Sample Education Essays on High Impact Learning Experiences

High Impact Learning Experiences


Retaining students and progressing them towards a successful graduation is the fundamental objective of higher education learning institutions. In order to accomplish this objective, many institutions are conducting several investigations to identify and understand different factors that are associated with the learners’ retention and successful completion of their studies. According to Tinto (2002), students’ retention is a function that is mandated for institutions of higher learning. The failure of higher institutions of leaning to offer students a friendly base environment that will enhance their engagement in college activities and effectively comprehend students’ features as well as cultural backgrounds results in many attrition rates, and works against the central role for the institutions of higher learning. Therefore, it is significant that institutions understand the importance of integrating higher educational practices as a means of enhancing students’ retention and success. This essay shall present best educational practices for three universities, analyze the structure and dynamics based on the information collected, and offer a proposed solution for the best practices in students’ retention.

The report by the Association of the American College and Universities identified high impact practices among learning institutions to be gaining momentum in institutions of higher learning across the nation. In a later report by AA & CU, Kuh (2008) identifies strong positive effects among students as a result of high impact learning practices. Specifically, the first year’s and other senior students who participated in these practices reported a high level of benefits in both learning as well as personal development. These gains encompassed profound attitude to learning that entailed incorporating ideas and different viewpoints, discussing the concepts with faculty and other members of the institution outside classroom settings, analyzing and synthesizing the ideas, and understanding each other’s perspectives.

According to Kuh (2008), the deep approach to learning is significant to students because applying the methodology enables them to score excellent grades, retain and integrate as well as transfer the knowledge at higher rates. In deliberating on the success of high impact learning experiences, Gonyea et al. (2008) claim that each student in the institutions of higher education should at least take part in two of the high impact practice experience in their initial year of academic learning and the other in their academic major. Gonyea et al. (2008) note that this recommendation is far from what is being experienced currently in the institutions of higher learning. Gonyea et al. (2008) note that many students lack the opportunity to participate in these experiences. There are several examples of high impact educational practices as recommended by AACU, for instance, first year seminars, common intellectual experiences, learning communities, industrial attachments, writing intensive courses among others (AACU, 2007). Below is a comparison of three institutions of higher education, California State University, Duquesne University and Indiana University

High-impact learning experience for their students

First year experiences Faculty and students affairs First year students
Learning communities faculty All students
Writing intensive courses faculty All students
Collaborative assignments faculty All students
Undergraduate research faculty First year students
Global Learning faculty All students
Common Intellectual experience faculty First years
Service learning /Community based learning faculty All students
Internships Facilitated by the students affairs Vary, some to all students in their vacation and other to final year students
Capstone courses and projects faculty Final students
Core curriculum faculty First year students


Table showing California State University, Duquesne University and Indiana University

High-impact learning experience

Structure and Dynamics of best Practices

First Year Seminars

The main reason behind first year seminars and experiences is to offer the new students with a dynamic interaction platform between themselves and the faculty members and the student’s affairs team. Formally, these seminars entail small groups of students with an aim of ensuring they get personalized attention that is significant in sustaining a communication between the instructors or faculty with the students and helps them get through different challenges that affect them in their initial year of study. The result of this initiative is to foster the freshmen students to obligate themselves into further studies despite all the encounters (Starke et al., 2001). There are several range of activities that are entailed in this seminar, for instance, advising students in transition process and cultural shock adaptation, helping them to identify academic goals, and coming up with academic plans, and orienting them to the different institutions philosophy. The first year experience also helps to engage students in their freshmen nature to critical thinking.

Common Intellectual Experiences

Common intellectual experiences in the customary education dynamics is intended and articulated by a fixed set of course prerequisites to all the new students in institutions. Contemporarily, the common intellectual experience is practiced in a more broad perspective and course requirements that are aligned around different themes. For instance, different learning institutions might require that all students must satisfy a given obligatory in a number of domains for the intention of meeting the all-round educational experience and requirement as well ensuring students are part of the institutions commitments in order for the them to gain skills and knowledge in particular area. Most common experiences requirements are attached to current themes that are affecting the society generally, for instance, a course in government and leadership quantitative reasoning and technology.

The decision about the common experience requirement and intellectual experiences are often made at the executive levels of different learning institutions under the influence of individual departments. For example, due to the increase and alert extremist and terrorism in the world today, different departments like disaster management may influence the need for the university executive to incorporate a theme on terrorism and extremism as part of the pre-requisite. Basically, the experiences entail broad themes like technology, society, and global independence.


