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High Impact Practice Characteristics Used in Student Affairs at New England Colleges and Universities

Cindy Long Porter, Johnson & Wales University


Growing demands for accountability have pushed higher education towards identifying practices that significantly impact student learning. The literature describes curricular based high impact practices (HIPs) that have been shown to elevate student performance on desired learning outcomes. Nonetheless, little attention has been given to understanding student learning experiences in student affairs programs or services. ^ The purpose of this mixed methods study was to describe the use and the assessment of high impact practice characteristics in student affairs programs and services. Four research questions guided the study: 1) the extent HIP characteristics are utilized, 2) the relationships between selected demographic characteristics and the use of HIP characteristics, 3) the assessment of student learning in student affairs, and 4) the defining elements of exemplary student affairs programs and services utilizing HIP characteristics. ^ The study employed a two-phased sequential explanatory approach. First, an online questionnaire was distributed to senior student affairs officers (SSAOs) at residential four-year colleges and universities in New England (N = 136). The responses (N = 48) were analyzed for descriptive statistics and group comparisons were made with t-tests and one-way ANOVAs. The results informed the second, interview phase. Semi-structured questions shaped the interviews with key informants, who were administrators for identified exemplary student affairs programs (N = 9). ^ In some places interview information confirmed the questionnaire data, while in others they offered different perspectives. Five themes related to the use of HIP characteristics in student affairs emerged: student leadership programs were consistently the best example of use; institutional values helped to shape use; increased expectations and inadequate resources hampered use; the requirement for real world skills promoted use; and the concept that students matter influenced use. Respondents had difficulty describing assessment of student learning in student affairs and struggled with implementing appropriate measures of learning. ^ These research results will assist educational leaders in purposefully improving student affairs programs and services by employing the characteristic of high impact practices in order to promote and enhance student learning. ^

Subject Area

Education, Higher Education Administration|Education, Leadership|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Porter, Cindy Long, "High Impact Practice Characteristics Used in Student Affairs at New England Colleges and Universities" (2015). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3700223.