High-Impact Practices (HIPs): Proven strategies to enhance student engagement and success

Nhi Nguyen
Rebecca LeBoeuf
Rebecca LeBoeuf
August 29, 2023
Table of Contents

In 2007, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) introduced the concept of “high-impact practices” (HIPs), the educational strategies proven to significantly enhance student engagement and active learning.

So what exactly are the HIPs and how can they be incorporated into the curriculum? In this article, we explore the definition, impact, and key elements to consider when implementing HIPs. On a more practical side, we also offer 8 key strategies to incorporate HIPs into your courses, with the help of FeedbackFruits.

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What are high-impact practices (HIPs)?

Introduced by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the “high impact practices” (HIPs) refer to the active learning approaches that have been suggested to “increase student retention and engagement”.

George D. Kuh, Chancellor’s Professor of higher education at Indiana University-Bloomington then identified 10 learning experiences considered as HIPs in their report – ”High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter” published in 2008. In 2016, ePortfolio was added as the eleventh HIP. Below you can find a brief summary of all the HIPs:

  1. Capstone Courses and Projects: refer to courses or projects at the end of the learning process that require students to reflect on what they have learned and synthesize their products of performance. This HIP can be in the form of writing assignments, portfolios, presentations, and performances.
  2. Collaborative Assignments and Projects: encourages students to develop several collaboration skills namely teamwork, problem-solving, and active listening. This HIP can take the form of small study groups, team-based learning, group projects, and more.
  3. Common Intellectual Experiences: require the study courses and programs to cover different broad themes
  4. Diversity/Global Learning: focuses on helping students to access diverse cultures, experiences, and perspectives.
  5. ePortfolios: allow students to compile all the information that reflects their academic progress and share this with other relevant stakeholders: their peers, instructors, faculties, and future employers. ePortfolios should be established throughout the student’s learning experience.
  6. First-Year Seminars and Experiences: Make the transition to university more comfortable for freshmen, by building instructor-student interactions and encouraging the development of information literacy. “Frequent writing, critical inquiry, and collaborative assignments” are among the common methods of the First-Year Seminars.
  7. Internships: aim to provide students with authentic experience and nurture lifelong skills in the real-work settings relevant to their study areas.
  8. Learning Communities: Create a common platform where students can explore a big topic or question through the perspectives of different disciplines.
  9. Service Learning, Community-Based Learning: involves students working with community partners to apply their learned knowledge in real-world settings to solve existing problems, then reflect on these authentic experiences in classes.
  10. Undergraduate Research: involves institutions adjusting their courses to encourage students to engage in the research process, particularly in “actively contested questions, empirical observation, cutting-edge technologies, and more”.
  11. Writing-Intensive Courses: Get students to develop written communication through a process of writing, feedback, revision, and finalization of different writing forms to address a variety of audiences and disciplines.

You can find detailed descriptions of these 11 HIPs in AAC&U’s brochure.

Why are HIPs important?

The proposed HIPs have been proven to create a positive impact on student learning, especially on student engagement and active learning. George Kuh again outlined the following advantages when incorporating HIPs into your courses:

  • Deepen students’ commitment to their academic program and most importantly, their growth
  • Promote frequent, meaningful, and multi-layer interactions throughout the entire learning experience
  • Ensure an inclusive learning environment where students of different backgrounds and preferences are motivated to contribute their perspectives
  • Encourage opportunities for frequent, constructive feedback, which is critical to students’ self-regulation and progress
  • Develop a growth mindset and real-life skills critical to students future life and work

How to integrate the HIPs into your course? 8 key considerations

According to George Kuh and Ken O’Donnell, an educational experience considered “high impact” needs to address 8 pedagogical considerations. Successful implementation of HIPs in any learning experience; therefore, requires the fulfillment of each of these guiding principles. In this section, we will elaborate on each of these considerations and how FeedbackFruits can support institutions to fulfill these principles.

8 key considerations of High-Impact Practices (HIPs)
8 key considerations to implement High-Impact Practices

1. Performance expectations set at appropriately high levels

The first thing to consider when implementing a HIP is to establish clear expectations and objectives that foster lifelong skills and a growth mindset. When drafting the course guidelines, make sure to consider students’ diverse backgrounds and learning preferences, and sequence the activities to effectively challenge students and encourage positive growth. Dr. Kim Chappell, Associate Professor at Fort Hays State University shared the key principles and strategies to create a growth-oriented education, including suggestions to draft course instructions.

FeedbackFruits solutions offer different functionalities to make the expectations-setting process easier and more effective for faculties. The streamlined, uniform interface across all tools allows teachers to master the activity set-up within seconds. For every learning activity, instructors can easily create detailed instructions, and attach examples in multiple formats (documents, audio, or video) to clarify the guidelines within any FeedbackFruits tool.

