High-Impact Practices Make a Difference for TN’s Community-College Students

By Nadia Ramligan, TN Public News Service

As the pandemic continues to pose challenges for college students across the state, research by the Lumina Foundation shows that a set of more engaged and active teaching and learning approaches – called high-impact practices – implemented at 13 Tennessee community colleges benefit students.

Heidi Leming is Vice Chancellor for Student Success at the Tennessee Board of Regents. She said the extra supports help ensure students stay on their degree track.

“Students who participate in high-impact practices not only are earning higher GPAs,” said Leming, “but they’re persisting at higher rates because they’re again more engaged with faculty and the institutions and their learning.”

Leming said Columbia University’s Community College Research Center found Tennessee’s community colleges are the furthest along in implementing these reforms of any community college system in the nation.

Leming said one of the most common high-impact practices colleges have relied on are first-year seminars.

“And many of our institutions require students to take this course, which teaches them effective learning strategies,” said Leming. “How the college operates, resources that can assist them – whether it’s tutoring or counseling – other wrap around supports.”

She added that in addition to high-impact practices, colleges have increased coaching and developed guided pathways to help students navigate coursework toward degrees based on their academic or career interests.

“And making the connection of what’s being taught to real-life experiences, they see the purpose of being there,” said Leming. “So that motivates them to keep moving forward to the next course that they need to take to complete.”

More Tennessee students enroll in community colleges than any other public and private college and university sector in the state.

In fall of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, 54% of Tennessee public high-school graduates heading to a public higher-education institution enrolled in a community or technical college.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.