Monday, September 19, 2011

Making the Case: Part III: High-Impact Educational Practices

Here at LeaderShape, we are often in conversations with individuals interested in bringing The LeaderShape Institute to their campus or organization. People are supportive. They are on board. But you need evidence and data to help make the case to your colleagues.

This is the third installment (of several) that showcases research conducted by third party researchers.

This post focuses on how LeaderShape connects with high-impact educational practices.

The following are direct quotes from Kuh's research:

“Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) is a decade-long national initiative launched by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in 2005 to align the goals for college learning with the needs of the new global century. Extending the work of AAC&U 's Greater Expectations initiative, LEAP seeks to engage the public with core questions about what really matters in college, to give students a compass to guide their learning, and to make the aims and outcomes of a liberal education – broad knowledge, intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility, and integrative learning – the expected framework for excellence at all levels of education. The LEAP initiative is especially concerned with students who, historically, have been underserved in higher education.” (p. v)

“This report on ‘high-impact educational practices’ speaks directly to what is arguably our most important national challenge in higher education: helping America's extraordinarily diverse students reap the full benefits – economic, civic, and personal – of their studies in college.” (p. 1)

“Conventionally, educational research has tended to report college student success – especially for students from underserved backgrounds – in terms of access, retention, graduation and, sometimes, grade point average.” (p. 2)

“Retention and graduation are best described as partial indicators of student success – necessary, but scarcely sufficient.” (p. 2)

“Some of the core elements in an excellent education are enduring in every era: the development of intellectual powers and capacities; ethical and civic preparation; personal growth and self-direction.” (p. 2)

“And, as Kuh's important report makes clear, the new markers of student success also need to address the question of how students spend their educational time in college. How frequently, and with what results, do students engage in educational practices – curricular, cocurricuiar, and pedagogical – that provide them with realistic opportunities to actually develop the kinds of learning they need? How does such participation related to expected learning outcomes?” (p. 2)

“As we have written elsewhere,2 these essential learning outcomes demonstrably build on the enduring aims of a liberal education: broad knowledge, strong intellectual skills, a grounded sense of ethical and civic responsibility. But the essential learning outcomes also move beyond the traditional limits of liberal or liberal arts education, especially its self-imposed ‘nonvocational’ identity and its recent insistence on learning ‘for its own sake’ rather than for its value in real-world contexts.

Informed by vigorous faculty and campus dialogue across the nation, the LEAP vision for student learning places strong emphasis on global and intercultural learning, technological sophistication, collaborative problem-solving, transferable skills, and real-world applications-both civic and job-related. In all these emphases, LEAP repositions liberal education, no longer as just an option for the fortunate few, but rather as the most practical and powerful preparation for ‘success’ in all its meanings: economic, societal, civic, and personal.” (p. 3)

“Chart B
Employer Views on Achievement of Essential Learning Outcomes:
2008 National Survey Findings” (p. 5)

Very Not Mean
Well Well Rating*
Prepared Prepared
(8-10 ratings)* (1-5 ratings)*

Global Knowledge 18% 46% 5.7
Self-direction 23% 42% 5.9
Writing 26% 37% 6.1
Critical Thinking 22% 31% 6.3
Adaptability 24% 30% 6.3
Self-knowledge 28% 26% 6.5
Oral Communication 30% 23% 6.6
Quantitative Reasoning 32% 23% 6.7
Social Responsibility 35% 21% 6.7
Intercultural Skills 38% 19% 6.9
Ethical Judgment 38% 19% 6.9
Teamwork 39% 17% 7.0

* ratings on 10-point scale: 10 = recent college graduates are extremely well prepared on each quality to succeed in entry-level positions or be promoted/advance within the company

Note: These findings are taken from a survey of employers commissioned by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and conducted by Peter A. Hart Associates in November and December 2007. For a full report on the survey and its complete findings, see

“Chart C
Achieving the Goals of Liberal Education:
Connecting Essential Learning Outcomes With High-Impact Practices

Fostering Broad Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Natural World

Common intellectual experiences (exploring ‘big questions’ in history, cultures, science, and society)
Undergraduate research
Learning communities (multiple courses linked to a ‘big question’)
Diversity, civic, and global learning
Capstone courses

