Using High-Impact Practices (HIPs) and Experiential Learning to Help Students Find their “Why?”

HIPs Research 

February 01, 2017

by Stephanie Foote
Professor of Education, Kennesaw State University

High-impact practices (HIPs) are “teaching and learning practices that have been widely tested and have been shown to be beneficial for college students from many backgrounds” (AAC&U, 2013, n. p.).  The outcomes and benefits from participation in HIPs are wide reaching and include gains in student persistence and GPA, increases in critical thinking and writing, greater appreciation for diversity, and enhanced student engagement (Brownell & Swaner, 2010; Kuh, 2008; Kinzie, 2012). 

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U, 2008) has identified the following 10 HIPs: First-Year Seminars and Experiences, Common Intellectual Experiences, Learning Communities, Writing-Intensive Courses, Collaborative Assignments and Projects, Undergraduate Research, Diversity/Global Learning, Service and Community-Based Learning, Internships, and Capstone Courses and Projects.

Engaging students experientially or in practices that emphasize “learning by doing” can provide opportunities to make classroom learning real and relevant through the application of new knowledge in a real world setting (Neill, 2006), while encouraging students to make meaning of and reflect on those experiences (Jeffs & Smith, 2005; Kolb, 1984).  Simply put, engaging in HIPs can help students begin to find their “Why?” or what motivates them and consider how they can use their experiences within and beyond the classroom to follow that passion. Although there are many activities and practices that provide experiential learning opportunities, HIPs can serve as a vehicle for experiential learning to occur.

Faculty and staff play a vital role in helping students connect to and become engaged in HIPs. First, we can direct students to the myriad HIPs that are available across the university (see links below). Next, we can find ways to incorporate “mini-HIPs” or smaller course-based experiences into our individual courses or programs (e.g., course-based research project, short study abroad experiences, community-service/service learning project in a course, etc.). Short, mini-HIP experiences can translate into courses taught in traditional modalities, as well as those taught in blended and online formats. Full-time KSU faculty who are interested in transforming their courses to incorporate one or more HIP should consider applying to the CETL Institute for Course Transformation. For more information about the Institute, visit or contact me.

KSU University-Level HIPs Resources


American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) (2013). High-impact educational practices: A brief overview. Retrieved from

Brownwell, J. E. & Swaner, L. E. (2010). Five high-impact practices. AAC&U: Washington, DC.

Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. K. (2005). Informal Education. Conversation, democracy and learning. Ticknall: Education Now.

Kinzie, J. (2012). Fostering student learning and success: The value of high-impact practices. Retrieved from

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Neill, J. (2006). What is experiential learning? Retrieved from


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