High Impact Practices (HIPs) or Engaged Learning Practices

Instructors have hundreds of teaching strategies, activities, and tools at their disposal, any number of which can potentially be valuable for a given teaching situation: for example, some teaching strategies and practices might be best suited to a particular discipline or course; others might be most beneficial for students at certain levels; and still others might simply be more amenable to the teaching style of a given instructor. Research has established, however, that some teaching practices tend to have a higher impact than others. And, given that both instructors and students are usually pressed for time, it makes sense to pay special attention to those teaching practices that offer "more bang for the buck." 

Eleven practices have been identified as high impact practices:

  1. First-Year Experiences
  2. Common Intellectual Experiences
  3. Learning Communities
  4. Writing-Intensive Courses
  5. Collaborative Assignments and Projects
  6. Undergraduate Research
  7. Diversity/Global Learning
  8. Service Learning, Community-Based Learning
  9. Internships
  10. Capstone Courses and Projects
  11. ePortfolios

These high-impact practices help students engage in "deep approaches" to learning which are important because "students who use these approaches tend to earn higher grades and retain, integrate, and transfer information at higher rates” (Kuh, 2008). 

But what makes a practice “high impact”?

Characteristics of a High Quality, High Impact Practice

Below are eight characteristics (Kuh, 2013) which when incorporated into different academic practices, can engage students and have a high impact on their learning. Beside each characteristic we’ve linked to a teaching story that illustrates the use of a particular characteristic, as well as “friendly contacts” from across campus who are willing to share their experiences with particular high impact characteristics and practices.

For guidance on implementing any of these practices  or characteristics into your course(s) or program(s), contact Katherine Lithgow

Set performance expectations at  appropriately high levels, and effectively communicate these expectations to students

Encourage students to invest significant and meaningful  time and effort on authentic, complex tasks over an extended period of time

Add meaningful interactions amongst students and between  faculty and students about  substantive matters

Challenge students’ ways of thinking, increase interactions with individuals with experiences and life experiences different from their own,  Experiences with diversity

Provide frequent, timely and constructive feedback

Increase periodic, structured opportunities to reflect and integrate learning

Provide opportunities to discover relevance of learning through real-world applications, or add a real-world/authentic experience

Add a public demonstration of competence

For guidance on implementing any of these practices  or characteristics into your courses, contact Katherine Lithgow, Senior Instructional Developer Integrative Learning or your CTE Faculty Liaison.


High-Impact Educational Practices. George Kuh's brief but seminal book, published in 2008. 
George Kuh at Waterloo. George Kuh, the author of High-Impact Educational Practices, was a keynote speaker at Waterloo in 2006. 
HIPs at Ten. George Kuh reflects on a decade of High Impact Practices.
Presentation by Randy Bass. Dr. Randy Bass is Senior Research Scholar on the Connect to Learning ePortfolio Project. He delivered a session at Waterloo's 2014 ePortfolio Day. 
The Student Experience in Brief. A report produced by the National Survey of Student Engagement on the extent which students at Waterloo participate in high-impact learning experiences. (PDF)
Benchmark Report. The full report on student engagement at Waterloo, produced by the National Survey of Student Engagement. (PDF)
High-Impact Practices. An article from the AAC&U about how high-impact practices support deep learning and learning outcomes. 
A playlist of YouTube videos pertaining to High Impact Practices