Peer Review

From the Editor

Educators have long known how important deep student engagement is to academic success. At an AAC&U annual meeting a few years ago, Lee S. Shulman, then president of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, spoke about the need for student engagement in terms that I still remember clearly. He observed that, for students, a lack of engagement leads to invisibility. “Invisibility breeds disinterest,” he said, “[which] leads to zoning out.”

Research about student engagement is also at the core of George Kuh’s work as the founding director of the Center for Postsecondary Research and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. In his role as a member of the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) National Leadership Council, Kuh worked with AAC&U staff to identify and disseminate research about a set of high-impact practices (HIPs) that are strongly correlated with positive educational outcomes for students. The list of HIPs is now familiar to most AAC&U members. They include first-year seminars, common intellectual experiences, learning communities, writing-intensive courses, collaborative assignments and projects, undergraduate research, diversity/global learning, service learning and community-based learning, internships, and capstone courses and projects. In his 2008 AAC&U publication, High-Impact Educational Practices, Kuh notes that HIPs are so effective because they increase the frequency of meaningful interactions with faculty and peers, induce students to spend more time and effort on research, writing, and analytic thinking, and involve students in more hands-on and collaborative forms of learning.

This issue of Peer Review features faculty authors from across an array of disciplines—each of whom is working with HIPs in his or her individual classrooms to ensure that students cannot zone out in those classrooms. In fact, given the inspirational narratives presented below, an alternate subtitle for this issue could be one inspired by Dr. Strangelove—“How I Learned to Use High-Impact Practices and Love the Outcomes.” The faculty authors we feature are innovative educators who use HIPs in their classrooms to increase student effort and engagement and to encourage students to become active partners in their learning. By using these more engaging educational practices, these faculty members help students to make connections and take on big questions.

While researching HIPs, Kuh identified six elements (see chart below) that are key to why these educational practices actually work to improve learning outcomes. “It is the combination of these [elements],” he notes, “that makes these practices so powerful.” To demonstrate how this issue’s authors have made use of one or more of these elements while teaching with HIPs, we embedded boxes titled “Key Elements that Make HIPs Work” in each of the Practice articles.

Although faculty I’ve spoken with report that using HIPs in the classroom takes planning, they also note that the beneficial outcomes for students make all of their efforts worthwhile. These voices from the field underscore the point that Carol Geary Schneider makes in her introduction to High-Impact Educational Practices: “If these high-impact practices support both student persistence and heightened achievement of Essential Learning Outcomes, then wise leaders will make them a top priority. With so much at stake, how can we not?”

Why Do High-Impact Practices Improve
Learning Outcomes and Student Success?
Key Elements

Time on Task
HIPs demand that students devote considerable time and effort to purposeful tasks.

Meaningful Interaction with Faculty and Peers
HIPs put students in circumstances that demand they interact with faculty and peers about substantive matters over extended periods of time.

Engagement with Diversity
HIPs increase the likelihood that students will have meaningful and constructive experiences interacting with people who are different from themselves.

Frequent Feedback
In most HIPs, students get frequent feedback about their performance from faculty and/or their peers.

Writing and Research
Many HIPs require students to do more writing and independent research.

Integration and Application
HIPs are designed to require students to integrate, synthesize, and apply what they are learning in new settings.

Sources: George D. Kuh, foreword to Five High-Impact Practices: Research on Learning Outcomes, Completion, and Quality by Jane E. Brownell and Lynn E. Swaner (Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2010).

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