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High Impact Practices (HIPs)

HIPs: Eight Key Elements

Implementation quality matters

What differentiates a course with a High-Impact Practice from one that does not?  After all, the label “HIPs” does not ensure there is any impact at all.

In 2018, George Kuh and Jillian Kinzie wrote an op-ed in Inside Higher Ed titled “Kuh and Kinzie respond to essay questioning high-impact’ practices (opinion)” responding to critics who claim that HIPs have no discernable impact.  Some studies show, for example, that HIPs have no effect on graduation.  Kuh and Kinzie’s response is that HIPs are effective when done well. Implementation quality matters. 

Kinzie, J., McCormick, A. (2020). Our research: Projects, publications, and more: Assessing quality and equity in high-impact practices. Indiana University School of Education

Key elements

Kuh and O’Donnell writing for AAC&U were the first to identify eight key elements which seem to make HIPs effective: 

  • Performance expectations set at appropriately high levels – students are challenged
  • Significant investment of time and effort over an extended period
  • Interactions with faculty and peers about substantive matters
  • Experiences with diversity
  • Frequent, timely, and constructive feedback
  • Periodic, structured opportunities to reflect and integrate learning
  • Real world applications of learning
  • Public demonstration of competence

Kuh, G., & O'Donnell, K. (2013). Ensuring quality & taking high-impact practices to scale. American Association of Colleges & Universities.

Which elements are essential?

Which elements are essential and which are recommended?  Jillian Kinzie and her team from the National Survey of Student Engagement at Indiana University conducted a literature review to identify which elements are emphasized in the research. NOTE:  You can right click on the image below to see a larger image.

In addition, they developed a tool to universally assess the elements of any HIP which they have tested at a number of institutions.  To find out how to assess the use of these elements in a course or assignment, read the next tab “HIPs Taxonomy”.


Many faculty incorporate some of the eight elements of High-Impact Practices without knowing the supporting research.  The following taxonomy is based on research on each element, and can be used to assess a course or an assignment.

Taxonomy see below

View a demonstration of the taxonomy here.  How to Use HIPs Taxonomy

They point to a body of research which show a positive and significant effect on a variety of student outcomes, but fidelity to principles and institutional context must be considered, too.  For this reason, institutional comparisons are often difficult. 

Taxonomy for High-Impact Practices


4 High engagement/impact



1 Low engagement/impact


Level of challenge or expectation





Substantial time devoted to task completion, sustained effort

Brief, limited effort



Substantive, frequent interaction with faculty, peers

Incidental, occasional interaction with faculty, peers



Meaningful and structured interaction with new situations, ways of thinking, people, etc.

Incidental, unstructured exposure to new situations, ways of thinking, people, etc.



Two-way dialogue, substantive

One way

After task completion



Structured opportunities to reflect on content and learning process.

Incidental reflection



This activity is purposefully integrated with course learning outcomes and other course content.

The activity does not connect with the course learning outcomes or other course content


Authentic application

Activity applies directly to authentic situations or matters of importance to students.

Activity has no connection or students are not aware of connection to real world application.


Public demonstration

Structured opportunity to share work with classmates or beyond class.

Faculty is the only audience.