Students and faculty often ask, what makes an honors course different from a course in the standard curriculum? Many times an assumption is made that honors students will be required to do more work (additional chapters of text, longer papers, or more exam questions). This is not the case. Honors courses are not necessarily quantitatively different, rather, they are qualitatively different.
The following set of criteria for an honors course section describes what makes an honors course section a true honors experience. It was adapted from material provided by Lydia Lyons, Ph.D., Director of the Honors Institute of Hillsborough Community College, in Tampa, FL and from material provided by John Zubizarreta, Director of Honors and Faculty Development, Columbia College, South Carolina.
- Honors students are introduced not only to the usual content of the course but also challenged to develop an in-depth understanding of subject matters of the course.
- Honors students study and evaluate primary source materials rather than relying solely on discipline textbooks.
- Honors students are given opportunities to develop discipline appropriate research skills, which should result in major documented papers or projects.
- Honors students are challenged to develop and apply critical thinking skills. Exams, papers, assignments, and classroom exercises provide opportunities for students to think, read, write and present using a wide range of strategies and levels of complexity.
- Opportunities for both EXPERIENCE and REFLECTION are provided throughout the course. Experience refers to active learning, problem-based learning, team-based learning and may include field trips, site visits, experiments, simulations, debates and other co-curricular activities. Reflection refers to student engagement in various levels of thinking not only about the content of the course, but also in "thinking about thinking" and understanding the nature of learning.