High-Impact Practices

What are High-Impact Practices?

High Impact Practices (HIPs) are eleven specific teaching practices that can be incorporated in undergraduate courses and across undergraduate modules. These broad instructional practices are considered “high-impact” because they have been shown to foster student success, including: improved academic achievement, engagement in educationally purposeful activities, student satisfaction, and student persistence (Kuh, O'Donnell, & Schneider, 2017).

The Eleven High-Impact Practices

Note: This is an amended version of the original list of HIPs presented in Kuh (2008) and in numerous subsequent American Association of Colleges and Universities publications. 

First year seminars and experiences

High quality first-year experiences emphasize critical inquiry, writing, information, and media literacy, collaborative learning, and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practical competencies.

Common Intellectual Experiences

Congenial with the intent of a “core” curriculum, examples of contemporary efforts to bring a measure of intellectual coherence to the undergraduate experience include a set of required common courses or a vertically integrated general education program. Such courses or programs may feature a learning community experience, often organized around broad themes, such as technology and society, or global interdependence, enriched with out-of-class activities.

Learning Communities

The key goals for learning communities are to encourage integration of learning across courses and to involve students with “big questions” that matter beyond the classroom. Students take two or more linked courses as a group, and work closely with one another and with their professors. Many learning communities explore a common topic and/or common readings through different disciplines.

Writing- and Inquiry- Intensive Courses

Writing- and inquiry intensive courses emphasize writing at all levels and across the curriculum, including final-year projects. Students are encouraged to produce and revise various forms of writing for different audiences and disciplines. The effectiveness of this repeated practice “across the curriculum” has led to parallel efforts in such areas as quantitative reasoning, information literacy, and so on.

Collaborative Assignments and Projects

A variety of approaches have been found to advance learning from others and collaborative problem solving, ranging from study groups within a course, to team-based assignments and writing, to cooperative projects and research. Such experiences are especially effective in promoting self-understanding and appreciation of alternative views.

Undergraduate Research

The goal of undergraduate research is to expose and involve students early in the undergraduate program with systematic inquiry approaches that introduce contested questions, empirical observation, technologies, and the enthusiasm that comes from working to answer questions or create new formulations through literary or artistic endeavors.

Diversity/Study Away/Global Learning

Most institutions offer some type of course, program, or experiential activity, such as study away, to introduce and have students experience communities, cultures and world views that differ from their own, whether in Canada or abroad, with the aim of increasing the understanding and appreciation of human differences.

Service Learning, Community-Based Learning

Field-based applied learning with community partners is an instructional strategy to engage students directly with issues they are studying, to analyze and seek solutions to concrete, real-world problems, which also is good preparation for citizenship, work and life. Key to realizing these desired outcomes is structured reflection about how classroom learning informs community practice and vice-versa.

Internships and Field Experiences

Internships and other forms of field experiences, such as student teaching, are increasingly common. Such applied, experiential learning provides students with direct experience in a setting typically related to their current career interests, during which they benefit from supervision and coaching from professionals. Credit-bearing activities usually require students to complete a faculty- or staff-approved project or paper.

Capstone Courses and Projects

Whether called “senior capstones” or some other name, these culminating experiences require students nearing the end of their studies to complete some sort of project that integrates and applies what they have learned. Capstones are offered both in departmental programs and, increasingly, in general education as well.


An ePortfolio is a portable, expandable, updatable vehicle for accumulating and presenting evidence of authentic student accomplishment, including the curation of specific proficiencies and dispositions at given points in time. Done well, an ePortfolio is a powerful pedagogical approach that requires meaningful student reflection, and deepens learning while making achievement visible—to students themselves, to their peers and faculty, and to external audiences.

What Makes HIPs Effective?

While HIPs can take different forms, what makes HIPs effective are the common characteristics of fostering high levels of student engagement in meaningful tasks, which in turn deepen the learning experience. As described above, student engagement is informed by Chickering and Gamson's (1987) seminal work Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, where engagement is understood as the effort that students devote to educationally purposeful activities (Hu & Kuh, 2002). Deep learning is a stage in a learning cycle where students seek meaning, relate and extend ideas, look for patterns and underlying principles, check evidence, examined arguments critically, and become “actively interested in course content” (Hattie & Donoghue, 2016, p. 3).

Kuh, O'Donnell, and Schneider (2017) go on to describe that many HIPs, when done well, will also require “hands-on, integrative and often collaborative learning experiences” (p. 11), putting students in close proximity to faculty and peers for “an extended period of time” (p.12).

HIPs not only can improve the student learning experience, but also seem to have other, larger effects, including: improving undergraduate degree completion rates (Finley & McNair, 2013), shrinking the psychological size of a campus, increasing the likelihood of a student having an affinity group to identify with (Kuh, O'Donnell and Schneider, 2017), and having a compensatory effect for students from populations under-represented in higher education (Finley & McNair, 2013).

Eight Key Features of HIPs, as identified by Kuh, O'Donnell, & Schneider (2017)

  1. Students' performance expectations are set at an appropriately high level.
  2. Projects or assignments require an investment of concentrated effort by students over an extended period of time.
  3. Students interact with faculty and peers about substantive matters on an on-going basis, in or out of the classroom.
  4. Students receive frequent, timely, and constructive feedback.
  5. Students discover the relevance of their learning through "real-world" applications.
  6. Students demonstrate their competence publicly.
  7. Students explore cultures, life experiences and worldviews different than their own.
  8. Students are provided with periodic, intentional and structured opportunities for reflection, and integration of learning.

While incorporating HIPs into undergraduate curricula promises to improve the student learning experience, it is also important to note that instructors are in the best position to judge local circumstances and adapt a particular HIP model to take into account these elements. All HIPs, however, need to be “intentionally designed and delivered” with instructors working to seek “iterative feedback. . . from all those involved” (Kuh, O'Donnell, & Schneider, 2017, p.15) in the learning experience.



If you have further questions about High Impact Practices, please contact the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s Curriculum Team.


Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), 3–7. Retrieved from https://www.aahea.org/articles/sevenprinciples1987.htm

Hattie, J. A. C., & Donoghue, G. M. (2016). Learning strategies: a synthesis and conceptual model. Science of Learning, 1, 1–13. http://doi.org/10.1038/npjscilearn.2016.13

Finley, A., & McNair, T. (2013). Assessing underserved students’ engagement in high-impact practices. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: what they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Kuh, G. D., O'Donnell, K., & Schneider, C. G. (2017). HIPs at ten. Change: the Magazine of Higher Learning, 49(5), 8–16. http://doi.org/10.1080/00091383.2017.1366805

Hu, S., & Kuh, G. D. (2002). Being (dis)engaged in educationally purposeful activities: The influences of student and institutional characteristics. Research in Higher Education, 43(5), 555–575. http://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020114231387