Strengthening Intellectual and Practical Skills

First-year seminars and experiences
Writing-intensive courses (across the curriculum)
Skill-intensive courses (quantitative reasoning, oral communication, and information literacy across the curriculum)
Collaborative assignments and projects
Undergraduate research

Deepening Personal and Social Responsibility

Common intellectual experiences (exploring ‘big questions’ in history, culture, science, and society)
Diversity, civic, and global learning
Ethics-intensive courses
Collaborative assignments and projects
Service and community-based learning

Practicing Integrative and Applied Learning

Learning communities (multiple courses linked to a ‘big question’)
Undergraduate research
Service and community-based learning
Capstone projects and culminating experiences” (p. 6)

“As George Kuh kept reminding LEAP's leaders through the many drafts of the 2007 LEAP report, if the essential learning outcomes are goals, then our curricular, cocurricular, and pedagogical practices need to be recognized as the means to achieving these larger educational ends. We can help our students improve by making these kinds of practices the norm, rather than the exception.” (p. 7)

“Pointing to the multiple educational benefits of high-impact practices. Kuh recommends that each institution take action to ensure that all students participate in at least two of these practices.” (p. 8)

“If our goal is to help students achieve the essential learning outcomes that both educators and employers endorse, then the long-term challenge is to transparently connect these intended outcomes with students' successful engagement in a thoughtfully planned sequence of high-impact practices. Chart C shows how we can deploy selected high-impact practices to foster particular sets of essential learning outcomes. It also reminds us of the fundamental educational truism that repeated practice – at progressively higher levels of challenge and engagement – is the surest key to high levels of achievement. And, encouragingly, Chart C also reminds us that specific high-impact practices call foster multiple learning outcomes.

Institutional leaders may protest nonetheless that the practices recommended in these pages are labor-intensive and therefore costly. But concerns about cost need to be set in a larger context. We live in a demanding, increasingly competitive global environment. The quality of citizens' learning has become our most important societal resource. If students leave college without the preparation they need for this complex and volatile world, the long-term cost to them – and to our society – will be cumulative and ultimately devastating.

Conversely, if these high-impact practices support both student persistence and heightened achievement on essential learning outcomes, then wise leaders will find both the will and the wallet to make them a top priority. With so much at stake, how can we not?” (p. 8)

“The following teaching and learning practices have been widely tested and have been shown to be beneficial for college students from many backgrounds.” (p. 9)

“Common Intellectual Experiences

The older idea of a ‘core’ curriculum has evolved into a variety of modern forms, such as a set of required common courses or a vertically organized general education program that includes advanced integrative studies and/or required participation in a learning community (see below). These programs often combine broad themes – e.g., technology and society, global interdependence – with a variety of curricular and cocurricular options for students.” (p. 9)

“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 the lenses of different disciplines. Some deliberately link ‘liberal arts’ and ‘professional courses’; others feature service learning (see p. 11 ).” (p. 10)

“Diversity/Global Learning

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.” (p. 10)

“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 arc offered both in departmental programs and, increasingly, in general education as well.” (p. 11)

“…decades of research showed that student development is a cumulative process shaped by many events and experiences, inside and outside the classroom.” (p. 13)

“…there is growing evidence that – when done well – some programs and activities appear to engage participants at levels that elevate their performance across multiple engagement and desired-outcomes measures such as persistence.” (p. 14)

“Deep approaches to learning are important because students who use these approaches tend to earn higher grades and retain, integrate, and transfer information at higher rates.” (p. 14)

“What is it about these high-impact activities that appear to be so effective with students?