Create detailed instructions and attach multimedia files to elaborate
Create detailed instructions and attach multimedia files to elaborate

2. Significant investment of time and effort by students over an extended period of time

Time and effort are foundational to HIP pedagogy; therefore, the courses and activities should be curated to motivate students to invest more time and energy in the entire learning process. Group projects, research reports, and portfolios are some of the great ways to foster substantial time investment, as they require students to engage in different summative tasks before arriving at the final products.

With a range of solutions that support varied pedagogies and learning practices, FeedbackFruits can help faculties design a fruitful learning journey with diverse activities for knowledge uptake, application, discussion, feedback, reflection, and more. Below you can find detailed examples of how FeedbackFruits solutions can be used to create activities that foster quality time investment:

3. Interactions with faculty and peers about substantive matters

Opportunities to engage in multi-layer interactions (instructor-student, student-student, student-content) are critical to enhance engagement and retention. That’s why a HIP should foster meaningful interactions to encourage the development of collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking.

With FeedbackFruits, faculties have plenty of options to optimize varied learning activities and pedagogical approaches to stimulate meaningful interactions and continuous engagement.

Interactive Study Materials utilize social annotations to turn the static, passive pre-class content study into engaging activities. Students have the opportunity to interact with peers and instructors at multiple points, be it within a document, video, or audio.

Create interactions within FeedbackFruits Interactive Study Materials
Create interactions within FeedbackFruits Interactive Study Materials

Faculties can organize online discussions with FeedbackFruits discussion tools, where students can exchange their thoughts and access diverse perspectives from peers and instructors. This can significantly promote a sense of community in learning.

Group work is another effective way to foster interactions, FeedbackFruits Team Based Learning is the perfect tool to issue an entire team-based experience, from pre-work study, iRAT and tRAT, application, to peer evaluation.

The Assignment and Skill Review tools help generate open, direct conversations within students’ deliverables, in which faculties and students can exchange feedback.

Teacher feedback within Assignment Review tool
Teacher feedback within Assignment Review tool

Teaching story: Online engagement and interaction at South Plains College

As courses moved online, South Plains College's English department saw the need to maintain active learning, quality feedback, and meaningful interactions at different levels (teacher-student, student-student, and student-content). This is why Professor Sharon Race and Buffy Ratten from the English Department adopted several FeedbackFruits tools to increase engagement and interaction in their English composition course.

4. Experiences with diversity, wherein students demonstrate intercultural competence and empathy with people and worldview frameworks that differ from their own

A high-impact learning activity should foster a learning environment where students of different backgrounds, learning preferences, and worldviews feel welcome to share and exchange ideas. This can be achieved by ensuring that the content curation, course policy establishment, and communication are transparent and open to diverse perspectives. For more ideas to foster diversity and inclusivity in your course, check out the 4 key principles of inclusive course design, shared by Linda Lee, Director of Instructional Design at The Wharton School.

With FeedbackFruits, institutions are presented with endless options to create multiple avenues for students to acknowledge, and discuss human biases. Online forums or symposiums are among the best ways to initiate this type of conversation, which can be easily created using the Discussion tools. Furthermore, faculties can use Interactive Study Materials and Comprehension tools to initiate meaningful conversations on bias-related content.

Teaching story: Foster meaningful online conversations at Deakin University

Catherine Fraser, Teaching Scholar, Course and Unit Design at Deakin University used the Discussion on Work tool to organize an asynchronous symposium where students presented their research posters, and then provided and received feedback from peers and instructors.

5. Frequent, timely, and constructive feedback

Feedback has always remained a key element to successful learning, being one of the most powerful drivers behind learners' achievement. The benefits of feedback are countless, from improving students’ knowledge of the subject matter, quality of final work, connections with peers, and most importantly, their development of lifelong skills. To generate positive outcomes, feedback should be frequent, timely, and growth-oriented. Furthermore, feedback should be initiated from not only the instructors but also from the students. That is, multi-level feedback is critical to implement a HIP.

FeedbackFruits review tools enable the design, and facilitation of an effective teacher, peer, and group feedback activity. Assignment and Skill Review allows instructors to deliver quality feedback on students’ submissions, while Peer Review and Group Member Evaluation streamline the entire review process where students provide feedback on peers’ or group members’ performance based on a set of criteria. Automated Feedback is the perfect tool to provide instant and personalized feedback on students’ academic writing.

Provide feedback based on a set of criteria within FeedbackFruits Peer Review
Provide feedback based on a set of criteria within FeedbackFruits Peer Review

Our solutions also offer many functionalities that support instructors in providing clear instructions, as well as guiding students throughout the feedback process.

  • Feedback Anonymity allows students to give comments anonymously under fruity pseudonyms. This is to provide a safe, comfortable environment to exchange honest, constructive feedback.
  • Automated Feedback Coach generates suggestions or tips for students on how to give feedback, using Artificial Intelligence.
  • Instructors can also set up a self-reflection step, in which students process their received feedback, and then think of how they can improve their learning and performance.

