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Welcome WKU Faculty to The Mahurin Honors College!


We are so glad that you have come to The Mahurin Honors College's website.  We look forward to working with you to help our scholars achieve their big dreams. This site is built by WKU faculty for WKU faculty to help with Honors related questions.

The specific qualities that make an honors course may vary widely from discipline to discipline and professor to professor.  Therefore, the following criteria are general guidelines, not prescriptive policies.

Perhaps the only definitive statement that can be made about honors courses is that they should be qualitatively different than non-honors courses.  This difference should not be based on simply assigning more work, be it pages to write or problems to solve.  Rather, the honors difference should be substantially designed throughout three broad and interrelated course elements:  structure, content, and assignments.

The points below are meant to serve as general starting points and aid in the creative process of designing an Honors course.  They are not intended to be prescriptive and limiting, and we do not expect any single course to feature all of these traits.

 

Structure

  • Honors courses are small enough to provide a richly interactive environment among the members of the class.
  • Honors students are expected to take greater responsibility for the process of learning than in non-honors courses.  This responsibility includes spending non-class time learning and reviewing basic course material, which allows for more discussion, activity, and application in class.
  • Learning can take place outside of the formal classroom setting (e.g. site visits, service projects, conducting interviews, field research, etc.).
  • Students have opportunities for independent research.
  • Written and oral communication skills are stressed, even in disciplines where this is not considered typical pedagogy.
  • In-class activities and assignments stress synthesis, analysis, and critical thinking.
  • Course uses teamwork, collaboration and opportunities for peer-to-peer learning.
  • Students have the opportunity to publicly present or publish their work.

 

Content

  • Honors courses often focus on primary material, sources, and data, rather than textbooks or secondary readings.
  • Course material can be approached from a thematic or unconventional perspective.
  • Theories and principles are applied to “real life” applications and situations.
  • Students critique, analyze, and evaluate course material to a greater degree than in non-honors courses. 
  • The class may explore connections among various fields of study.
  • Students learn the scholarship behind the discipline’s core principles. 
  • The content shifts from one of closure to one of exploration and discovery.
  • Basic course material may be more complex and mature than in non-honors courses, but difficulty in and of itself is not the goal.

 

Assignments

  • Assignments in honors courses typically allow for more student input, creativity, and control.
  • Students are asked to confront primary material in deep and meaningful ways, perhaps by critiquing them, comparing them and applying them to other contexts.
  • An assignment’s outcomes may be made explicit, but the means to reach those outcomes are left to the student to a higher degree than non-honors courses.
  • Students are required to reconcile conflicting findings or to synthesize different points of view on assignments.
  • Assignments are constructed so that students familiarize themselves with the professional practices and standards of research within a discipline.
  • Students are encouraged to explore and take intellectual risks on assignments.
  • Assignments can be case studies or complex problems that blend multiple aspects of course material.
  • Students are always encouraged to articulate their knowledge, preferably to audiences other than just the professor.
  • As most Mahurin Honors College students continue on to graduate and professional schools, the course’s assignments give students the skills, knowledge and competencies to be successful at the graduate level.

The Mahurin Honors College realizes that online and remote courses can have high academic quality and can possess many of the criteria listed above.  However, the Mahurin Honors College’s mission is to create for its students a small, closely interpersonal, high-achieving environment akin to those found at the nation’s best small colleges.  The Mahurin Honors College’s commitment to this type of intellectual community is found in its housing, programming, staffing and classes.  Online and other remote-access courses, while suitable for some institutions that have different goals than the Mahurin Honors College, are not compatible with the nature of our small-college community.

Honors Colloquia bring the form and style of a small, collaborative academic seminar to Mahurin Honors College (MHC) students for a challenging and distinctive academic experience. There are four key ingredients that make Honors Colloquia different from many other courses offered in the Mahurin Honors College and at WKU: an emphasis on active discussion rather than lecture; critical-thinking-based writing assignments rather than exams and quizzes; the use of primary documents instead of textbooks; and an innovative, interdisciplinary subject matter. With these distinct features, an Honors Colloquium will challenge and engage students with the course material, with the professor, and with one another, for a unique academic offering that is at the heart of the MHC experience.

 

Innovative, interdisciplinary subject matter:

  • The theme/topic of the colloquium course should not be found anywhere else in the WKU curriculum. Equally, colloquia topics should be distinctive from one another and avoid repetitious offerings.
  • Colloquium courses should be themed on creative interdisciplinary topics. The overall theme/topic of a colloquium course should be accessible to all majors, regardless of the college from which the colloquium course originates.
  • It is possible that faculty co-facilitate a three-hour colloquium, with each faculty member receiving 1.5 hours of credit.This is particularly encouraged for professors teaming from different disciplines to develop an interdisciplinary colloquium. 
  • Readings should be interdisciplinary and from a variety of perspectives.

 

Active discussion instead of lectures: 

  • Discussion is used as the primary method of instruction, rather than lectures, in order to promote active learning and meaningful dialogue between fellow students and between the students and professor.
  • Colloquia have an adventurous air of joint discovery where a professor takes the lead in shaping the discussion, but students actively participate in discussing and debating the material.Strategies for promoting active learning include class discussions, debates, simulations, group work, experiments, case studies, field work, etc. For example, a strong colloquium can include a set of readings on both sides of a contentious issue that engenders debate and discussion across a wide spectrum of positions. Lectures should be kept to an absolute minimum.