Learning Communities

The learning communities in a way perform the same roles as study groups. These communities vary in their formation, for instance, they can be formed by learners’in a particular single class with different majors, or students who share some classes or general students who live together and have some common interests like internships or field experiences (Zhao & Kuh, 2004).  These experiences can also be facilitated by the students themselves, and instructors with the support of the higher learning institution. In other instances, they may take different forms, that is, students oriented and faculty’s oriented. This imitative allows students with a common interest to coexist. Students in learning communities are able to make friends with similar interests, create important connection with the faculty as well as develop themselves in an all-inclusive manner in order to achieve high grades and have fun in the process of learning. This will also act as a retention mechanism for the first year students.

Writing Intensive Courses

Writing intensive courses does not only feature the volumes of compositions learners create but also the variety of audiences that their writings serve. All the disciplines in the learning institutions value intensive writing with regards to the career goals. The main objective of intensive writing prerequisite among students is to ensure they have an experience in writing, focusing on responding to different evaluations and assessment in their different fields of study. In as much writing intensive courses may play a significant part in the success of students, it also enhances the critical thinking and their confidence in the ability to succeed in their different fields. In the process of assigning different tasks to be written by students by faculty instructors, students are able to become more conscious of their thinking capacity as well as their clarity and personal logic in resonations. This clear presentations are therefore maintained in the students’ academic assignments and presentations that enhance their success upon completion of studying.

Collaborative Assignments and Projects

Collaborative learning entails two major objectives. The first one is equipping students with skills to solving problems as a team and secondly, enhancing the students from diverse backgrounds to be able learn from one another by listening and appreciating insights from each other. According to the AACU, collaborative learning is significant in building teamwork and appreciating the efforts and contributions of each and every students in group works. Collaborative assignments and projects entail different elements, for instance, coming up with a conference, a nonprofit initiative program to benefit the vulnerable in society, conducting research in different localities, and developing group presentation among many others.

One of the known sources or needs for collaborative assignments and project within institutions of higher learning is positive learning experiences like relevant topics that allow students to deliberate on.

Undergraduate Research

Students in different disciplines may take part in undergraduate research with different faculty members’ mentors. These may take different forms, for instance, some students can proceed to carry out formal faculty requirement research projects in labs or other academic settings as required while other students come up with their own persona research with direction and guidance from faculty members. The fundamental goal is that the students engage in methodological investigation and analysis taking part in knowledge creation with the assistance of the mentors. Like first year seminars, undergraduate research triggers students to make inquiries, and take part in filed and practical works that magnifies the potential and relevance in the application of their studies. Mentors also help students to understand the functions of scholars in taking risks in learning and confidence (Kardash, 2000). Furthermore, undergraduate research enables students to enjoy and develop independence of work apart from regular instructor monitored, make use of reproductive skills and techniques, enhance their scientific literature, participate in research related gatherings, and earn pay or credit for their work. This is significant in retention of students in the institutions as well as ensuring their success through different skills learnt.

Diversity and Global Learning

As part of the requirement of institutors of higher learning, they should equip and help students to have a broad exploration and experience of different cultures. This is significant in ensuring that students have amplified intercultural studies through studying abroad. Through this program, students are enhanced in exploring different cultures, engage in numerous populations, and have an experience of different world views that are not similar to their own. Diversity and global learning provides an opportunity for the students to become international citizens in expanding their personal capacity. These play an important role in the student’s formative and informative aspects. These could be in areas, such as technology, economics, and political advancements that also prepare the students for the future careers in the global arena.

Service Learning/Community Bases Learning

Service based learning entails academic instruction and content, and its integration in the real life production, which offers the students with a beer understanding of the content. This is also important in enhancing students’ societal engagement and rising their awareness of their significance in the society. Service learning and community based experiences introduce students to real world experiences in carrying out duties and responsibilities to the society without any remuneration. It also enhances the learners’ academic achievement through practical and relevant execution of the theoretical part of academic instruction (Strand, 2000). Furthermore, through service learning and community based learning, students are able to practically confront societal issues like social injustices and other complexities with regards to their own standards and approaches (Jones et al., 2005).


Internships are fundamentally aimed at preparing students with a real-lifework experience in their different fields.  They also act as a direct connection between the theory of education and practice in nurturing the students’ personal growth and career development (Sweitz &King, 2013). Moreover, internships are aimed at improving students’ specialization knowledge and skills.

