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What are high-impact practices?

High-impact practices are educational opportunities that have been widely-tested and have been shown to improve student success, especially among historically underserved students. George Kuh, founding director of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), has found that these practices benefit students in a number of ways:

  • High-impact practices connect learning to life. They are effective because they require students to “devote considerable time and effort to purposeful tasks,” and they help students see how knowledge they learn in the classroom works in different settings.
  • High-impact practices foster quality interaction between faculty and students.
  • High-impact practices “increase the likelihood that students will experience diversity through contact with people who are different from themselves.”
  • High-impact practices provide students with frequent formal and informal feedback which not only helps students improve, but also strengthens the student/faculty relationship. According to 2007 NSSE results, students who received feedback more frequently “report that their relationships with faculty are friendly or supportive.”
  • High-impact practices help “students better understand themselves in relation to others in the larger world.” (Kuh, 2008)

Which practices are high-impact?

First-year seminarsLearning communitiesCommon intellectual experiences
Undergraduate researchCapstone coursesDiversity/global learning
CollaborationE-portfoliosWriting intensive courses

What are resources for more information?

Initiatives at LC State

The Belonging Project aims to help students achieve a sense of social and academic belonging through community building pedagogical practices, essential first year academic skills, and High Impact Practices. The project is designed to explore models for integrating and emphasizing community building, essential first year academic skills, and HIP in lower-division General Education course work.

Faculty redesigned an existing 100/200 level General Education Core course. The redesigned course included the following:

  • Educational pedagogy aimed at building community, specifically activities that involve collaboration (student to student, teamwork, small group).
  • A focus on these academic skills, in the context of the specified General Education course subject:
    • Critical thinking (problem-solving, expansion of perspective, logical reasoning, analysis)
    • College Reading
    • College Writing
    • Effective Learning Strategies (such as how to approach assignments)
  • At least one of the following High Impact Practices:
    • Diversity – The course does not have to be a designated diversity course. AACU defines the High Impact Practice of diversity as studies that “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”
    • Undergraduate research
    • Service Learning/Community-Based Learning

Eight faculty members participated in redesigning their General Education Core courses to incorporate high-impact practices and essential academic skills. Faculty redesigned courses to emphasize writing and critical thinking. Courses also included collaborative projects that promoted teamwork and community-based projects that connected coursework to larger social issues.

Examples of course activities include:

  • NS 150 - Citizen science project on air quality and letter to editor
  • ENG 109 - Community project with senior center
  • CHEM 111 – Collaborative activities to promote better study habits


Faculty in the first cohort reported that as a result of redesigning their courses, they spent more time on class discussion and less on lecturing. Community-based assignments that brought in “real world” components were received favorably by students. While there was some resistance to groupwork, overall student collaborations were positive and enhanced the learning experience. Emphasizing learning strategies and discussing attitudes toward learning with students improved student performance, although engaging student curiosity and encouraging students to think more deeply remained a challenge.


Bauer; Social Connectedness and Student Debt: Predicting College Retention at a Four-year Private Liberal Arts Institution. PhD Thesis; Drake University; 2015.

Campbell, T. A., & Campbell, D. E. (1997). Faculty/student mentor programs: Effects on academic performance and retention. Research in Higher Education, 38(6), 727-742.

Kahveci, A., Southerland, S. A., & Gilmer, P. J. (2006). Retaining undergraduate women in science, mathematics, and engineering. Journal of College Science Teaching, 36(3), 34- 38.

Kuh, George D. (2008). High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter. American Association of Colleges & Universities.

Wallace, D., Abel, R., & Ropers-Huilman, B. R. (2000). Clearing a path for success: Deconstructing borders through undergraduate mentoring. The Review of Higher Education, 24(1), 87-102.

Contact Information

Center for Teaching and Learning

Meriwether Lewis Hall 320

500 8th Avenue

Lewiston, Idaho 83501