Thursday, August 29, 2013


This semester I'm trying out a new activity in the Honors Program, one which is already bearing tasty fruit. I'm asking every student enrolled in one of our five current sections of HON 179 (Honors first-year colloquia) to attend at least one meeting of my HON 479 class, and I'm asking each of my HON 479 students to attend at least one meeting of a section of HON 179.

There's really very little to it beyond this: though I've suggested that HON 179 faculty might ask visiting HON 479 students to give a little presentation, lead a discussion, or engage in some other activity, there's no requirement that faculty make such requests. And so far all I've asked of the HON 179 students that have visited my class is that they join in the small-group discussions in which they've been placed and to contribute to the plenary full-class discussion...if so moved to do either of these things...but more importantly, to observe the "culture" of the classroom, acting like anthropologists in a new social setting. Take a few notes: what's going on here?

This bringing together of the "bookends" serves a number of purposes. It gives the HON 179 students a chance to meet a few folks who've been around the block, more experienced students whom they can ask questions about the Honors Program, about the university, about anything they'd like. It gives the HON 179 students a taste of what an upper-level Honors course, a challenging course based on conversations about difficult readings, is all about. It gives the HON 479 students a chance to share the knowledge they've gained about the program, and a chance to get out of their "senior bubble," interacting with a new group of bright and motivated students. Most important of all, it helps all of the students to build a sense of community.

The feedback I've gotten so far has been fantastic. The HON 479 students have been effusively welcoming (they're a friendly and outgoing bunch), and the HON 179 students have been engaged and open to active participation. The feedback I've gotten from both groups of students has been positive. I think this is going to be a good thing, and it's helping me to feel better about the existence of the Honors Program than I've felt lately...but that's a topic for another post...

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