First, these practices typically demand that students devote considerable time and effort to purposeful tasks…” (p. 14)

“Second, the nature of these high-impact activities puts students in circumstances that essentially demand they interact with faculty and peers about substantive matters, typically over extended periods of time.” (p. 14)

“Third, participating in one or more of these activities increases the likelihood that students will experience diversity through contact with people who are different from themselves.” (p. 15)

“These experiences often challenge students to develop new ways of thinking about and responding immediately to novel circumstances as they work side by side with peers on intellectual and practical tasks, inside and outside the classroom, on and off campus.” (p. 15)

“Fourth, even though the structures and settings of high-impact activities differ, students typically get frequent feedback about their performance in every one.” (p. 17)

“Fifth, participation in these activities provides opportunities for students to see how what they are learning works in different settings, on and off campus. These opportunities to integrate, synthesize, and apply knowledge are essential to deep, meaningful learning experiences.” (p. 17)

“Finally, it can be life changing...” (p. 17)

“Such an undergraduate experience deepens learning and brings one's values and beliefs into awareness; it helps students develop the ability to take the measure of events and actions and put them in perspective. As a result, students better understand themselves in relation to others and the larger world, and they acquire the intellectual tools and ethical grounding to act with confidence for the betterment of the human condition.” (p. 17)

“The effects of participating in high-impact practices are positive for all types of students (see appendix B). But, historically underserved students tend to benefit more from engaging in educational purposeful activities than majority students. Sadly, as table 3 shows, some groups of historically underserved students are less likely to participate in high-impact activities…” (p. 17)

“…what one thing can we do to enhance student engagement and increase student success? I now have an answer: make it possible for every student to participate in at least two high-impact activities during his or her undergraduate program, one in the first year, and one taken later in relation to the major field.” (p. 19)

“Ideally, institutions would structure the curriculum and other learning opportunities so that one high-impact activity is available to every student every year.” (p. 20)

“…making high-impact activities more widely experienced should have a demonstrable impact in terms of student persistence and satisfaction as well as desired learning outcomes.” (p. 20)

“these opportunities – with the exception of working on campus – too often are limited to small numbers of students, especially on large campuses.

If faculty and staff made these and other effective educational activities commonly available to every student, perhaps colleges and universities could do a better job in helping students compensate for shortcomings in academic preparation and create a culture that fosters student success. But left to their own devices, many students and faculty members may not do these things. Educationally effective institutions recognize this and create incentives to induce purposeful behavior toward these ends.” (p. 20)

“While high-impact activities are appealing for the reasons just outlined, to engage students at high levels, these practices must be done well.” (p. 20)

“The last bullet is a reminder of the important role faculty members play in creating a climate conducive to engagement and learning. Other research has demonstrated the positive relationships between faculty teaching practices and student engagement, learning, and persistence.” (p. 21)

“What faculty think and value also makes a difference, especially as to whether students will participate in high-impact practices.” (p. 21)

“Of course, what faculty think and value does not necessarily impel students to take part in high-impact activities or engage in other educationally purposeful practices. Rather, when large numbers of faculty and staff at an institution endorse the worth of an activity, members of the campus community are more likely to agree to devote their own time and energy to it, as well as provide other resources to support it – all of which increases the likelihood that the activities will be available to large numbers of students and that the campus culture will encourage student participation in the activities.” (p. 22)

“…engaging in educationally purposeful activities helps level the playing field, especially for students from low-income family backgrounds and others who have been historically underserved. Moreover, engagement increases the odds that any student –educational and social background notwithstanding – will attain his or her educational and personal objectives, acquire the skills and competencies demanded by the challenges of the twenty-first century, and enjoy the intellectual and monetary gains associated with the completion of the baccalaureate degree.” (p. 22)

“Almost every college or university offers some form of every high-impact practice described here. But at too many institutions, only small numbers of students are involved. The time has come for colleges and universities to make participating in high-impact activities a reality – and a priority – for every student.” (p. 22)

“Appendix C

Asked questions in class or contributed to class discussions
Tutored or taught other students (paid or voluntary)
Talked about career plans with a faculty member or advisor
Worked harder than you thought you could to meet an instructor’s standards or expectations
Worked with faculty members on activities other than coursework (committees, orientation, student life activities, etc.)” (p. 29)
“Had serious conversations with students of a different race or ethnicity than your own
Had serious conversations with students who differ from you in terms of their religious beliefs, political opinions, or personal values” (p. 30)


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.

1 comment:

JustSomeCajunFeme said...

I totally read this for a class last semester. Seeing it in "real life" makes me feel intelligent. Thanks McRee!