The Ogden Honors College recruits students who are well suited for in-depth and advanced course work. To promote the creation and teaching of courses appropriate for Honors students, the Ogden Honors Advisory Council offers this document aimed to (1) identify the kinds of general approaches that often distinguish Honors courses from other departmental courses; (2) identify learning outcomes and attitudes or characteristics that are especially descriptive of Honors students; (3) suggest methods of assessing student learning in Honors courses; and (4) provide guidelines and a template for the construction of syllabi to aid faculty when proposing a course for the Honors curriculum, as well as for student to use once the course has been approved.
General Approaches to Designing and Teaching Honors Courses
Faculty proposing and teaching courses in the Honors College are encouraged to be creative in the design and delivery of their courses and to consider the following approaches:
1. Topics for Honors Courses often lend themselves to interdisciplinary studies so that students can investigate issues from a variety of perspectives. Therefore, team teaching or a panel of guest speakers is often an effective means of presenting material.
2. Pedagogy for Honors Courses may also go beyond traditional lecture and discussion and involve students in service-learning, field work, or campus extracurricular work as appropriate to course goals.
3. The Honors Course may be certified as Communication-Intensive Course in the Communication across the Curriculum (CxC) Program and thus help students who are pursuing High-Level Certification in Communication. To be considered Communication-Intensive, a course must meet the following criteria:
- contain both informal opportunities to learn content using communication activities and formal communication projects
- emphasize two forms of communication modes (written, spoken, visual, technological)
- have a student to instructor ratio no greater than 35 to 1
- ask students to write in genres associated with the field of discipline of the course
- devote class time to teaching effective communication skills and strategies
The faculty member must be directly involved in evaluation of communication projects, and 40% of the final grade in the course must be based on communication.
4. A 2000-level Honors course may be declared as equivalent to English 2000 and fulfill three hours of the General Education Composition requirement if it meets the following criteria:
- Students should complete at least four evaluated writing projects in a minimum of three genres at least one of which must be an argumentative essay on a complex issue. Examples of these genres may include academic essays, book reviews, research reports, proposals, annotated bibliographies, literature reviews.
- At least one text from one of these projects should be approximately 1250 words. This text should require significant research, including library research.
- At least two projects should require multiple research strategies, including library research, to complete the rhetorical task.
Learning Outcomes or Skills
Faculty designing an Honors course should state what a student should know and be able to do as a result of taking it. In addition to content-specific, knowledge-based learning outcomes, the following outcomes may also be appropriate for an Honors course:
A student should be able to:
1. Demonstrate intellectual skills and knowledge across a broad range of the humanities and sciences with an in-depth understanding of a specific discipline in preparation for work or continued education; aware of current developments and thinking within disciplines and committed to professional excellence and life-long learning
2. Identify, pose and solve problems using multiple modes and technologies, including qualitative methods and other modes of inquiry and research
3. Read and think critically and with purpose. Understand, review and evaluate, make judgments and then apply information in new ways.
4. Locate, extract, and evaluate research on a specific topic. Listen to and read a variety of texts with critical discernment, comprehending, interpreting, and analyzing information; follow the logic, validity, and relevance of data.
5. Use technology effectively for presentations (in programs such as PowerPoint, DreamWeaver, FrontPage) and for research and documentation (in programs such as Academic Search Primer, EndNotes)
6. Communicate effectively in written, spoken, visual, and technological modes for a variety of purposes, with different audiences in various contexts, using appropriate formats and technologies.
7. Demonstrate skills in leadership and teamwork. Demonstrate the ability to work effectively independently, collaboratively on multidisciplinary teams, and as part of an organization, able to make connections and negotiate differences.
8. Demonstrate an understanding of their own cultural traditions and those of other cultures, locally, nationally, and internationally; use strategies to bridge cultural differences and barriers; demonstrate functional use of a second language.
Attitudes or Characteristics Particularly Descriptive of Honors Students
Through coursework in the Honors Program, we hope to develop students who are:
1. Intellectually curious—interested in learning and learning more, aware that most important issues are complex and interrelated, requiring rigor to unpack.
2. Ethically motivated—seek to understand the ethical consequences of their decisions, actions, beliefs; able to articulate grounded personal standards (values) against which to evaluate new ideas or experiences and make informed and principled decisions.
3. Tolerant--able to tolerate ambiguity—to embrace uncertainly to find new and interesting solutions; willing to suspend judgment while investigating a topic from multiple perspectives.
4. Connected—able to contextualize issues relevant to today, to see links between one discipline and another.
In addition to traditional means of assessment such as exams, various methods of assessment of the stated learning outcomes may be appropriate in an Honors Course. Students may be asked to:
1. Maintain a current portfolio of work which may be reviewed by the instructor as well as others. (This might be a digital portfolio as required for High-Level Certification in Communication.)
2. Keep a reflective journal in which they summarize readings, record personal responses to new knowledge, and generate questions for further investigation.
3. Make an end-of-semester presentation either individually or as a group project.
4. Compose research papers or other extended written work, including annotated bibliographies.
5. Conduct peer evaluations and offer constructive criticism.
Guidelines for Syllabi for Honors Courses
Syllabi for honors courses should reflect the mission and goals of the Ogden Honors College as well as departmental and faculty goals for individual courses. Syllabi should explain what we want students to learn (knowledge) as well as indicate skills and attitudes we hope to develop.
Content for Syllabi
- Faculty member’s name
- Class number and section
- Phone number
- Email address
- Office location, Office Hours
- Class time and place
- Academic conduct, including plagiarism statement and attendance policy
- Use of technology–website, Moodle, etc
- Goals, objectives and learning outcomes for the course
- Course description and justification as appropriate to an Honors course, including interdisciplinary connections or pedagogical approaches such as a service-learning component, as appropriate
- Required readings
- Recommended readings
- Technology to be taught or used in course
- Course format--lecture, guest lectures, seminars, interactive/experiential, field experience, class presentations, use of community and university resources
- A topical outline
Means of assessment:
- Statement of grading policy—weights for different assessment components, late paper policy
- Testing procedures--essay, short answer, multiple choice
- Other forms of evaluation--performance, oral presentations, class participation
- Writing Assignments--topics, genre, purpose, audience, research component, format
- Collaborative work, especially evidence of leadership skills and teamwork
- Ability to use appropriate technology
Note: Any Honors course equivalent to English 2000 should incorporate the goals, objectives, and requirements of the university writing course. These may be found at http://english.lsu.edu/dept/programs/ugrad/firstyear/2000goals.html
These ideas are adapted and expanded from an article by Eberly, Newton, and Wiggins, “The Syllabus as a Tool for Student-Centered Learning,” JGE: The Journal of General Education, Vol. 50. No. 1, 2001, 56-74.