Academic High-Impact Practices and Activities

Academic high-impact practices are course activities and college programs that are intended to foster student engagement in course material, encourage teamwork and cooperation and promote connections with faculty, fellow students and members of the community. Increasing a student’s experience in high-impact practices has shown to increase a student’s satisfaction with course material, GPA and retention and graduation rates (Kuh, 2008). In addition to metrics related to academic performance, high-impact practices benefit personal and social responsibility such as civic knowledge and engagement, ethical reasoning, global perspectives and skills for life-long learning (Kuh, 2008). Participation in high-impact practices can decrease the achievement gap of populations of underserved students such as first-generation students, students of color and student from low-income families (Kuh et al., 2008); yet, these students are often less likely to experience these activities and programs.  

Academic high-impact practices can enhance a course such as service learning assignments, e-portfolios, student collaboration and course projects, but can also be larger programmatic activities such as students taking courses together in a cohort, first-year experiences, undergraduate research, study abroad and capstone projects or seminars. Academic high-impact practices are often combined such as a study abroad program where students perform service to their host communities, or students working in groups on class or capstone projects. Some of the key components to high-impact practices are that students learn through experiences, actions and activities. As Thomas Jefferson said, “What we learn to do, we learn by doing.” This is one of the reasons why universities such as CSU Fullerton, focus on “experiential learning” when developing their high-impact practices program (http://reachhigher.fullerton.edu/student-success/high-impact-practices.html). In going forward with describing, developing and promoting academic high-impact practices at Fresno State, the following attributes should be kept in mind:

  1. Performance in activities should be at an appropriately high level and integral to course learning outcomes.
  2. Student engagement in activities should be a significant investment of time and effort.
  3. Students should have meaningful and substantive interactions with faculty, staff, peers, or with organizations or individuals within the community.
  4. Students should have the ability to use knowledge in a specific context such as working on a project for research, providing service to the community or participating in an internship.
  5. Assignments and activities should receive meaningful feedback from instructors, supervisors and fellow students.
  6. There should be structured ways for reflective and integrated learning.

The following are examples of high-impact practices that have been suggested by AAC&U’s LEAP initiative, Kuh (2008), and other universities. A short description of each will be followed by some proven ways to strengthen the student’s experience.