About Teaching in Honors

The Honors Program offers both Honors versions of some departmental courses, and courses unique to Honors.  All emphasize active participation, critical analysis, innovative thinking and independent judgment, and often explore topics through multiple disciplinary perspectives.  They typically engage material more quickly, broadly, and deeply than standard undergraduate courses.  They also push students to test and expand their own limits, to internalize high standards for their work, and to develop a commitment to “getting it right” in detail.  Our instructors include many of the most distinguished teacher/scholars in the University.  Most Honors courses incorporate significant writing assignments that provide detailed, critical feedback on student work; some of those assignments require multiple drafts of a single paper, so students learn to hone their writing skills.  Many also require oral presentations to help students become adept and comfortable at articulating their ideas to others.  Honors courses are often innovative or experimental courses that represent the faculty member's original investigation of a topic. Honors classes are limited to a maximum of 20 students to promote close interaction between students and the instructor, and among students themselves.  (Some Honors courses have even lower limits on size.)

Below are some additional characteristics important to Honors teaching.  Not all Honors classrooms will exhibit all of them; the selection will vary with the expertise, talents, and teaching style of the instructor.   Among the traits Honors teaching encourages are:

  • Intellectual and creative risk-taking;
  • A passion for sustained inquiry;
  • A facility for serious conversation;
  • Approaching subjects in fresh and innovative ways;
  • Critique of received wisdom – including the instructor’s;
  • Wide-ranging curiosity;
  • Growth in the student’s self-understanding;
  • Sophisticated methodological reflection;
  • Transformations – large and small – in how students perceive and interact with academic and professional disciplines and with the world;
  • An awareness and appreciation of the connectedness of ostensibly disparate domains.

We encourage Honors instructors to create special activities that deepen students’ engagement with the subject, including trips to relevant historical, natural, or cultural sites.  We have a modest budget to support such initiatives.