What Makes a Practice High-Impact?
The concept of high-impact practices (also called, “high-impact educational practices”) is something George Kuh first outlined in 2008 as a way to foster more meaningful learning on college campuses, beyond traditional classroom settings. His aim at improving student retention and engagement– there’s more than a decade’s worth of research suggesting it works relatively well.
Kuh’s original practices don’t include student employment on campus, but other researchers have furthered his work, including academic librarians. Borrowing from a literature review on student work in academic libraries (Mitola et al., 2018), we can apply Kuh’s six original components of high-impact practices to student employment:
- Time and effort
- Students in library jobs often work up to 20 hours a week, devoting considerable time and effort to tasks that they can understand as furthering the library’s mission.
- Faculty and peer interaction
- Front-facing jobs in departments like circulation or reference provide natural opportunities for students to regularly work with their peers or faculty. Supervisors can also act as mentors and additionally facilitate more interactions with other staff.
- Students can have regular opportunities to be around people who are different from them. Library efforts to improve equity, diversity and inclusion should include student workers.
The next three components are most directly related to transparent design; they help students understand why they’re learning or doing something:
- Formal and informal feedback
- Student work is often alongside supervisors or peers, where informal feedback can be almost continuous. Regular performance reviews can provide formal feedback.
- Transparent design helps students feel “in on” the learning process, which can empower them to ask questions along the way; they know we’re trying to help them achieve a goal, so feedback is natural.
- Integration, synthesis and application
- Students can transfer skills learned in library jobs to contexts beyond the initial work, including academic and future professional settings.
- Transparent design helps us identify these skills and convey them to students in a way that fosters deeper meaning from the work.
- Library jobs can provide opportunities for students to connect with their broader communities, helping them develop perspective on how what they’re doing contributes to society as a whole.
- Transparent design guides us toward this mind-frame, encouraging “big picture” thinking.
George Kuh defines these as:
Common Intellectual Experiences
Collaborative Assignments and Projects
Service Learning, Community-Based Learning
Capstone Courses and Projects
See this Association of American Colleges & Universities page for more information.