CSI Honors Program
 

Honors Courses

Every student in the CSI Honors Program is required to enroll in Honors Seminar (HONS 198/298, fall) and Honors Reading (HONS 101/201, spring).  In addition to these absolute requirements, students are encouraged to take honors sections of their core courses.

Here is what a few students had to say about their experiences in honors courses:

  • "The honors courses have been a wonderful choice for me. I found that by surrounding myself with serious hard working students, their attitudes and study habits started to wear off on me. I began to produce and expect more out of my scholastic life."
  • "Honors courses challenge you as a student and enrich your life. It's more than just extra homework; it is about doing your best and making the best of your college career."
  • "I enjoyed honors courses, not only for the academic enrichment, but also for the friendships I made."
  • "I really like the required work of this class. I felt that it challenged our minds, and at the same time, trusted our ability to work."
  • "I feel that the workload required was very manageable. The assignments and projects were very thought provoking but didn’t seem overwhelming."
  • "I thought it was great to have classmates who were also wanting to do well in school because it was good when we were in groups to know you could count on them to do as well as you want to."

HONORS COURSES
AT THE COLLEGE OF SOUTHERN IDAHO*

SUGGESTED OBJECTIVES, METHODOLOGIES, AND GRADING

Objectives

To help you think about your Honors course objectives (course designations with an “H” suffix), we have listed below some general goals of honors education:

  1. Effective written communication skills (including ability to use research).
  2. Effective oral communication skills.
  3. The ability to analyze and synthesize a broad range of material.
  4. The ability to formulate a problem, develop a plan of action, and prove or disprove a hypothesis (or to produce an original work or do research).
  5. The ability to take greater responsibility for own learning (demonstrate curiosity, motivation, risk-taking characteristics and the ability to bring to bear logic and knowledge of the issue being discussed).

The “Honors” designation on a course does not suggest that a greater amount of material will be covered, but refers instead to the way in which subject matter is handled. In addition to exploring issues and problems in depth, students should learn to see the broad implications of each issue as well as to analyze and synthesize the content material of the course. The goal is to cultivate students who can apply what they have learned in their Honors courses to other courses and other situations.

Our assumption is that students who become active learners through direct involvement in an issue develop attitudes and habits that are likely to make them more active in the intellectual and cultural life of both their college and community.  Active learning also makes them more aware of the political and social realities of the world they inhabit. Thus Honors courses should challenge students to go beyond the classroom, to become more disciplined and critical in their thinking, and to question “conventional wisdom”- their own as well as others.

Methods

Honors courses typically emphasize active learning approaches to education. Instructors can help students become better writers (Objective A) by using writing as a means to discovery and better speakers (Objective B) by providing opportunities for students to participate in class discussion and lead class. They can help students develop higher order reasoning skills (Objectives C and D) through working with and responding to primary source material, and through exploring issues and problems in depth rather than superficially. They can encourage students to engage in experiential and collaborative forms of learning through service learning, field experiences, and group activities. And, finally, instructors can use these methods to teach students to take responsibility for their own learning (Objective E) and apply what they are learning to other situations.
Ideally, an Honors classroom environment is open to multiple perspectives and encourages risk-taking. Any method or approach is appropriate if it is intended to develop a learning community where student’s responsibility and student ownership of the course material is foremost.

Developing written communication skills

The approaches used in an Honors classroom will, of course, depend on the discipline and on the instructor’s individual beliefs about teaching and learning. Instructors can develop written skills, for instance, through a traditional writing assignment or through various other methods—journals, creative assignments, reports, critiques, reviews, in class writing or the use of writing as a preliminary to discussion of issues. (In fact the latter often works well to stimulate discussion. We have found that students who are asked to put their thoughts in writing are often more willing to share their ideas. Using informal writing as a basis for discussion works especially well with collaborative activities in which groups of students are asked to present a written or oral report to the class.)

Developing Oral communication skills

Instructors can develop oral communication skills by providing greater opportunities for discussion, either through discussion of issues and content after the students have been provided some background or through students leading class on a given day. Or, the instructor can use oral reports as a way to develop these skills.

Developing higher order reasoning skills

To develop higher order reasoning (analytical and synthesizing) skills, students might work with primary source material. The use of primary sources will allow students to develop their own interpretations instead of relying on someone else’s. Cross-disciplinary readings are especially valuable in that they give students opportunities to synthesize ideas. But primary sources are not necessarily published texts or original documents. They can be, for example, student experiences or knowledge students have gained through interviewing those who have expertise, surveys or results from questionnaires, works of art or music, recordings of original speeches, films and videos, or service learning opportunities in the community. What is important is that students have an opportunity to engage with primary material.

Grading in Honors Sections

Honors sections may well cover more complex and sophisticated material than exists in the regular sections of the same course, and the method of evaluation of students’ work (examinations, reports, etc.) may be different. The grading standards at the end of the course, however, should not be designed to force the honors students to compete among themselves for a limited numbers of “A” or “B” grades. Instead, their grades should be assigned on the basis of the quality of their work compared to the quality of the work generally expected in such a course (in both regular and honors sections). In other words, the honors student should be graded in the context of all of the students enrolled in similar courses at the same level, not in the context of an honors section in isolation. Students who meet the challenge of an honors section should have this achievement reflected in their grades, but there should be no hesitation to award low grades to students in an honors section who do not meet course expectations.

*Document originally created by the University of Houston.  Modified and used with permission at the College of Southern Idaho.