High Impact Practices
Studies have shown that engaging practices within the classroom, such as team-based learning, can contribute to retention and help students reach the learning outcomes developed for the course. Beyond the classroom, students can find academic engagement with study abroad, service learning, and undergraduate research projects. Our goal is to help bring students and faculty together in developing even more activities for students that are academically engaging.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Source: High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter by George D. Kuh, (Washington, DC: AAC&U, 2008). For information and more resources and research from LEAP, see aacu.org/leap.