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High Impact Practices (HIPs)

HIPs: 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 with which students are familiar
  • Frequent, timely and constructive feedback
  • Periodic, structure opportunities to reflect and integrate learning
  • Opportunities to discover relevance of learning through real-world applications
  • Public demonstrations of competence


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

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



Source: Ensuring Quality & Taking High-Impact Practices to Scale by George D. Kuh and Ken O’Donnell, with Case Studies by Sally Reed. (Washington, DC: AAC&U, 2013). For information and more resources and research from LEAP, see

Challenge—is the student taking more ownership, and achieving specific academic/career goals?

Performance expectations set at appropriately high levels Example: A writing- or inquiry-intensive first-year seminar in which assignments, projects, and activities—such as multiple short papers, problem sets, or projects—challenge students to achieve beyond their current ability levels as judged by criteria calibrated to students’ precollege accomplishment evidenced by placement tests or ACT or SAT scores.


Time—is the student exerting sustained effort over time as they accomplish the task?

Significant investment of time and effort by students over an extended period of time Example: A multiple-part class assignment on which a student works over the course of the academic term—beginning with a synopsis of the problem or issue to be examined and the methods or procedures that will be used; followed subsequently with narrative sections describing the methods, findings, and conclusions which together culminate in a completed paper; concluding with demonstration or performance evaluated by an independent third party or faculty supervisor.

Interactive with faculty and peers—is the student interacting about substantive matters with peers and faculty?

Interactions with faculty and peers about substantive matters Example: Out-of-class activities in which students in a learning community or first-year seminar come together at least once weekly to attend an enrichment event—such as a lecture by a visiting dignitary and/or a discussion of common readings and assignments facilitated by an upper-division peer mentor.


Learns from Diversity—is the student learning from diverse others (peers, clients, circumstances, perspectives)?

Experiences with diversity, wherein students are exposed to and must contend with people and circumstances that differ from those with which students are familiar Example: A service-learning field assignment wherein students work in a setting populated by people from different backgrounds and demographics, such as an assisted living facility or shelter for abused children, which is coupled with class discussions and journaling about the connections between class readings and the field assignment experience.



Check out the Diversity & Global Learning page to design DGL assignments

Feedback—is the student improving performance based on regular and constructive feedback (from peers, instructor, clients, community, oral, nonverbal, informal, and formal)?

Frequent, timely, and constructive feedback Example: A student–faculty research project during which students meet with and receive suggestions from the supervising faculty (or staff) member at various points to discuss progress, next steps, and problems encountered and to review the quality of students’ contributions up to and through the completion of the project.


Reflection—is the student improving performance based on reflective thinking about what they are learning, their process for learning, and their purpose for learning?

Periodic, structured opportunities to reflect and integrate learning Example: Linked courses in a learning community wherein an instructor of one course designs assignments that require students to draw on material covered in one or more of the other linked courses, supplemented by a peer preceptor who coordinates student attendance and discussion at relevant campus events, or a capstone course in which students submit a portfolio and explain the relative contributions of the artifacts contained therein that represent the knowledge and proficiencies attained at various points during their program of study.

Reflection-- a HIPS essential

Defining Reflection and Metacognition

  • Reflection is a way to teach, not new content
  • Metacognition is "the act of thinking about one's own thought process (more logic, why I made a choice, what is my process.)
  • Reflection "conscious exploration of one's own experiences" (more socioemotional, experiences, personal impact and meaning)

N. Silver "The Reflective Pedagogies and the Metacognitive Turn in College Teaching" 2013)

Faculty Reflection Question: What are some ways your students are doing this already?

What this means for students

  • Builds intrinsic motivation. Students may discover their why.
  • Deeper engagement. Stimulates interest
  • Improves comprehension. Students understand what they're learning and the application of that learning.
  • Career inspiring. Students imagine themselves working in their chosen profession.
  • Sense of belonging increases. Students feel they belong in the context, connect to peers, known cared for by teachers, fit in academically and socially, free from doubts and worries about belonging.

Faculty Reflection Question: Are you seeing these connections with your students in your current classes?

What Students Do

  • Students think about what, how and why they learn
  • Reflections is "meaning making." Example: Learning artifacts (tests, papers, labs) + meaning of the artifacts (reflection)
  • Students think on past experience to inform future action
  • Students generate evidence of learning course content, and job/life skills

Faculty Reflection Question: What could be a "meaning making" assignment in your class?

Students Reflect on

  • Course content
  • Skills that transcend the particular course content
    • Career skills
    • Learning skills and processes
  • New ideas: concept exploration and application
  • Social-emotional areas
    • Growth Mindset "Can I do this?
    • Purpose and relevance "Why should I do this?"
    • Sense of belonging "Do I belong here?"

What it looks like in the classroom

Preview and Forecast. Students think ahead, they consider where they are going, and what they are doing, and why.

  • Discuss steps and due dates, look at the syllabus
  • Explain learning goals of each activity
  • Have students discuss the journey they are on
  • List what will be covered in Today's Session, have students reflect on their goals for the day
  • Make predictions (what do they think will happen?)
  • Allow students to start a test with questions about the test/content

Practice, lots of practice (workshop feel)

  • Small teaching. Ungraded practice.
    • scaffold steps
    • do the assignment
    • revise
    • look again
    • apply what they've learned
    • tell what they've learned
  • Opportunities to revise or improve learning because of errors (active revision)
  • Peer instruction and review of work (Mazur)

Check Learning. Ask students specifically what they've learned in class -- what skills they might add to a resume.

  • Feedback on the reflections to the whole class. (ask permission)
  • Reading checks, quizzing, exit ticket
  • Ask about attitudes (Why might this be important to you? Are you worried about something?)

Modeling. Instructor reflects in front of students, at key times.

  • Survey your students to convey care and connection. Discuss results with class, appropriately.

Apply lessons learning the classroom to their chosen career field or other context

  • Students share advice they might give to a new student (after completing  big projects or exam)

Self-assessment. Student becomes aware of own learning and processes.

  • Opening/essential questions
  • Annotating on readiing
  • Accountability (student goals, plans, next steps)
  • Reflection on success strategies



Real world—is the student applying course knowledge or skills to real world situations outside the class? (For best results: apply in local community or in the college, so the student interacts with someone who can provide direct or indirect feedback.)

Opportunities to discover relevance of learning through real-world applications Example: An internship, practicum, or field placement that requires that students apply the knowledge and skills acquired during their program of study, or supervisor-mediated discussions among student workers that encourage students to reflect on and see the connections between their studies and experiences in the work setting.

Check out the Service Learning page for designing Real World projects.


Public demonstration of competence—Is the student demonstrating competency in front of others (especially outside the class)? The EXPO is a great way to do this.

Public demonstration of competence Example: An oral presentation to classmates of the required capstone seminar product that is evaluated by a faculty member and/or an accomplished practitioner, or a narrative evaluation of an internship, practicum, or field placement by the work setting supervisor and/or supervising faculty or staff member.

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