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 students will simply be required to do more work (read additional chapters of text, write longer papers, or answer 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 well 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.
- Students will be 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.
- Students will study and evaluate primary source materials in addition to discipline textbooks.
- Students will be given opportunities to develop discipline-appropriate research skills, which should result in major documented papers or projects.
- Students will be challenged to develop and apply critical thinking skills. Exams, papers, assignments, and classroom exercises will provide platforms where students think, read, write, and present using a wide range of strategies and levels of complexity.
- Opportunities for both experience and reflection will be 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.
Clearly, a requisite to be considered for the Honors Program is academic excellence. However, Honors students are expected to excel in school and community involvement, integrity, and leadership, as well. Honors students break boundaries in primary research and creative endeavors. In short, Honors students are expected to distinguish themselves among their peers, and within the Monroe academic community.