High-Impact Practices

Strategy  •  Background  •  Next Steps  •  Available Resources


The Bonner Program consists of several high-impact practices, and the Foundation has supported work to scale the opportunity for students to participate in high-impact practices tied with community engagement.

The Bonner Program is effectively a series of high-impact practices which, by design, involve students in a series of them over four years. Recognizing this and the opportunity to make community engagement deeper and more pervasive, the Bonner Foundation launched the High-Impact Initiative. The initiative engaged 24 colleges and universities across our network in developing and expanding high-impact practices connected with community engagement.


Over the last few decades, the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) Initiative has generated evidence about a number of high-impact practices that best support student success, persistence, and post-graduate outcomes. The best-known HIPs are first year experiences, intensive writing, service-learning, project-based learning, internships, learning communities, intensive learning about diversity and global contexts, undergraduate research, and capstones. 

More important than their form are the characteristics of these practices:

  • They are effortful
  • They help students build substantive relationships
  • They help students engage across differences
  • They provide students with rich feedback
  • They help students apply and test what they are learning in new situations
  • They provide opportunities for students to reflect on the people they are becoming (Kinzie, Weight, & Hoy, 2015; Kuh, 2008; O’Neill, 2010) 

Research has suggested that students from underrepresented backgrounds often have the least access to these experiences during college (Finley & McNair, 2013).

The Bonner High Impact Initiative (2011-2014) leveraged insights from the AAC&U and A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future, a call to action for higher education. It engaged teams of faculty, staff, and partners to create strategies to broaden and deepen engagement. Teams attended annual planning institutes, carried out long-range strategic planning, and formulated agendas for institutional and cultural change. Coaches from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Bringing Theory to Practice, and the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE) offered guidance.

The initiative paved the way for the Bonner network’s current efforts to enhance integrative pathways leading to Community-Engaged Signature Work (Capstones). 

Available Resources

The Bonner Foundation has developed a series of resources linked to high-impact practices, including: