The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) has identified several teaching and learning practices that benefit students from all backgrounds, including historically underserved students who often have not had access to high-impact learning experiences.
HIPs at AU
High Impact Practices
Whether they’re called “senior capstones” or some other name, these culminating experiences require students nearing the end of their college years to create a project of some sort that integrates and applies what they’ve learned. The project might be a research paper, a performance, a portfolio of “best work” or an exhibit of artwork. Capstones are offered both in departmental programs and, increasingly, in general education as well.
Collaborative learning combines two key goals: Learning to work and solve problems in the company of others and sharpening one’s own understanding by listening seriously to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences. Approaches range from study groups within a course, to team-based assignments and writing, to cooperative projects and research.
The older idea of a “core” curriculum has evolved into a variety of modern forms, such as a set of required common courses or a vertically organized general education program that includes advanced integrative studies and/or required participation in a learning community. These programs often combine broad themes — technology and society, global interdependence, etc. — with a variety of curricular and co-curricular options for students.
Many colleges and universities now emphasize courses and programs that help students explore cultures, life experiences and worldviews different from their own. These studies — which may address US diversity, world cultures or both — often explore “difficult differences” such as racial, ethnic and gender inequality, or continuing struggles around the globe for human rights, freedom and power. Frequently, intercultural studies are augmented by experiential learning in the community and/or by study abroad.
ePortfolios can be implemented in a variety of ways for teaching and learning, programmatic assessment, and career development. ePortfolios enable students to electronically collect their work over time, reflect upon their personal and academic growth and then share selected items with others, including professors, advisors and potential employers. Because collection over time is a key element of the ePortfolio process, employing ePortfolios in collaboration with other high-impact practices provides opportunities for students to make connections between various educational experiences. (AAC&U)
AU uses eportfolios to engage students in metacognition, meaning-making and vocational reflection over time. Students are introduced to ePortfolios in FYS 112. Civitas students are also invited to configure their accounts on Assessment & Advising Day. Thereafter, students may collect and curate content during creative projects (senior shows), field experiences (clinicals, practicums, student teaching), internships, research, service-learning and study away. Professors can also elect to add to students’ ePortfolios by asking students to author summative reflection and publish artifacts to demonstrate their learning. Assignments integrate seamlessly into Canvas. Co-curricular leaders can also construct guided prompts to support students’ ongoing reflection. Students often exchange the narratives they authored to provide and receive feedback. Learn more about ePortfolios.
Many institutions now build into the curriculum first-year seminars or other programs that bring small groups of students together with faculty or staff on a regular basis. The highest-quality first-year experiences place a strong emphasis on critical inquiry, frequent writing, information literacy, collaborative learning and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practical competencies. First-year seminars can also involve students with cutting-edge questions in scholarship and with faculty members’ own research. (AAC&U)
Augustana University’s First-Year Seminar (FYS) is a two-semester program that orients students to college-level academics and campus life. In the fall, students enroll in FYS 110 — a small seminar-style, topic-based course designed to develop foundational writing, reading and critical thinking skills essential to students’ collegiate success. In the spring semester, students enroll in FYS 112, which focuses on vocational exploration and engagement in the context of AU’s motto: "Enter to learn. Leave to serve." In both courses, students engage with the university’s core values and make intentional connections with faculty, staff, fellow students and campus resources.
Internships are an increasingly common form of experiential learning. The idea is to provide students with direct experience in a work setting — usually related to their career interests — and to give them the benefit of supervision and coaching from professionals in the field. If the internship is taken for course credit, students complete a project or paper that is approved by a faculty member.
At Augustana, students may take up to eight credit hours through internship study to count toward graduation requirements. Internship study experiences in most instances will be conducted in work settings off-campus, and in all cases, they will relate to the academic major or career objectives of the student involved. Students participate in an internship orientation series, which includes sessions on how to be successful in your internship, networking, reflective learning through ePortfolios and evaluation of the experience. Faculty internship coordinators from each department approve the internship and advise students throughout the experience. To make internships accessible to all students, transportation funds, scholarships and opportunities for project-based internships are available.
The key goals for learning communities are to encourage integration of learning across courses and to involve students with “big questions” that matter beyond the classroom. Students take two or more linked courses as a group and work closely with one another and with their professors. Many learning communities explore a common topic and/or common readings through the lenses of different disciplines. Some deliberately link “liberal arts” and “professional courses”; others feature service learning.
In these programs, field-based “experiential learning” with community partners is an instructional strategy — and often a required part of the course. The idea is to give students direct experience with issues they are studying in the curriculum and with ongoing efforts to analyze and solve problems in the community. A key element in these programs is the opportunity students have to both apply what they are learning in real-world settings and reflect in a classroom setting on their service experiences. These programs model the idea that giving something back to the community is an important college outcome and that working with community partners is good preparation for citizenship, work and life.
Many colleges and universities are now providing research experiences for students in all disciplines. Undergraduate research, however, has been most prominently used in science disciplines. With strong support from the National Science Foundation and the research community, scientists are reshaping their courses to connect key concepts and questions with students’ early and active involvement in systematic investigation and research. The goal is to involve students with actively contested questions, empirical observation, cutting-edge technologies and the sense of excitement that comes from working to answer important questions. (AAC&U)
Many Augustana University students take their learning to the next level by engaging in undergraduate research and artistic creation. These opportunities allow students to explore their field of study, make discoveries and express their creativity. The Student Research Collection provides examples of undergraduate research at AU.
These courses emphasize writing at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum, including final-year projects. Students are encouraged to produce and revise various forms of writing for different audiences in different disciplines. The effectiveness of this repeated practice “across the curriculum” has led to parallel efforts in such areas as quantitative reasoning, oral communication, information literacy and, on some campuses, ethical inquiry. (AAC&U)
Augustana University prides itself on graduating students who can express complex ideas clearly through writing. Every student begins their writing journey in their first-year seminar, which lays the foundation for effective writing in a broad range of academic disciplines while encouraging students to maintain their unique voices. Students are then required to take two writing-component courses during their undergraduate career — usually one at the 200-level and one later in their major. At each stage, students are given ample feedback, chances to rewrite, conferences with faculty about their writing and peer review responsibilities to both help their fellow students and read the work of those who may approach the topic from a different viewpoint. Students are also encouraged to bring their work to the Nancy Dickinson Writing Center to work with peer tutors internationally certified by the College Reading and Learning Association. In all of these courses, the writing process is emphasized and protracted in order to honor the role of writing as a mode of learning and to help students develop into effective and dextrous writers in their work after graduation.