Honors Teaching

What is honors?

The Honors Program at TCC has many characteristics in common with our sister institutions nationwide.  This is true because of the strong networking made possible by national and regional honors conferences.  It is generally accepted that a college honors program is designed to cultivate the outstanding student of exceptional promise and motivation.  According to Samuel Schuman in Honors Programs at Smaller Colleges, “it seems apparent that a prime purpose of virtually all honors programs is to add luster to the educational careers of the students in them.”  Another publication of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) describes an honors program as “a planned set of arrangements to serve the needs of talented students more adequately than if the matter were left entirely to enthusiasm of individuals” (Diane R. Schulmann, “Seeing What Might Be: Honors Education in Community Colleges,” The National Honors Report, Summer 1998).

There are other commonly accepted elements of quality honors programs.  1) They give dedicated and qualified faculty an opportunity to enrich their own instructional experiences.  Experimentation with content and pedagogy is encouraged.  2) They allow institutions to create “positive image-building and public relations, based on genuine academic accomplishments.”  The ultimate benefit for the institution, however, is the ability to attract and keep top students, raising the educational profile of the whole institution.

 

What is honors at TCC?

Tenets or promises that have been traditional hallmarks of our program include the following:

Small class size. 

Honors sections are limited to a maximum of 20 students in the classroom.  We resist any temptation to overload a section.  We believe the smaller class size affords instructors the opportunity to provide a more vibrant educational setting for these more academically capable students.

Good student-faculty interaction. 

“Me talk/you listen” lectures are almost never the preferred learning style of any honors program.  We believe our Honors Scholars prosper and enjoy their experience more when they interact with the outstanding faculty found in this program.  Lab experiences, field trips, interactive lectures, collaborative learning, guest speakers, research projects, etc., are great ways for honors students to optimize time spent with professors.  Exit essays, written by our graduating Honors Scholars, often state that the closer mentor-type relationships they shared with honors faculty were life-changing.

No extra work. 

It has never been the goal of the Honors Program to encourage faculty simply to pile work higher and deeper.  Our program, like almost all others, has stated the goal of honors education to be more breadth and enrichment.  In other words, it’s not the amount of work that provides that elusive “honors experience” but the quality of the work.

Fair grading. 

Because colleges and universities do not make allowances in GPAs for honors courses, it would be unreasonable for an honors student to receive a lower grade in an honors class than he or she would have received for the same work in a regular class.  We hope you will share this principle with your students to dispel this persistent myth.

Communication skills emphasized. 

Oral and written expression are universally accepted as essential components of the “honors experience.”  Honors faculty have always been encouraged to develop those critical skills in the form of discussions, speeches, essay tests, papers, journals, posting to a Blackboard site, lab reports, etc.