HIP to learning
UND College of Arts & Sciences educators attend institute on high-impact learning practices
In the last week of June, five faculty from UND’s College of Arts & Sciences (A&S) descended on Boston – a city of history, Fenway Park and that “wicked awesome” accent. But when asked separately what the best part of Beantown is, they don’t wait a beat.
“The food,” said A&S Associate Dean Karyn Plumm.
“The food,” said Art and Design Chair Donovan Widmer.
“The food,” said Director of Psychology Undergraduate Programs Heather Terrell, adding with a laugh, “That’s what you’ve heard from every other person, isn’t it!”
But divine dishes weren’t the goal of the east coast journey. The group was there to attend the 2017 Institute on High-Impact Practices and Student Success, hosted by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). The focus of competitive national program is helping campuses form strategies to effectively integrate high-impact practices (HIPs) into their curriculums.
Plumm, Widmer and Terrell were joined by Associate Professor of English Yvette Koepke and Professor of Biology Rebecca Simmons, and were supported by an A&S donor and a travel grant through the UND Office of Instructional Development. The quintet was intentionally selected to represent the academic divisions of A&S.
“The team was asked to engage in the AAC&U workshops and bring back specific ideas and plans that could be implemented in the College,” said UND Senior Vice Provost and A&S Dean Debbie Storrs. “I was excited to support the team to attend because of the evidence that HIPs increase student retention, engagement and learning.”
An action item of the One UND Strategic Plan’s first goal – providing a strong undergraduate liberal arts foundation – is offering more experiential learning opportunities through HIPs, which include practices like writing-intensive courses, research projects, internships and studies abroad.
Plumm says there is already work being done by faculty on initial HIP integration, an immersive first-year experience for students, and traditional senior Capstone courses. Her group wanted to find a way to fill the gaps for sophomores and juniors.
“We were focused on the fact that, at least in our College, we don’t really have a mid-level experience for students,” Plumm said.
The four-day institute kept the UND cohort moving. Every day was filled with workshops, meetings with faculty consultants, collaborative time with other universities, and designated team time to start developing action plans.
“It was definitely exhausting, but that was what was great about it,” Widmer said. “There was no way we could go to every workshop, so the best we could do was just split up, pick the ones we thought applied to us, and then reconvene and share.”
Through cross-university group discussions, which the institute called “clusters,” UND’s team learned how others had established assessment rubrics for their HIPs, and what kind of results they were seeing in terms of student success.
“At the end, we were able to present our plan to others in the cluster to get some feedback,” Terrell explained. “The institute really fostered getting ideas and input from other people, but gave plenty of time to talk through your own ideas and actually work on something to bring back.”
A main theme of the program was understanding equity versus equality when it comes to access to HIPs, and finding ways to nurture that equity. Plumm said the idea is that just because an experience is available doesn’t mean that every student can participate.
“If you think about study abroad, for example – that’s available, great, but not every student has access to that. Some students have to work and can’t take a semester off,” she said. “So we want to look at the types of students that are taking those types of experiences, and those that aren’t, and try to figure out why they aren’t.”
Plumm said another revelation was that the effects of HIPs on retention, graduation rates and success after graduation are highest on underrepresented student groups.
“They tend to serve this purpose of helping boost anything that was lacking prior to coming to college,” she explained. “A first-year experience, or a cooperative learning experience, or a study abroad – they have bigger impacts in terms of deep learning, retention and feeling connected to the University, for the students who have never had that kind of experience.”
A HIP plan
As the team puts together a course plan that will deliver the mid-level experience their College needs, they’ll concentrate on how to best prepare students for their post-graduation paths. Terrell noted that the workforce is constantly shifting, with people changing careers at least a few times in their lifespans.
“These types of high-impact practices foster an appreciation of diversity, being able to communicate with other people and critical thinking. Those are things that I think will help when students, down the road, have to make those career switches,” she said.
The group will present its plan to Dean Storrs in August, as well as to the College Council (comprised of the College’s academic unit chairs). If approved, the team will collaborate with departments to work on a course description and curriculum this fall to build a foundation for a strong fall 2018 offering.
There’s still work to do, but as the crew fine-tunes its roadmap for impactful student opportunities, they’ll be sharing both ideas and memories of that Boston cuisine.
“It was just a good group that was excited about this idea and this whole concept of high-impact practices,” Widmer reflected. “When it was time to work, we all worked. We put our heads together and did it.”