 

Critical thinking-based writing assignments rather than exams: 

  • Assignments should encourage analysis, application, inquiry, and synthesis rather than rote memorization. When possible, writing assignments should be employed as the method for students to express their understanding of the course material.
  • The key is to encourage a sophisticated engagement with the material that is unlikely through memorization and exams but is fostered by written assignments. Colloquia do not include exams or quizzes as part of the course grade. With regard to assessment, the focus of a colloquium should be on quality of writing assignments, written or oral debates, presentations, group work, participation in discussion, etc.
  • It is suggested that each student write approximately 20-24 pages for a 3 hr colloquium. This page total may be reached through frequent short assignments or longer assignments. These are, of course, just guidelines, so there is a fair amount of latitude on the types and length of assignments based on discipline.

 

Primary sources instead of textbooks:

  • Readings should come from primary sources, rather than textbooks, whenever possible. Reading primary sources stresses “close reading” skills and encourages sophisticated critical thinking far more than pre-packaged, second-hand information explained in textbooks. Journal articles or are acceptable as well.
  • Just as colloquia encourage students and professors to engage in dialogue with one another, by reading primary sources, students connect with the key ideas of the course on their own terms, are more likely to think critically about them, and can better understand them in all their complexities and nuances.

 

For Further Consideration:   

  • Many students develop their Honors Capstone Experience/Thesis from their colloquia. Ideally, the interdisciplinary subject matter, stimulating activities, and rigorous writing assignments will serve as a catalyst for CE/T projects.
  • Invest time in developing a catchy title and description. This should be a course that you would otherwise not be able to offer and should excite you and honors students.
  • The professor typically serves as a facilitator, rather than the sole expert. The professor should share in the learning process with the students. Rather than relaying information to students as in a typical lecture course, the professor and students can work together to set the pace and direction of the course.
  • The professor should model methods of learning, thinking, and discovery. The professor can help students to become lifelong learners by revealing that he or she is continually learning and staying actively engaged within his or her discipline and the broader culture of academia. By modeling methods of learning, thinking, and discovery, the professor is not only teaching the students more about the life of the mind, but is also teaching the students about the process of scholarship.
  • Colloquium courses should have no prerequisites. The only prerequisites for colloquium are good standing in the Honors College, sophomore standing and/or permission of the instructor.

 

Resources Available

Faculty teaching an Honors Colloquium may apply for an Honors Faculty Engagement Grant (HFEG) of up to $1500 for field trips, guest speakers, or materials that will have provide an “Honors experience”.

 

Past Colloquia Titles:

  • Myths of Paleo
  • Fuels of the Future
  • Ethics and Genetics
  • Bollywood and Beyond
  • The Human-Animal Boundary
  • Doing Death: Capital Punishment
  • Chess Lessons and Lessons from Chess
  • Disability in America:The Body in Civic Life
  • The Small Picture: Art and Micro-History
  • Leadership Through the Lens of HBO’s The Wire
  • Monsters, Maggots, and Morphine: Medicine and Society in Modern America

HEECs allow departments more flexibility in offering honors courses for students in the major or minor.

For more information on Honors Enriched and Embedded Courses, please visit the HEECs page.

HDB members vitally contribute to the Mahurin Honors College’s mission of student success by providing guidance to the MHC leadership on a range of issues. HDB members provide input and review MHC curriculum proposals and policies, review student and faculty grants, make recommendations on student appeals, represent MHC as the third reader on CE/T defenses, read and evaluate Colloquia proposals, and serve as a liaison between the MHC and the faculty or student member’s home department and college.

2020-2021 members:

Lisa Duffin CEBS Rep
Dawn Wright CHHS Rep
Dennis Wilson GFCB Rep
O.E. Mansour OCSE Rep
Ted Hovet PCAL Rep
Cheryl Kirby-Stokes Gatton Academy Rep
Aurora Speltz MHC Student Rep (freshman)
Ashira Gibbs MHC Student Rep (sophomore)
Zena Pare MHC Student Rep (junior)
Granite Pare MHC Student Rep (senior)
Craig Cobane Ex Officio
Susann Davis Chair

These letters are written in the event that an Mahurin Honors College student lists you as the Project Advisor for their Honors Development Grant application. Honors Development Grants (HDGs) are designed to support Honors students’ intellectual development by providing funding for: traveling to professional conferences to present academic papers, conducting academic research, or purchasing tangible items (such as laboratory material) to support academic endeavors.

HDG awards are very competitive; therefore, the Honors Development Board relies heavily on your recommendation as it evaluates the project’s ability to positively impact the student’s academic development.

 

Click here to download the Honors Development Grant letter of support

 

Faculty Opportunities

 

WKU in England at Harlaxton College

WKU faculty, alumni, staff, and friends may rent the renovated and fully furnished “WKU in England” Gatehouse at Harlaxton Manor. Built in 1835, this historic and comfortable flat may be rented on a short or long-term basis for sabbaticals, research trips, or personal travel. You will find the Gatehouse both a beautiful place for relaxation and contemplation, as well an exciting base for adventures throughout the United Kingdom.

For more information please follow this link: Rent "WKU in England" Gatehouse at Harlaxton Manor

 

Advising MHC Students

Learn some of the key factors that go into advising an honors student.

 

CE/T Advising

Information for faculty advising student CE/Ts, along with necessary forms can be found above.

 

Faculty Engagement Grant

The Faculty Engagement Grant provides funding for faculty to enhance Honors courses to create innovative, creative, and unique experiences for the students.

Questions?

Susann DavisSusann Davis
Assistant Director for Academics

270-745-3171
susann.davis@wku.edu

 

 


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 Last Modified 9/1/20