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Dr. George Kuh on Scaling High Quality, High-Impact Educational Practices: Q&A

Dr. George D. Kuh is the preeminent researcher on experiential learning and foremost authority on student engagement and high-impact educational […]

Dr. George D. Kuh is the preeminent researcher on experiential learning and foremost authority on student engagement and high-impact educational practices (HIPs). He has consulted with over 400 higher ed institutions and organizations in the U.S. and abroad on topics related to assessment strategies, institutional improvement, college student engagement, and campus cultures.

Kuh has been instrumental in shaping educational strategies that promote deep learning, and in a recent workshop with higher ed leaders (recording available), Kuh shared a wealth of knowledge and insights on experiential education and the measurable impact of HIPs, all to help participants scale these beneficial practices at their own organizations. 

Here, we outline the questions raised during the workshop by higher ed leaders and Kuh's responses.


How do internships support professional development within the framework of high-impact practices and NACE competencies?

Kuh: Many institutions are trying to align HIPs with NACE competencies, and there's significant overlap between the outcomes of high-impact practices and NACE competencies. Internships must focus on the development of core competencies, such as critical thinking and effective communication. We need to be asking, “are students actually developing those base competencies, the kinds of outcomes traditional to higher ed?”

What are the best ways to measure the impact of HIPs, quantitatively and qualitatively?

Kuh: You have to be able to track students. Tracking student persistence term-to-term, year-to-year to degree completion is vital; do students persist to the next term and beyond the next term? Do they actually complete the degree? I don't know of an institution that has done that kind of tracking and hasn't found the positive effects that we've been talking about here. I don't want to discount the so-called indirect stuff. We can call it indirect, but the educational portfolio-- the portfolio that's 11th, so-called newest HIP, that is very, very powerful. And, remember, without the reflection piece, uh, the HIP, the student's not likely to realize the kinds of deep learning effects that a HIP promises. So let's not throw those babies out with that bath water. You know, these reflection papers are very, very important, provided students are getting feedback on the quality of their reflections both from faculty, staff, as well as peers.

Can structured student leadership positions be recognized as an official HIP, and how can we facilitate this?

Kuh: Implementing structured conversations similar to those in the Iowa GROW model throughout the term or academic year is key. If you take the set of four questions (and Iowa GROW has more now) you start there and have these kinds of conversations with student leaders. Not only conversations with faculty, but also peer interactions are vital in enhancing the experience and learning outcomes for student leaders.

This is a common request. But we have to have these kinds of structured conversations along with some other things. What's the intentionality? It's not just conversations with faculty members. Remember, peers become very, very important as well. So you can have an upper-division student that's a great example of peer tutoring. You can have a student who's better prepared in a particular area doing the tutoring. And remember, the tutor always learns more than the tutee, right? The same kinds of expectations and benefits can accrue in this student leadership activity. So using the Iowa GROW as a kind of a template and then tweaking it. . . many institutions are doing similar things. 

What defines a 'well done' first-year seminar?

Kuh: The short answer is to apply the features of the High Impact Worksheet as an evaluative template for intentional design and implementation fidelity. 

One must also think through and examine the design of the seminar to be sure the HIPs features can be accommodated if implemented with fidelity. I recommend reviewing the NSSE website for examples of first-year seminars. These also are good resources:

Could you speak a bit more to scaling a diversity of HIPS . . What are some of the most effective ways to support quality integration of hips? Also, when every student takes these, where can we find control data for communicating ROI?

Kuh: With apologies, I do not understand what is meant by “quality integration of HIPs.” The ROI question is a good one. If all students are participating in the same HIPs, it may be possible to longitudinally examine three years prior to HIPs implementation course completion, next course completion, year-to-year persistence, and degree completion data controlling for student characteristics. Then, compute differences in tuition revenue over these time periods. Estimating the cost of implementing HIPs is a non-trivial task as well and must account for faculty and staff time, including non-compensated contributions and, among other things, technology costs, if any. This is also a good resource:

Are there any statistics on the success of job shadow experiences?

Kuh: Sorry, I don’t know of any data about the efficacy of job shadowing. As with any activity, students may realize some benefits from job shadowing, especially if students engage in constructive interactions with peers and the subject of the job shadow. True enough, as attributed to Yogi Berra (and others), “You can learn a lot by just watching,” but most people learn more by watching AND doing, which is why a well-designed internship or field placement will likely be superior to job shadowing in terms of desired student outcomes.

What faculty development methods increase the effectiveness of HIPs?

Kuh: The campus teaching and learning center staff are the best source of guidance for determining how to mobilize and prepare faculty to design and implement a HIP in their course. Perhaps in collaboration with the teaching and learning centers, the institutional HIP steering committee can support a faculty learning community to noodle through how to launch high-quality HIPs.

Who evaluates the effectiveness of a potential HIP?

Kuh: The responsibility for evaluating the quality of a HIP will vary from institution to institution. Often, multiple partners are involved, including the person(s) who deliver the HIP, assessment, and/or institutional research staff, and one or more academic and/or student affairs administrators who have HIP oversight responsibility. This is also a good resource:

Missed the Workshop?

Watch the recording of the insightful conversation with Dr. Kuh here. For help implementing his strategies, learn how PeopleGrove’s team of experts helps campuses scale up experiential learning and High-Impact Practices.

About Dr. Kuh

More on workshop leader Dr. George D. Kuh:

Kuh is the founding director of IU’s Center for Postsecondary Research, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), and the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). Kuh has more than 400 publications and made several hundred presentations on topics related to assessment strategies, institutional improvement, college student engagement, and campus cultures. He has consulted with about 400 institutions and organizations in the U.S. and abroad.

His recent books include Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education (2015), Ensuring Quality and Taking High-Impact Practices to Scale (2013), High Impact Practices (2008), and Student Success in College: Creating Conditions That Matter (2005, 2010). His work has been recognized with awards from the American College Personnel Association, American Educational Research Association, Association for Institutional Research, Association for the Study of Higher Education, Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, Council of Independent Colleges, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and National Center on Public Policy in Higher Education as well as eleven honorary degrees.