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Integrating High-Impact Practices Through Peer Interaction

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Our work to support, retain, and develop college students is more complex and important now than ever. As such, it makes sense to focus on High-Impact Practices to make sure our efforts are maximizing their results.

What are High-Impact Practices?

George Kuh has written extensively on High-Impact Practices (HIPs) over the years. In summation, they are exemplified as setting appropriately high expectations of students, interaction with faculty and peers about substantive matters, experiences with diversity, frequent feedback, reflection and integrative learning, real-world applications, and demonstrated competence.

Research has further shown that students who partake in HIPs are more likely to experience academic success during college and experience greater outcomes after they graduate as well.

Where do you begin?

With all of that being said, it might be tough to figure out where to start. One helpful point to jump off from is with peer tutoring since it involves students interacting with each other about complex academic content. The relationship isn’t limited to the tutoring either. They’re building a bond that can outlast one tough course or a student’s college career. In addition, these interactions could be between diverse students who may not have had a context to interact otherwise.

It also allows for them to work towards achieving high expectations of their courses. Through consistent feedback from a peer tutor, a student is continuously improving and able to demonstrate their competence in a safe space with a fellow student. Working with faculty, while also highly valuable, can be intimidating for students, especially as they’re just getting started in their academic journey, which is precisely when they might need the most help.

Outside of peer tutoring alone, student to student interactions, in whatever shape they take, are extremely valuable. Reflecting on learning experiences shared with peers deepens understanding and allows for exposure to different points of view. It is also a great opportunity for real world application. Think of the example of taking students on a service trip over spring break in their community (or anywhere for that matter). After they’re finished with the day, make sure to gather students together for active prompted reflection so that they can all share their thoughts. Better yet, have a faculty member lead the trip so that there is exposure to this invaluable mentor and expert for the students to connect with in a more casual context outside the classroom.

How do you do it?

High-Impact Practices are intensive, comprehensive, and work over the long term. The outcomes are worth the effort and peer tutoring is an effective method to achieve those outcomes. Enabled with a powerful platform, campus staff can augment their students to be able to help one another reach greater levels of academic success.

Achieving HIPs through peer tutoring is only as good as it is accessible and adopted throughout campus. It’s crucial that academic and student affairs staff members know about this resource, and that they can make appropriate referrals for a wide breadth of courses. Also, making sure that you are monitoring usage, satisfaction, and troubleshooting issues is very important. Having a sophisticated platform for tutoring helps with this, so that stakeholders can easily see the positive results of what’s being accomplished through peer tutoring. These tips can serve you well in whatever shape your efforts take as well, such as a peer mentor program, student programming, etc.