HIP-Quality Study

The Assessing Quality and Equity in High-Impact Practices (HIPs) project, supported by Lumina Foundation, builds on NSSE’s key role in catalyzing interest in HIPs, assessing HIPs, and supporting colleges and universities to use NSSE data to improve HIP quality and equity. It also builds on our longstanding commitment to study and advance effective educational practice and student success. It promises an approach to address the current urgency to make HIPs more widespread while assuring their effectiveness, as well as to develop long-term strategies for studying and assessing HIPs.

The first phase of research supported the most comprehensive data yet on HIP implementation and equity, exploring the extent to which HIP experiences incorporate elements theorized to account for their educational benefits and equitable access to high-quality HIPs. The initial summary of project findings, "Assessing Quality and Equity in High-Impact Practices: Comprehensive Report" was delivered July 2020.  

The Project Continues - HIPS in Practice

Phase II of the project—named HIPs in Practice—deepens our investigation by collecting even more contextualized data through purpose-built surveys keyed to specific HIP experiences. Investigation of the equity dimensions remains a central focus, and the new project will include qualitative research into the experiences of racially minoritized students in HIPs.

Read the report for all participating institutions

HIPs in Practice—Interviews with Students (Fall 2021-Winter 2022)

To deepen our understanding of how racially minoritized students view and experience HIPs, we are planning to conduct student interviews. Research associate Sylvia Washington is currently inviting institutions to serve as interview sites.  

HIPs in Practice—Surveys Keyed to Specific HIPs (Spring 2021)

HIPs in Practice is a targeted data collection focused on students participating in specific HIPs. During Spring 2021, we explored two HIPs—learning communities and culminating experiences (capstone course, senior project, etc.). The item sets include a series of questions specific to each HIP, engagement-related questions drawn from NSSE, and items adapted from NSSE’s module on Inclusiveness and Engagement with Cultural Diversity (to examine equity). 

Download the Learning Community Questions

Download the Culminating Experience Questions

Whereas NSSE examines students’ experience over the current school year, these questions are tied to specific HIP experiences, affording a more robust examination of the engagement benefits of HIP participation.


The Eight Key Elements of High-Impact Practices

Photo courtesy of Madonna University
  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, structured opportunities to reflect and integrate learning
  7. Opportunities to discover relevance of learning through real-world applications
  8. Public demonstration of competence
Source: Ensuring Quality & Taking High-Impact Practices to Scale by George D. Kuh and Ken O'Donnell, with Case Studies by Sally Reed. (Washington, DC: AAC&U, 2013).

Project Rationale

Interest in HIPs and their educational benefits remains high. Processes for tracking participation, disaggregating who experiences HIPs, and developing HIP standards and taxonomies have expanded. Awareness about the value of HIPs, attention to equity, and overall HIP activity have become more widespread. However, it is well known that HIP implementation matters more than the labels attached to these practices, and many institutions, state systems and member- and consortium-based organizations (e.g., HIPs in the States, the National Association of System Heads’ (NASH) Taking Student Success to Scale (TS3), and the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ (AAC&U) Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence) have raised concerns about assuring HIP quality and equity. In particular, we lack evidence about the eight vital elements that typify HIPs and need to assure that historically underrepresented students have access to high-quality HIP experiences. There is also strong interest in exploring specific HIPs in depth to discover more about the features that contribute to student learning and success. Most of all, institutional and collective initiatives to elevate and expand HIPs need straightforward measures to assess HIPs, study their effectiveness, and inform implementation efforts.

Institutional and collective initiatives to elevate and expand HIPs need straightforward measures to assess HIPs, study their effectiveness, and inform implementation efforts.

Given the popularity of HIPs in higher education and the keen interest of a range of higher education member organizations (including AAC&U, NASH, AASCU, etc.), employers, and the public in high-quality experiential learning, there is great interest in anything having to do with HIPs. Attention by higher education media outlets remains high, evidenced by the recent research and opinion piece, "What Really Makes a ‘High-Impact' Practice High Impact?featured on May 1, 2018, in Inside Higher Ed.

Current Project Activities

Activities related to the administration of the HIP Quality Experimental item set began in February 2019 and concluded May 15, 2019. The standalone Qualtrics survey option wrapped up June 15, 2019. Data and reports were provided to participating institutions in August 2019.  

A fall 2019 Qualtrics administration option was also administered September – December 2019.

Results from the HIP Quality set and the Qualtrics administration of more than 20,000 students (whose HIP was either finished or ongoing for at least 4 weeks to ensure sufficient exposure) at 57 institutions is being analyzed.

The initial report from the HIP Quality and Equity Project "Assessing Quality and Equity in High-Impact Practices: Comprehensive Report" summarizes the project purpose, research design and questions, development and testing HIP quality instrument, and early findings about assessment feasibility, evidence of elements of HIP quality, measuring high-quality HIPs, and evidence of equity. The report also explores measures of students' satisfaction with their HIP experience, differences by racial identity, and evidence of high quality and equity by HIP.