High impact teaching practices provide opportunities for students to become actively involved in their learning. The result can be greater student engagement and satisfaction with their degree programs. High impact practices have also been found to be especially effective in increasing the participation commitment of historically hard to reach students, (e.g. visible minorities or economically disadvantaged students).

What are some high impact practices?

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (report on high-impact educational practices; Kuh, 2008) has identified 10 activities or program components that have been shown to have high-impact on students.

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

More recently ePortfolios have also been identified as a high-impact practice. You can find out more about using ePortfolios to assess learning outcomes in Assessment section.

What makes a practice high-impact?

George Kuh, director of the Center for Postsecondary Research at the University of Indiana-Bloomington, has identified 5 elements common among high-impact teaching practices.

According to his research, teaching practices have high-impact when they are…

  • Effortful: Purposeful tasks that require considerable time and effort foster investment and commitment to the program and institution.
  • Interactive: Opportunities to interact with faculty and peers build relationships, provides mentorship and allows for sharing of intellectual interests.

…and provide opportunities for:

  • Rich and Frequent Feedback: Allows student to see their progress and success as they learn.
  • Application of ideas and skills to new situations: Using acquired knowledge in different settings gives meaning and value to learning experiences.
  • Personal reflection: Reflecting on learning experiences can increase student’s awareness of their own beliefs and assumptions.

High Impact Practices at Carleton

Dr. Jim Davis is an associate professor in the Institute of Cognitive Science here at Carleton who has found ways to make student course work useful beyond the classroom. Check out his article in Nautilus, and his TEDx talk, both posted below to find out more.

Education Is a Waste of Effort—But It Doesn’t Have to Be

Additional Resources

Brownell & Swaner (2009). High-Impact Practices: Applying the Learning Outcomes Literature to the Development of Successful Campus Programs.

Kuh (2008). High-Impact Educational Practices: A Brief Overview