High-Impact Practices (HIPs)


High-impact practices (HIPs) are pedagogical approaches that have been shown to have a significant positive effect on student learning and development. These practices are not just about getting good grades, but about fostering deep understanding, critical thinking, and a love of learning that extends far beyond the classroom
Research shows that students who participate in HIPs are more likely to:

  • Graduate on time
  • Have higher GPAs
  • Be engaged in their learning
  • Develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Become lifelong learners

HIPs are particularly beneficial for students from historically underserved groups, who often have less access to these types of high-quality educational experiences. By making HIPs more widely available, we can help to close the achievement gap and ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed.

Of course, implementing HIPs takes time, resources, and commitment from faculty and administrators. But the payoff is worth it. When we invest in high-impact practices, we invest in the future of our students and our society. So, what are you waiting for? Start incorporating HIPs into your teaching today! You might be surprised at the difference they make. For more information and research on High-impact Practices, click on the following links: Annotated Bibliography - Evidence &. Outcomes and Annotated Bibliography - HIPs in the Classroom.

There are eleven HIPs identified by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

  • First-Year Seminars and Experiences
    • The highest-quality first-year experiences place a strong emphasis on critical inquiry, frequent writing, information literacy, collaborative learning, and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practical competencies. First-year seminars can also involve students with cutting-edge questions in scholarship and with faculty members’ own research.
  • Common Intellectual Experiences
    • The older idea of a “core” curriculum has evolved into a variety of modern forms, such as a set of required common courses or a vertically organized general education program that includes advanced integrative studies and/or required participation in a learning community (see below). These programs often combine broad themes—e.g., technology and society, global interdependence—with a variety of curricular and cocurricular options for students.
  • Learning Communities
    • The key goals for learning communities are to encourage integration of learning across courses and to involve students with “big questions” that matter beyond the classroom. Students take two or more linked courses as a group and work closely with one another and with their professors. Many learning communities explore a common topic and/or common readings through the lenses of different disciplines. Some deliberately link “liberal arts” and “professional courses”; others feature service learning. 
  • Writing-Intensive Courses
    • These courses emphasize writing at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum, including final-year projects. Students are encouraged to produce and revise various forms of writing for different audiences in different disciplines. The effectiveness of this repeated practice “across the curriculum” has led to parallel efforts in such areas as quantitative reasoning, oral communication, information literacy, and, on some campuses, ethical inquiry.
  • Collaborative Assignments and Projects
    • Collaborative learning combines two key goals: learning to work and solve problems in the company of others, and sharpening one’s own understanding by listening seriously to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences. Approaches range from study groups within a course, to team-based assignments and writing, to cooperative projects and research.
  • Undergraduate Research
    • Many colleges and universities are now providing research experiences for students in all disciplines. Undergraduate research, however, has been most prominently used in science disciplines. With strong support from the National Science Foundation and the research community, scientists are reshaping their courses to connect key concepts and questions with students’ early and active involvement in systematic investigation and research. The goal is to involve students with actively contested questions, empirical observation, cutting-edge technologies, and the sense of excitement that comes from working to answer important questions.
  • Global Learning
    • Many colleges and universities now emphasize courses and programs that help students explore cultures, life experiences, and worldviews different from their own. These studies—which may address U.S. diversity, world cultures, or both—often explore “difficult differences” such as racial, ethnic, and gender inequality, or continuing struggles around the globe for human rights, freedom, and power. Frequently, intercultural studies are augmented by experiential learning in the community and/or by study abroad.
  • Service Learning, Community-Based Learning
    • In these programs, field-based “experiential learning” with community partners is an instructional strategy—and often a required part of the course. The idea is to give students direct experience with issues they are studying in the curriculum and with ongoing efforts to analyze and solve problems in the community. A key element in these programs is the opportunity students have to both apply what they are learning in real-world settings and reflect in a classroom setting on their service experiences. These programs model the idea that giving something back to the community is an important college outcome, and that working with community partners is good preparation for citizenship, work, and life.
  • Internships
    • Internships are another increasingly common form of experiential learning. The idea is to provide students with direct experience in a work setting—usually related to their career interests—and to give them the benefit of supervision and coaching from professionals in the field. If the internship is taken for course credit, students complete a project or paper that is approved by a faculty member.
  • Capstone Courses and Projects
    • Whether they’re called “senior capstones” or some other name, these culminating experiences require students nearing the end of their college years to create a project of some sort that integrates and applies what they’ve learned. The project might be a research paper, a performance, a portfolio of “best work,” or an exhibit of artwork. Capstones are offered both in departmental programs and, increasingly, in general education as well.
  • Portfolios/ePortfolios
    • ePortfolio pedagogy provides a set of practices that are platform agnostic and utilize a range of broadly available technologies. They are constructed within a framework for organizing learning, not as a prescription for a single end product, and they are designed to be owned and developed by the student learner with guidance from faculty and other educational professionals. Central to ePortfolio practice is active learner engagement and responsibility in their learning, along with learner reflection, upon not only the artifacts or instances of learning assembled in the ePortfolio, but also upon their process of learning that exhibits the desired outcomes at required levels of competence. When performed well, based on best practices recommended from the research, this broad set of strategies has been found to have the desired impact on students.

Kuh recommends that to increase student engagement and student success, every student should participate in at least two HIPs during their academic career, but ideally every student should participate in one HIP each year in college

While only ten practices have nationally been elevated as high-impact practices, Kuh and O'Donnell (2013) found that these practices share eight key elements:

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

These characteristics need not be limited to the officially-designated high-impact practices. Rather, these characteristics can be used as principles to guide the design and delivery of nearly every learning experience. Doing so holds promise for reinforcing and amplifying the effects of deep learning and engagement, with particular benefit to underserved student populations

You may already be teaching a HIP. Try this test to see:

  • Tell about your best assignment. Why do students like this assignment? Why do they perform better on it?
  • Review the 8 elements. Which ones are missing from your assignment? How can you develop these missing elements?