Automated Feedback Coach provides personalized instructions to guide students in feedback writing
Automated Feedback Coach provides personalized instructions to guide students in feedback writing

Teaching story: Peer feedback in a large student cohort at Boston University

To facilitate an effective peer feedback process for an online MBA program of 400 students, Denise Kreiger and Monty Kaplan of Boston University utilized pedagogical technology and smart course design.

6. Periodic, structured opportunities to reflect and integrate learning

Meaningful reflection is further aided when peers or instructors provide quality feedback, ask critical questions, and help students develop key ideas. Experts have argued that students are most likely to realize the full benefits associated with reflection when they receive high-quality feedback on their insights but aren’t graded for their work. This approach allows students to assign personal meaning and significance to reflection rather than seeking others’ approval.

A HIP needs to motivate students to engage in reflective practices to develop self-regulation and self-directed learning. To create activities with meaningful reflections, faculties must:

  • Make sure students know how to reflect on their own work using proper guidelines and feedback criteria
  • Offer students sufficient time for in-depth reflection
  • Provide feedback on students’ self-reflection to let them know their strengths and areas to improve

Besides peer and group assessment, FeedbackFruits supports the implementation of self-reflection due to its benefits in promoting accountability in learning.

Instructors can choose to enable the self-assessment module within either Peer Review or Group Member Evaluation to ensure that students continuously reflect on not only their performance but also their progress throughout the semester. Another option is to create a separate self-assessment activity, in which students critically evaluate their own work based on the criteria & rubrics set by the instructor. Thus, instructors can motivate students to have ownership of their own learning effectively.

Adding a self-reflection step at the end of FeedbackFruits activity
Adding a self-reflection step at the end of FeedbackFruits activity

All our tools come with the Feedback Criteria setup, which enables teachers to design feedback rubrics with detailed criteria, explanations of criteria, rating scales, and descriptions of rating scales to guide students throughout the self-reflection process. These rubrics can also be exported and shared between faculty, and there are even template rubrics to make use of.

To demonstrate how FeedbackFruits can support reflection, we have created this learning journey which outlines 7 steps to organize a self-assessment activity.

7. Opportunities to discover the relevance of learning through real-world applications

When engaging in HIPs, it is important that students be given opportunities to apply their learned knowledge in real-life situations via authentic teaching and assessment. Pedagogy centered on real-world application promotes deeper learning and nurtures real-life skills relevant to students’ future work.

One effective way to achieve this principle is to provide authentic assessment practices that replicate real-life problems. Whether you ask students to prepare a research paper, develop a business proposal, do a case study, record a podcast, or present a topic in the classroom, FeedbackFruits has a solution to assess them based on your learning objectives. Here are some suggestions on how your faculties can utilize our tools to promote authentic learning:

  • Discussion on Work and Topic tool: Replicate real-life academic symposiums, in which students present their research posters or projects
  • Assignment and Skill Review tool: Give feedback on students' work and skills
  • Team Based Learning tool: Streamline and engage students in real-life group project
  • Peer Review and Group Member Evaluation tool: Let students review each other's work and group contribution

Teaching story: Authentic assessment at a STEM faculty at Deakin University

At the Faculty of Science, Engineering, and Built Environment of Deakin University, Dr. Tiffany Gunning and her team have been implementing a 2-year long, multi-faceted project to prepare students for the world of work and encourage lifelong learning.

The Deakin team decided to adopt FeedbackFruits Team Based Learning and Group Member Evaluation to optimize the group assessment and stimulate collaborative learning.

8. Public demonstration of competence

Finally, a HIP should present students with multiple ways to demonstrate their learning with others, such as presentations, ePortfolio, written reports, podcasts, and such. The process of preparing a product for showcase encourages students to articulate their learning with accuracy and quality.

FeedbackFruits’s abundant tools help instructors vary the means of expression for students. They can choose how to showcase the final work and product in the form of a group research paper, poster, presentation, podcast, or video. For example, Discussion on Work creates an asynchronous platform where students can upload multimedia content for discussion and feedback with instructors and their peers. FeedbackFruits Review tools also support different assignment formats, letting students submit their work and exchange feedback based on a set of criteria.

Teaching story: Using podcast to increase engagement and active learning at Leiden University

Two instructors of the Centre for the Arts in Society at Leiden University implemented a podcast project with the help of FeedbackFruits tools to help students master the course materials, and demonstrate their work in a creative manner.


Incorporating high-impact practices (HIPs) into academic programs has been shown to significantly enhance student engagement and active learning. By following the eight pedagogical considerations outlined in this article, educators can deepen students' commitment to their academic program, promote meaningful interactions throughout the learning experience, ensure an inclusive learning environment, encourage opportunities for constructive feedback, and develop real-life skills critical to students' future life and work. Furthermore, institutions can utilize pedagogical technology to support each of these considerations and facilitate a meaningful HIP.

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