Proposed Solution

Students taking part in high impact learning experiences has been gaining more consideration by institutions of higher learning as well other educational researchers. The high impact learning practices and experiences are significant in achieving the central aim among education institutions that will involve students in other curriculum activities. The education institutions encourage students to take part in programs, which help them advance towards successful completion of their studies. Most significantly, the students are also able to be motivated to return for their second year and other consecutive years of study in the institution. The practices discussed below play a crucial role in ensuring the students are retained in the institutions of higher learning.

The retention of students in higher education learning institutions persistence is enhanced by the by the interaction of the students commitment as well as the institutions environment that allows them to take part in the programs that involve them both academically and socially. Among the practice that enhances students’ retention is freshman seminars and leaning community. The effectiveness of freshman seminar of first year learning has a positive impact on students who take part in the first year learning experience as they are more likely to come back for the second and subsequent years until they graduate within the same institution. Additionally, Fist years seminars are important in performing several roles among the students. In the first place, they extend official orientation process of the new students into the institution. Students are typically introduced to the purposes of higher education, enlightening them about the institutions’ resources, help them develop study skills and academic career planning. The success of these seminars at times depends on its ability to meet the requirements of students. Fundamentally, in as much as the programs may be incurred at the institutions cost, they have a general significance of ensuring the students are retained in all their undergraduate and even graduate education within the institution. They act as a hook between the students and their academic goals where they provide a leeway or paths that students should follow until they graduate thus motivating them to study in the institution.

Learning communities also play a significant role in ensuring students retention in their subsequent study in the institutions of higher learning. Learning communities enhance the learners’ engagement in their initial year of study with each other and other members of the institution that play a significant role in the academic and social life of the student. These programs should be supported by the institutions in order to gather different groups with similar interests together. The process of collaboration with other members of the institutions with common interests develops students’ sense of belonging in the new communities. This implies that the students will be able to identify themselves with colleagues with common interest thereby increasing their chances of staying at the institution in the subsequent years of study. Furthermore, community programs that are found are practiced outside the institution premises are important in preparing students for the outside world through learning the community and aspect that will motivate students to remain in the institution in order to gain more skills in the collaboration and external knowledge about the society and community at large.

Undergraduate Research

Like the first year seminars, undergraduate research are significant among students in stimulating inquiry and engaging students in the field and practical work. When these researches are conducted with mentors and professors, they help students to develop attitudes and become role models, which help students develop better habits in the process of education and develop confidence in their future careers. Undergraduate research is also significant in improving students’ self-assurance levels and persistence in the undergraduate studies. A student conducting research in his/her studies is also in position to develop a philosophical understanding in his or her own field and thus offering them with learning activities that are linked with the faculty and peers.  Students taking part in undergraduate design are also encouraged to remain in the institutions due to the motivation and aspiration by the interaction with high achieving peers and faculty in research programs.


High impact learning experiences implementation have provided greater opportunities for the students as well as learning institutions. Retaining students and helping them towards a achieving through graduation is the essential aim of higher education learning institutions. In order to accomplish this aims, many colleges are initiating several research in order to point out and understand different features that are linked with learners’ retaining and positive accomplishment of their studies. It is thus important that colleges and universities comprehend the prominence of assimilating higher educational practices as an avenue of ensuring students’ retention and success. The essay has provided best educational practices, analyzed the structure and dynamics based on the information collected, and offered proposed solution on the best practices in students’ retention. It is therefore important for the institutions to incorporate these practices for the benefit of the institution as well as students. Students benefit from the practices in ensuring they succeed excellently in their academics as well assisting their institutions in retaining students and building their reputation and incomes.



Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU). (2007). College learning for the new global century: A report from the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP). Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Gonyea, R. M., Kinzie, J. Kuh, G.D. & Laird, T. N. (2008). High-impact activities: What they are, why they work, and who benefits. Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), Washington, DC.

Jones, S., Gilbride-Brown, J., & Gasiorski, A. (2005). Getting inside the “underside of service learning: Student resistance and possibilities. In Dan W. Butin (Ed.) Service learning in higher education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 3- 24.

Kardash, C. M. (2000). Evaluation of undergraduate research experience: Perceptions of undergraduate interns and their faculty mentors. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(1), 191.

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Starke, M. C., Harth, M., & Sirianni, F. (2001). Retention, bonding, and academic achievement: Success of a first-year seminar. Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 13(2), 7-36.