Skip to main content

High-Impact Practices

A set of eleven teaching and learning practices that have been empirically demonstrated as educationally beneficial for engagement, learning, and persistence with especially significant gains shown for students whose demographic backgrounds have been historically underserved by higher education.


Research championed by the American Association of Colleges & Universities demonstrates that high-impact practices deepen student learning and increase rates of engagement, retention, and persistence. Of significant importance is the landmark finding from Kuh’s (2008) High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter that demonstrates these teaching and learning practices have an outsized positive impact on students who start college with lower test scores and those who come from communities that have been historically underserved by higher education.

Learn more about high impact practices and their eight key features.

The following have been identified as high-impact practices:

  • Capstone Courses and Projects
  • Collaborative Assignments and Projects
  • Common Intellectual Experiences
  • Community Engaged Learning (Service Learning)
  • Diversity/Global Learning
  • ePortfolios
  • First-Year Seminars and Experiences
  • Internships
  • Learning Communities
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Writing-Intensive Courses

In Ensuring Quality & Taking High-Impact Practices to Scale, Kuh and O'Donnell (2013) identified eight key features:

  1. Performance expectations set at appropriately high levels
  2. Significant investment of time and effort by students over an extended period of time;
  3. Interactions with faculty and peers about substantive matters;
  4. Experiences with diversity, wherein students are exposed to and must contend with people and circumstances that differ from those with which students are familiar;
  5. Frequent, timely and constructive feedback;
  6. Periodic, structure opportunities to reflect and integrate learning;
  7. Opportunities to discover relevance of learning through real-world applications
  8. Public demonstrations of competence.

Combined, these elements create a powerful approach to helping students achieve academic, career, and life success. Educational developers at the Searle Center support instructors in their efforts to teach in this high-impact way.


Our programs offer the Northwestern community a variety of ways to develop teaching skills, enhance student learning, and find community. The following programs will spark your curiosity about high-impact practices.

coffee bag with Searle Center mission labelMoving into the design phase of our High-Impact Practices initiative, we are drawing inspiration from award-winning programs like North Central College’s Coffee Lab. The project engages students and faculty in a multidisciplinary exploration of coffee. The blending of ethically-sourced coffee with multiple high-impact pedagogical practices, including Community Engaged Learning and Diversity/Global Learning, is exemplary.  As our partners astutuely observe, “For hundreds of years, coffee has been an enabler of social occasion, conversation and community” and we are proud to feature our new mission on each bag we share.


Learning & Teaching Guides

Guides created by or in collaboration with the Searle Center to help educators and learners explore and advance high-impact practices.

Check back for forthcoming guides.

In Our Library

A curated list of recommended books related to high-impact practices available at the Menges Library, located in the Searle Center.

Further Resources

Our current recommendations for both foundational and leading-edge content related to high-impact practices.

  • AAC&U’s VALUE rubrics are open educational resources (OER) that enable educators to assess students’ learning with reliable, verified instruments for sixteen broad, cross-cutting learning outcomes including civic engagement, global learning, intercultural knowledge and competence, and teamwork.
  • Campus Compact’s Community-Engaged Learning and Teaching Knowledge Hub
  • Jane S. Halonen and Dana S. Dunn. “Does ‘High-Impact’ Teaching Cause High-Impact Fatigue?” The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 27, 2018.
  • George D. Kuh and Jillian Kinzie. “What Really Makes a ‘High-Impact’ Practice High Impact?” Inside Higher Ed, May 1, 2018.

Enrichment Opportunities

The following list includes opportunities which support and enhance work related to high-impact practices.

  • Institute on High-Impact Practice and Student Success
    The AAC&U offers an annual institute for interdisciplinary campus teams to devise strategies for building institutional capacity for high-impact practices that advance equity in student learning outcomes. The application process is competitive, and the registration fee is $5,000 per five-member team from AAC&U member institutions.

Calendar of Events

Below are all of our upcoming events related to high-impact practices.


James Lang's Policy to Pedagogy: Evaluating Artificial Intelligence for Teachers and Learners

2:00 PMRebecca Crown Center, 633 Clark Street
James Lang's Policy to Pedagogy: Evaluating Artificial Intelligence for Teachers and Learners Building upon arguments fi...

Winter Retreat

10:00 AM627 Dartmouth Place, 627 Dartmouth Place
Come in from the cold with other graduate students and postdocs for a day of toasty conversations to spark your curiosit...

Contact Us

Reach out to us at