Last month, St. John’s University was one of 61 institutions selected to participate in the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ 2021 Institute on High-Impact Practices and Student Success.
The institute’s purpose is to advance campus- and system-level efforts to achieve quality, equity, and student engagement goals through the design, implementation, and assessment of active teaching and learning practices, widely known as high-impact practices (HIPs).
Srividhya Swaminathan, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was a member of a six-person team from St. John’s who attended the virtual conference held from June 15 through 18.
“High-impact learning practices are an integral part of St. John’s mission to provide an excellent education to underserved communities,” Dr. Swaminathan explained.
“Through a commitment to service-learning, we have implemented HIPs into our curriculum.”
Drawing on research that demonstrates a positive relationship between student participation in high-impact learning practices and improved student outcomes, the teams were charged with defining and developing curricular and cocurricular practices that support student engagement, advance curricular coherence, and generate equitable outcomes.
Dr. Swaminathan shared, “we hope to scale up the implementation of different high-impact practices in classes across St. John’s College to improve retention and persistence among our students . Given our diverse student body and our commitment to ensuring a quality education, we want to provide all students with a dynamic learning experience that prepares them for the challenges of life after college.”
St. John’s College formed an ad hoc committee to promote, implement, and evaluate high-impact learning practices in the college about five years ago, Dr. Swaminathan explained. This committee collaborates with pedagogy-oriented campus groups, including the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Academic Center for Equity and Inclusion, and the Liberal Arts Curriculum Committee. The faculty-driven initiative includes faculty from the social sciences, natural sciences, fine arts, and the humanities.
Other team members from St. John’s included Anne M. Galvin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology, HIPs Committee Coordinator and Team Leader, Heidi Upton, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Art and Design, Institute for Core Studies; Richard J. Rosso, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry; Zoe Petropoulou, Ph.D., Assistant Provost for Global Initiatives, Associate Professor of French; and Phyllis Conn, Ph.D., Director of the Institute for Core Studies.
“We hope to develop effective evidence-based assessment instruments for high-impact practices in the College and the wider University through the liberal arts and sciences core curriculum,” Dr. Swaminathan noted. “This work would include creating methods for aligning program-specific learning goals with particular HIPs.”
Dr. Swaminathan added that they would use these assessment instruments to engage full-time and adjunct faculty, evaluate and scale up high-impact practices, and integrate them systematically throughout the curriculum where the assessment has identified practices that promote educational equity for the student body. “Eventually, we hope to scale up implementation of successful HIPs beyond St. John’s College by encouraging faculty collaborations across the University.”
She added, “By taking time to evaluate what has been done, we can implement HIPs tailored for our unique student body to ensure we offer high-quality HIPs to all of our students, including minority, low-income, and commuter groups, and that they equitably improve student persistence, retention, and grade point average across our undergraduate populations.”