphy Library's databases will yield several articles exploring discipline-based applications of these seven principles.

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. Borrow a copy from CATL

Kuh, G. D., and O'Donnell, K. (2013). Ensuring Quality & Taking High-Impact Practices to Scale. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. Borrow a copy from CATL

Kuh, G., O'Donnell, K., & Schneider, C. (2017). HIPs at Ten. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 49(5), 8-16.

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; updated 2017)).  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/