Teaching Honors Courses

As best practices for approaching course material differ by discipline, the Honors Program recognizes that faculty are the experts about what is appropriate in their discipline and are in the best position to design courses that are challenging to high-ability students while also supporting their intellectual growth.

Faculty new to teaching Honors courses often ask about Honors Program expectations for these courses. When appropriate, many Honors courses utilize a seminar format, where there is significant time for discussion and for students to engage in the work of inquiring into and grappling with new ideas. Additionally, common examples of Honors courses offer the following types of experiences, in a structure appropriate to the course’s discipline:

  • Opportunities for students to engage in concepts, topics, or content that has an increased layer of complexity or sophistication from what would be in a non-Honors version of the course.
  • Opportunities for students to take on leadership roles in the classroom. For example, students might lead course discussion or present researched information that enriches the course’s primary content, perhaps drawing interdisciplinary connections to other coursework in which the students are engaged.
  • Opportunities for students to apply the knowledge they are learning in ways that supports the students’ intellectual growth and long-term goals, through avenues such as hands-on research, a service-learning project, or a creative endeavor.

Please contact Dr. Gwen Bachman or Dr. Tamy Burnett with questions about teaching Honors courses.

Structure of Departmentally-Offered Honors Courses

Faculty assigned to teach departmentally-offered Honors sections may be assigned to courses structured in different ways. Some H-designated courses are stand-alone sections, where either all students are Honors students or all students have a demonstrated record of high academic achievement, but may not be in the Honors Program. These are usually smaller sections that offer students greater opportunity to challenge themselves and engage with course materials and concepts more deeply.

Other H-designated courses combine an Honors section with a non-Honors section to create a blended class population. In these cases, all students—Honors and non-Honors—meet in the same room, at the same time, with the same instructor. If the course has a recitation or lab section, there may be a specific one designated for the Honors students. The instructor provides details about specific coursework and expectations for the Honors students to earn Honors credit in the blended class. As with the stand-alone H-designated courses, the work students complete for Honors credit should provide opportunity to engage with the course content in deeper, more complex ways.