Linda Suskie

 A Common Sense Appr​oach to Assessment in Higher Education


Assessing high impact practices

Posted on April 13, 2015 at 8:20 AM

“High impact practices"—one of those buzzwords getting a lot of attention these days. What exactly are high impact practices (HIPs), and how should they be assessed?


HIPs are educational experiences that make a significant difference in student learning, persistence, and success. Research by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) has found that the following can all be HIPS:

• First-year experiences

• Learning communities

• Writing-intensive courses

• Collaborative learning experiences

• Service learning

• Undergraduate research

• Internships

• Capstone courses and projects


What makes these experiences so effective? In a word: engagement. Students are more likely to learn, persist, and succeed if they are actively engaged in their learning. Gallup, for example, found that college graduates who feel their college prepared them for life and helped them graduate on time were more likely to agree with the following:

• I had at least one professor who made me excited about learning

• My professors cared about me as a person.

• I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams.

• I worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete.

• I had an internship or job that allowed me to apply what I was learning in the classroom.

• I was extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations while I attended college.

(Sadly, only 3% of all college graduates reported having all six of these experiences.)


So how should HIPs be assessed? As I often say about assessment, it’s all about goals. Because HIPs are intended to help students learn, persist, and succeed, your assessments should focus on student retention and graduation rates, perhaps grades in subsequent coursework (if appliable), and how well students have achieved the HIP’s key learning outcomes. Check your institution’s strategic goals too. There may be a goal to, for example, improve the success of a particular student cohort. If your HIP is intended to help achieve this kind of goal, track that as well.

Categories: How to assess, Curriculum & teaching