Strategies for Engaging Learners with High-Impact Practices
The American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) has outlined 11 high-impact practices in higher education. High-impact practices are those that have significant educational benefit, especially for historically underserved students. Here we share an overview of 6 high-impact practices that center on course design.
Strategy #1: Capstone Projects
The basics: A capstone project is completed at or near the end of a program of study. In a capstone project, students apply the knowledge and skills gained throughout their program to an assessment such as a research paper, portfolio of work, performance, or exhibit, among other possibilities.
Variations on the Strategy: Capstone projects could incorporate teaching approaches such as:
Strategy #2: Collaborative Assignments and Projects
The basics: Collaborative assignments and projects help students:
- Effectively work in groups,
- Solve problems collectively, and
- Build understanding through active listening and dialogue.
Collaborative assignments and projects could include things like small group activities, team-based writing, study groups, and group projects.
Variations on the Strategy: Additional resources for exploring collaborative learning include:
Strategy #3: Diversity/Global Learning
The basics: Incorporating global learning and diversity in the classroom supports students in learning about:
- Cultures, experiences, and perspectives different from their own,
- Challenging topics such as racial, gender, or disability inequality, and
- Advancing human rights, freedom, and power around the world.
Variations on the Strategy: Explore these teaching approaches that support diversity/global learning:
- Culturally Responsive and Relevant and Antiracist Teaching: Teaching methodologies that support students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, express antiracist ideas, and take action to address inequality.
- Engaging Learners with Universal Design for Learning and Antiracist Teaching: Ideas for applying both the Universal Design for Learning framework and antiracist teaching methods.
- Teaching About and Addressing Microaggressions: Teaching about and addressing microaggressions can help prevent harm and be an important way to support students’ wellbeing, learning, sense of belonging, and success in academic spaces.
Strategy #4: Service Learning/Community-Based Learning
The basics: Service and community-based learning allows students to:
- Gain personal experience with the issues they are studying,
- Apply their learning and experience to propose solutions, and
- Reflect on their service experience.
Service and community-based learning communicates that giving back to the community is an important outcome in higher education and prepares students to be active citizens, workers, and community members.
Variations on the Strategy: Some teaching strategies that support service learning/community-based learning include:
- Service Learning: Students engage in two key components: community service and reflection.
- Engaging Learners with Open Pedagogy: In open pedagogy projects, students are empowered to engage in information creation through non-disposable or renewable assignments. Service Learning can work well as an Open Pedagogy method.
Strategy #5: Internships/Experiential Learning
The basics: Internships are one common form of experiential learning. Experiential education can provide students with direct work or career-related experiences, usually with support and feedback from a professional in the field.
Variations on the Strategy: Learn more about experiential learning and education in these resources:
Strategy #6: ePortfolios
The basics: A portfolio is a collection of work over time, perhaps during a single course or over an entire program of study. An ePortfolio is a digital or online portfolio. An ePortfolio:
- Provides a formal space for reflection on learning,
- Creates an archive of gained knowledge/skill, and
- Can be readily shared with an instructor, academic advisor, potential employer, etc.
Variations on the Strategy: Some additional ideas to explore related to portfolios include:
- Competency-Based Education: An approach to education where the emphasis is on what graduates know and can do.
- Backward Design: A process that educators use to design learning experiences and instructional techniques to achieve specific learning goals.
- See also the resources in Strategy #1: Capstone Project.
“High-Impact Practices” (2023). American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/trending-topics/high-impact