Faculty Information on Honors Courses
How Can I Teach An Honors Course?
Honors courses are assigned by the Director (Dr. Joe King) and must be approved by your department chair. All honors courses are capped at 20 students and must meet a requirement within the Core Curriculum. Examples of currrent honors courses can be found here.
Should I Teach My Honors Course Differently Than A Non-Honors Course?
Yes and no.
Yes, the course should be different in that you should identify what you believe is the best way to get academically mature students interested in your discipline. Be creative and have fun.
No, the course should not be different in its overall level of difficulty. Students receive the same credit for an honors course as a non-honors course. Honors courses need not be overly demanding, but they should be engaging.
What Can I Expect From My Honors Students?
- Honors students are expected to have excellent attendance.
- Honors students are expected to come to class with assignments complete. If they did not understand the assignment, they are expected to ask you questions.
- Honors students are expected to participate.
What Can I NOT Expect From My Honors Students?
- Honors students are not expected to be geniuses (lucky for us, neither are we).
- Honors students are not expected to know everything we'd like them to know before the course starts. As with non-honors students, background knowledge will vary.
- Honors students are not expected to hang on every word that leaves the professor's mouth. Students vary in their intrinsic interest for a given discipline.
Where Are Honors Courses Taught?
Most honors courses are taught in the basement of the Floyd and Peery residence halls. Access to these classrooms is obtained through an outside staircase (or the front door and inside staircase during regular office hours). Your ID card must be activated for these doors (the Honors Academy office obtains this activation for you).
Faculty Information on Honors Contracts
Students might approach you at the beginning of the semester and inquire if they are able "to contract your course for honors credit." Although you are not required to allow an honors contract for your course, we hope you will consider it. Typically, honors contracts allow students to explore an aspect of your course that is especially interesting to them. This could include going into greater depth on an existing topic or exploring a topic that wouldn't be covered by the other students. Although the honors students should offer ideas for what they would like to do, you should guide the student and identify something that is agreeable to both of you. Examples of past honors contracts can be found here.
Students are required to complete an Honors Contract Form. This form includes details of the contract and is signed by you. The student should supply the form and complete any required information. This form should be completed, signed, and submitted to the Honors Academy office (by the student) during the first few weeks of the semester.
How Much Work Should An Honors Contract Be?
Students receive the same amount of credit for honors and non-honors courses, so honors contracts should not be about simply piling-on more work. Some contracts involve an additional assignment, whereas other contracts substitute an honors assignment in place of an assignment in the syllabus. Our goal is to give honors students a more engaging educational experience and honors contracts are crucial for achieving this goal. So when at all possible, make the contract interesting, not drudgery.
How Does The Contract Relate To The Grading Criteria For The Course?
This decision is left to the faculty member. Some faculty grade the contract assignment and incorporate that grade into the overall course grade. Other faculty simply require that the contract is completed, but only grade the student on the criteria outlined in the syllabus.
What's In It For Me?
You are not required to allow a student to contract with your course, but we see it as a great opportunity. Honors students are typically more motivated and academically engaged than other students. This is an opportunity to work closely with such students, the vast majority of which will be majoring in your discipline (most honors contracts are for major courses). Faculty often find such student interactions to be among the most rewarding aspects of their professional lives.
Okay, I Agreed To The Honors Contract. Now What?
Ultimately, the student is responsible for meeting the expectations of the honors contract. However, encouragement and mentorship from you is welcome. Regular meetings with the student might be important for keeping him or her on track.
At the end of the semester you will receive an email from the Honors Academy office asking whether the student completed the contract. Please respond as soon as you are able so that we can tell the registrar which student completed their honors contracts. If the student needs additional time to complete the contract, please let us know as soon as possible.
Faculty Information for Honors Capstone Projects
An honors student could ask you to be his or her faculty mentor for an honors capstone project. Although you do not need to accept this request, we hope you will strongly consider it. Typically, such a request means that the student has recognized you as providing an outstanding educational experience in the past. Being an honors capstone mentor will provide an opportunity for collaboration with one of the university's most talented students. If you agree to be an honors capstone mentor, we hope you will make it an engaging, interesting, and even FUN experience for you and the student.
To complete an honors capstone, the student must first complete and Honors Capstone Proposal Form. This typically occurs in the semester before the student hopes to begin work on the project. Thus, most students will contact you during the spring semester of their junior year. The student will also register for 3-6 hours of honors capstone credit with you (e.g., PSYC 488, BIOL 488, ECON 488) while he or she is working on the project. Students typically take one academic year to complete the project.
What Are My Responsibilities As A Faculty Mentor?
Honors capstone mentors guide the student on his or her capstone project and determine that it has been completed. Although we hope you will help with motivation, attentiveness, and problem-solving, the honors capstone is ultimately the responsibility of the student.
Honors students are required to present the results of their capstone project at conference (often, but not always, the Radford Undergraduate/Graduate Engagement Forum). Honors capstones mentors should guide the student's abstract submission and development of the presentation. Guidance in professional standards for your discipline is often useful.
What Should The Honors Capstone Project Include?
The expectations for scholarship vary across disciplines, but typically there is a written product comparable to a senior thesis. But the central components of some capstones other products, including choreographed dances and clothing designs. The goal is that any capstone activity - creative, scientific, or theoretical - require the student to place his or her ideas into the broader scholarly landscape of the discipline. Given this standard, experiences like internships, student teaching, and study abroad do not qualify as capstone projects in and of themselves. However, such experiences could be opportunities for the student to access information and ideas not found on campus. Examples of past capstones can be found here.