High Impact Practices Defined

There's a lot of talk these days at Texas A&M University about high-impact learning or high-impact educational practices. High-impact learning happens when students are actively engaged in the educational process, when their learning goes beyond the classroom to be applied in their personal and work lives. Students engaged in high-impact learning often see improvement in grade point averages, get their degrees more quickly, and are more engaged in their education. Texas A&M University is committed to providing high-impact learning experiences to all students at all levels, across the whole curriculum.

In a high-impact learning experience, you will actively pose and solve problems, work collaboratively in a community of peers, experience real-world applications of knowledge, and reflect on your learning processes. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities (following the work of George Kuh in High-Impact Educational Practices), a number of educational experiences are conducive to high-impact learning, including:
  • First-year seminars and experiences
  • Common intellectual experiences (such as the core curriculum)
  • Learning communities
  • Writing-intensive courses
  • Collaborative assignments and projects
  • Undergraduate research
  • Diversity and global learning in courses or programs that examine "difficult differences"
  • Service- or community-based learning
  • Internships
  • Capstone courses and projects

Kuh identifies six common elements across the practices that—when employed—make the practices high-impact:

  1. They are effortful: they “demand that students devote considerable time and effort to purposeful tasks [and] require daily decisions that deepen students’ investment in the activity as well as their commitment to their academic program and the college.”
  2. They help students build substantive relationships and "interact . . . with faculty and peers about substantive matters . . . over extended periods of time”  during which  relationships develop that “put students in the company of mentors and advisers as well as peers who share intellectual interests and are committed to seeing that students succeed.”
  3. They provide students with rich feedback and frequent feedback, not limited to the assessment of classroom work but also including feedback from supervisors and colleagues.
  4. They help students apply and test what they are learning in new situations and provide “opportunities for students to see how what they are learning works in different settings, on and off campus. These opportunities to integrate, symmetrize, and apply knowledge are essential to deep, meaningful learning experiences.”
  5. They provide opportunities for students to reflect on the person they are becoming.  Reflection “deepen[s] learning and bring one’s values and beliefs into awareness; [it] help[s] 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.” 

Undergraduate Studies supports the goal of promoting high-impact learning at Texas A&M University by providing high-impact learning experiences such as internships, writing- and oral communication-enhanced courses, first-year seminars, learning communities, global learning experiences, undergraduate research opportunities, and service learning experiences.

In addition, Undergraduate Studies supports academic coaching and counseling, which, when combined with the educational practices mentioned above, has a significant influence on student success [Thomas F. Nelson Laird, Daniel Chen, George D. Kuh,"Classroom Practices at Institutions With Higher-Than-Expected Persistence Rates: What Student Engagement Data Tell Us" New Directions For Teaching & Learning 2008.115 (2008): 85-99, p 96]. Tutoring and Supplemental Instruction through Peer Academic Services, the University Writing Center, and programs sponsored by the Academic Success Center are designed with this in mind.