Teaching an honors class is what education should be. The discussions are stimulating; the work is challenging, both for faculty and students; and the classroom atmosphere is lively, engaged, and supportive.
A major role of being an honors faculty member is close mentoring, both inside and outside the classroom. Honors students often enjoy meeting and socializing with their instructors outside the class setting, in fact. So you might think of hosting a pizza evening at Shakespeare’s or arranging an informal get-together at your home. Many honors faculty assign office conferences as part of their syllabus requirements.
It is very important to set high expectations for your Honors students and to do so at the beginning of the semester. The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) provides the following advice: “In Honors classes, it might be helpful to immediately convey to students that the course will be enriching and challenging; that it will spend considerable time honing the students’ abilities in critical thinking, analytical writing, close reading, cogent speaking, and attentive listening; and that students are, to a large extent, responsible for the quality of the learning experience that they will have. They will be expected to participate thoughtfully and fully in all aspects of the class.”
Here is what some of our favorite honors faculty have to say about their experiences teaching honors:
“I’ve experienced nothing so stimulating as discussing with 20 Honors students a concept or theory that is absolutely new to them; the questions they ask, the insights they offer—born of raw intellectual talent working with a “clean slate”—may be truly novel and certainly offer a challenging classroom experience for everyone in the room! We have fun and learn a lot, too! The all-time winning, student comment—from a freshman, no less—is a reply to my answer to her question: “That sounds more like a restatement of the question than an explanation,” she said. The student was Lucy Yang, a Conley Scholar, who completed her undergraduate degree (chemistry major) in one year, spent the next 3 years waiting to enter medical school by completing a law degree, and now is in (I think) year 3 of med school.”
—John McCormick, Professor of Chemistry
“Ordinary classes at MU are great—the students are attentive, interested, and do an outstanding job of mastering difficult material. My honors tutorials have been something else: an opportunity to learn with energetic, engaged, creative, and intellectually brilliant undergraduates. We are all learning—we are all creating knowledge—together.”
—George Justice, Former Professor of English and Former Dean of the Graduate School