Examining High-Impact Practices (HIP) in Interior Design Education — Leading Campus Initiatives to Support Student Success

Presented by: Dr. Stephanie Clemons, Laura Malinin

Institutions of higher education are struggling under combined pressures of reduced funding and strategies for educating increasingly diverse student populations (Humphreys, 2012). Revenue shifts from state coffers to tuition have colleges and universities encouraging faculty to adopt High Impact Practices (HIP), aimed at attracting and retaining students through enhanced educational experiences (Jaschik, 2015). As campus members, how do interior design programs contribute to these efforts? Our research examines relationships between HIP and interior design education and suggests interior design programs are uniquely positioned to lead campus initiative for HIP. University “student success” metrics include increasing 1) student retention past freshman level, 2) persistence through sophomore year and 3) improved graduation rates (Seidman, 2005). Research shows success is significantly related to student engagement, especially among under-represented groups. “Deeper” learning helps students manage complexity, ambiguity, and collaboration with others holding different viewpoints (Kuh, 2008). A form of engagement, HIPs improve student mastery of content knowledge, skills and critical thinking critical for positive community engagement and professional goals. HIPs include first-year seminars, writing-intensive courses, service learning, internships, and capstone projects. Evidence indicates participation in HIPs directly improves student learning and grades, which indirectly increase retention and degree completion (Kuh, 2008). Interior design programs have long required experiences that look similar to HIPs to effectively prepare students for professional practice. Experts recommend all students participate in at least two high-impact practices before graduation; one in the first year and another in their academic major (Brownell & Swaner, 2009). The AAC&U indicates a second HIP be in the senior year, ideally within a capstone course. Statistics reveal first-year students and seniors who participate in learning communities, study abroad, student-faculty research, and service learning report stronger learning outcomes and personal development (Brownell & Swaner, 2009). Our research examines interior design education to assess whether (and to what degree) current practices align with HIP recommendations. This exploratory study analyzed multiple data sources to understand relationships between HIP, interior design curriculum, and educational practices. First, we examined the intersection of HIPs with curricular content areas described in CIDA 2017 standards. Next, we investigated the range of HIP educational practices adopted in interior design programs through content analysis of IDEC conference abstracts from 2007-2016. Finally, we used case study methods to analyze qualitative and quantitative data from a CIDA-accredited undergraduate program to understand the breadth and depth of HIP integration. We found 8 of 10 HIPs are well represented in interior design education, with deep integration of primary activities supporting HIP across all four years of the curriculum. This suggests interior design educators have expertise benefiting campus initiatives formalizing adoption of HIP. In conclusion, we suggest interior design programs significantly incorporate a wide range of HIPs in undergraduate experiences. Findings, summarized in a framework linking HIP and interior design education, are organized with respect to Kolb’s model of experiential learning to appreciate why HIPs enhance student learning. We use the framework to lead discussion about opportunities and challenges for interior design educators to inform initiatives for HIP adoption and suggest for areas of future research. Ultimately, we posit the interior design discipline is uniquely positioned to increase its programmatic visibility on campuses and argue the time may be ideal for faculty to lead student success initiatives.


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  • Jaschik, S. (2015). High impact, largely optional. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/11/16/study-finds-extent-key-practices-adopted-colleges-and-universities
  • Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: what they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.
  • Seidman, A. (2005). College student retention: formula for student success. Greenwood Publishing Group.