High Impact Practices

I enjoyed a few days in beautiful, sunny, warm San Diego in late November to learn about how Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities (URSCA) could be integrated on campus with other high impact practices. Jillian Kinzie of Indiana University presented on how best to optimize high-impact practices and I wanted to share a few thoughts with you to encourage you to consider the use of high-impact practices as you work with students!

There is a large amount of research that demonstrates that engaged forms of learning yield more educational effectiveness than non-engaged learning. (For references – come see the numerous texts we have on High Impact Practices in CATL!) High Impact Practice (HIP) is often the term used to refer to these types of experiences…experiences that engage students with real-world programs, allow students to interact with their instructors, fellow students and community members, encourage students to explore new interests and develop new passions, and provide students with opportunities to challenge themselves and achieve things they may not have thought possible.

Examples of High Impact Practices include:

First year seminars
Common intellectual experiences
Learning communities
Writing-intensive courses
Collaborative assignments and projects
Undergraduate research, scholars and creative activities
Diversity/global learning
Service learning/community-based learning
Capstone courses

So what is it that makes these High Impact Practices “high impact”?

Some of the key ideas include that they are effortful and they help students build substantive relationships.  They help students engage across disciplines while providing  students with rich feedback.  They also help students apply and test what they are learning in new situations, and they provide opportunities for students to reflect on the people they are becoming.

High Impact Practices such as those listed above have numerous positive impacts on students and on the institution, such as increased student persistence and GPA, higher rates of student-faculty interaction, increased critical thinking and writing skills, greater appreciation for diversity, and higher student engagement overall.

In short, deep approaches to learning, such as High Impact Practices, help students make richer more lasting connections to material through an emphasis on integration, synthesis and reflection.

So, consider experiences such as these when you are working on your courses for next semester. Students want to learn skills that are marketable while in college; most of positive impacts of High Impact Practices lead to those skills!

I will leave you with the below quote that focuses on the idea that students should learn, experience, and grow and not simply check the boxes that indicate requirements have been completed.

“One of the most serious evils of American education in school and college is counting by courses.”
-Abbott Lawrence Lowell, President, Harvard University 1917

What can faculty do – in teaching, in advising and so on – to help students not just count courses? What can we do to inspire students and provide for students opportunities to learn, experience, and grow as an individual? High Impact Practices are not the only answer, but certainly are an important step forward in helping students succeed!

Joanne DolanJennifer Lanter, Ph. D
Human Development & Psychology,
CATL Director

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