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Dillon Hall
Dillon Hall

January 2017

What we asked:

Research undertaken by the developers of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) has identified many different aspects of what helps students to become deeply involved in their learning, while also fostering strong relationships with others on campus.  High-impact practices (HIPs), which are a key part of the NSSE model, include:

  • Being part of a learning community or some other formal program where groups of students take two or more classes together
  • Taking courses that include a community-based project (service-learning)
  • Working with a faculty member on a research project
  • Internships, co-ops, field experiences, student teaching, or clinical placements
  • Studying abroad
  • Undertaking a culminating senior experience (like capstone courses, senior project or thesis, comprehensive exam, portfolio, etc.)

January’s question: How many of the above high-impact practices (HIPs) have you participated in while at the University of Windsor, and which have been the most engaging and rewarding? Why?

And the winner is...

Patrick Ng, a fourth-year Honours Psychology student, also pursuing a minor in Business Administration, has been involved in a wide range of high-impact practices, from service learning to community service, to culminating senior experiences to undergraduate research. He says that “high–impact practices help me develop professionally by facilitating skill or personal development and providing opportunities to learn about the field, myself, and best practices for applying what I’ve learned. Retrospectively, the most valuable experiences were those that gave me the freedom to try to apply what I was learning in a semi-controlled environment.”  He also describes insights he’s gained from the very wide range of experiential learning and community service activities he’s undertaken, including ”observing how groups of mature adults solve problems… It’s inspiring to sit at a table where everyone there wants to and can do things to improve the lives of others.”  Patrick wrote that getting involved with other engaged students led repeatedly to discovering new opportunities and pathways for his own growth and service, and to challenges that taught him a lot about his own strengths and weaknesses.  He describes how culminating courses like Community Psychology called upon everything he’d learned in other projects so that he could make a contribution to the group project. It “filled in a lot of blanks that had not been touched on by other courses, but also, information from other courses complemented it.” Other course projects, as in Management and Organizational Life, helped him to zero in on his own values and goals: “this course was the first time I got the hint of how important the reason I do something is in my satisfaction with a project. I really come to life when the purpose or goal of my project is to genuinely improve the lives of someone who really craves it, even if it’s one person at a time.”  Patrick is really making the most of his time at the U – but the community, the University, and the students are the beneficiaries of his amazing engagement and leadership.

What others said:

Students wrote in about an amazing range of activities – from the Volunteer Internship Program, to case studies with professional mentors, to the Outstanding Scholars Program, to the UWill Discover undergraduate research conference, to internships and capstones. These are the key themes that emerged in explaining why these HIP experiences were engaging and rewarding: 

  • Working with experts in various fields
  • Asking questions – to experts, self, the discipline
  • Opportunities to learn about myself, the field, and best practices for applying what I’ve learned
  • Observing how mature groups of adults solve problems
  • Teaching me the value of tenacity
  • Helping me to identify weaknesses I need to work on
  • What it’s like to be part of a well-educated, multi-disciplinary group
  • That application of theory to real life is complicated – the answers to these questions aren’t straightforward and different for every situation, culture, and generation.
  • Doing something important and meaningful to others
  • Learning how important the reason I do something is in my satisfaction with a project.
  • Building relationships and networks, and how those guide further experiences
  • Importance of professors to students’ experience and learning
  • Hands-on experience
  • Anticipation of real, concrete outcomes of work
  • Hard work, sometimes daunting – pride in accomplishments
  • Immersion in the field
  • Being able to clarify career and life direction based on experiences
  • Learning on the spot and challenges that provoke problem solving
  • Meaningful help to others
  • Being a family
  • Helping spread my knowledge to others


What We’re Doing

  • This year we’ve put out a call to fund the launch of new high-impact practice initiatives across campus through the Centred on Learning Innovation Fund (CLIF).
  • This year, through the expansion of the Centre for Co-op, Career and Employment Services (CCES), we’ve been working to expand student access to work-integrated and experiential learning opportunities.  CCES is also undertaking an environmental scan of experiential learning on campus, which is a first step toward creating a more systematic and intentional approach to improving student access to these activities.
  • Through NSSE, we’re increasing awareness of High-Impact Practices across campus. When we receive the data in Fall 2017, departments and faculties will start looking at student perceptions of HIPs and begin their planning to enhance the student experience. If you’re in first or fourth year, you can help by completing the survey – you can find your access through your Blackboard site.