High Impact Learning: A deeper way of thinking


There exist hundreds of pedagogical practices whose aim is to improve student development, teaching effectiveness, assurance of learning, and learning outcomes. One that has been around for years but only recently gained momentum is the concept of “high impact pedagogy” practices.  Students actively engage in the analysis and development of solutions to real-world problems. The purpose is to deepen the learning (high impact learning) experience and to increase social and self-awareness. Students collaborate with peers, faculty, community members, and other stakeholders to explore the issues. Examples would be internships, learning communities, writing-intensive courses, undergraduate research opportunities, and service/community-based learning projects.

One reason high-impact pedagogical practices have become so popular is due to the demand for more accountability from educational institutions. Proof that secondary and post-secondary institutions are providing students with the knowledge, skills, and real-world experience needed to compete in a global economy and marketplace.  Gone are the days when federal and state government blindly allocated funds to educational institutions without proof of measurable and tangible learning outcomes. As college tuition continues to steadily  rise and students are saddled with mounting loan debt, many question if a college degree is really worth the expense.

High impact pedagogical practices go beyond in-class lectures, rote Traininglearning and tests taking. These methods challenge students to dissect issues, analyze components, construct solutions, and reflect on outcomes. In addition to providing a rigorous, and robust learning experience.  The benefits of high-impact learning are: students gain hands-on experience and develop job-related skills such as critical-thinking, teamwork, flexibility, adaptability, and problem-solving.  Additionally, research has shown that high-impact learning experiences promote student engagement and academic persistence.

So, in my opinion, there are four key elements to creating a high-impact learning experience:

  1. Problem: The project or activity should be a real-life problem with real consequences and outcomes. It should require students to commit substantive time and effort to explore, dissect, analyze and synthesize information to deepen the learning experience. Regular, purposeful tasks are assigned, and project updates are required to ensure students are making daily decisions that influence the overall outcome. This creates a vested interest and commitment to the project.
  2. Collaboration:  That act of working with a group, peer or instructor allows students to foster relationships and interact with colleagues on a professional and substantive issue. Collaboration helps generate ideas,  question notions, and challenge students to think outside the box. In doing so, learning opportunities are created, and intellectual tools developed.
  3. Real-time feedback: Peers, instructor, and group provide frequent and real-time feedback which is critical to success. Issues, questions, and challenges are addressed sooner rather than later so corrective action can be taken.
  4. Critical Reflection: People often confuse reflection with remembering. The process of reflection requires students to take an account of the events, analyze actions taken, and finally, draw meaning from the experience. Reflective action enables them to challenge personal values, beliefs, and critique presuppositions.

By incorporating high-impact pedagogical practices into the classroom, instructors can create an engaging hands-on learning environment that promotes critical-thinking and problem-solving. These practices promote a win-win situation not only for the students and institution but also the workplace.


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