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Honors Courses

Defining Characteristics of Honors Courses at TCNJ

The Honors Program nurtures a community of academic and intellectual leaders and fosters high-level interdisciplinary conversations across campus through small classes, enhanced coursework, and extracurricular opportunities. As such, honors courses are built on three pillars: they have an interdisciplinary focus, they provide students with opportunities to be leaders in the classroom, and they set high standards for academic rigor. Honors faculty are encouraged to be creative and innovative in achieving these goals. Below we define each goal and offer examples for how to achieve them.

  1. Interdisciplinary focus. The Honors Program represents an opportunity for students from a variety of disciplines to participate in high-level conversations on topics outside their primary major. This interdisciplinary focus of honors classes is achieved in a variety of ways, including:
  • Enrolling students from many different majors
  • Team-teaching with faculty from different departments
  • Structuring the syllabus to tackle a single topic from different disciplinary perspectives
  • Assigning readings from different disciplines
  • Creating assignments that encourage students to apply their disciplinary knowledge to a new topic
  1. Student leadership in the classroom. The Honors Program represents an opportunity for some of TCNJ’s strongest students to take an active role in directing the learning that happens in the classroom. Student-directed learning is encouraged in a variety of ways, including:
  • Smaller class sizes (enrollment capped at between 75-80% of a non-honors course)
  • Emphasis on student presentations, both formal and informal, of the material
  • Independent research projects of the students’ own design
  • Independent group work
  • Special projects with real-world outcomes around which the course has been designed (i.e., curating an art exhibit, helping to plan a symposium, conducting an assessment for a non-profit organization, etc.)
  1. Academic rigor. All courses at TCNJ are intellectually challenging. National standards recommend that honors courses exceed the expected level of rigor on a campus by approximately 20 percent. This higher-level of academic rigor is achieved in a variety of ways, including:
  • Enhanced reading assignments, which are longer and include more primary source material
  • Enhanced writing assignments, which require high-level integrative thinking
  • Greater independence required by students in their academic work
  • Higher standards for quantitative assessments
  • Higher stakes for classroom assignments (e.g., the expectation the student projects will be presented at the Celebration of Student Achievement or the expectations that student work will solve problems for community members outside TCNJ)
  • Courses taught exclusively by full-time faculty

Types of Honors Courses

There are six main types of Honors courses at TCNJ:

  1. Honors versions or Honors sections of regularly run departmental courses, usually at the foundational level. Examples: ECO 102-H1 Principles of Macroeconomics, HON 201 General Chemistry I Honors, and HON 203 Issues in Philosophy
  2. Courses cross-listed with departmental courses, usually upper-level specialized courses. Examples: Transnational Feminisms (200-level HON course, 300-level WGS course), Photography in India (300-level HON course, 400-level AAH course). **Students must enroll in the HON section of the cross-listed course. Students who enroll in the non-Honors section will not be allowed to count that course toward the Honors program.
  3. Courses that are unique to the Honors Program, typically with a heavy interdisciplinary focus, may be team-taught or involve a special project/experience. Examples: Creating and Contesting Sacred Spaces (team taught), Art Amongst War: Visual Culture in Afghanistan, 1979-2014 (students helped design and wrote catalogue and wall text for art exhibit), An Odyssey in Ancient Greece (J-term study tour in Greece and Turkey, team taught), The Natural History of the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador (course includes a Maymester study tour to the Galapagos and Ecuador)
  4. Honors-by-Contract, which is when a student proposal a project equivalent to approximately 20% of the overall workload of the course to be completed in order to make any 200-level or above course an Honors course. Students may have 2 HBC count towards their 5 Honors course requirements. Projects are student-led, usually research heavy, and often interdisciplinary. Examples of recent HBC projects include: Biology major in a Music course on electronic music composes an original piece using the DNA code as a starting point; Biology major in History course on the Holocaust completes a research project on the Nazis’ genetic experiments; Psychology major in a WGS course completes a research project exploring the psychological impact of the advertising images found in Cosmopolitan magazine.
  5. Study Abroad. A few select J-term and Maymester faculty-led programs are Honors courses, but additionally, if you study abroad for an entire semester, the most difficult course you take abroad can count as an Honors course, fulfilling your global requirement. A few select study abroad programs, such as EuroScholars, contain significant work that two courses may count towards your Honors requirements. You must seek and receive approval for study-abroad Honors courses before departing for the study-abroad experience.
  6. Faculty-student Collaborative Research Seminar. This special experience is offered in the spring. 16-20 Faculty-student pairs apply and are chosen to take part in a research seminar related to the campus learning theme for the year (this year is College and Change). If you are chosen to take part, the seminar will count as an Honors course.

Each semester, from ten to fifteen honors courses and special seminars are offered. These change from year to year, providing a variety of course selection. Here is a list of recent Honors courses:

Recent Honors Courses

Spring 2016

      • Principles of Macroeconomics
      • General Chemistry II Honors
      • Islam in Comparative Perspective
      • Aesthetics
      • Philosophy of Technology
      • American English
      • Literature by Latinas and Latin American Women
      • Nomads, Warriors, Poets: The Poetic and Epic Traditions of Central Eurasia
      • Asian American Literature
      • Photography in India
      • Ancient Greek Culture and Civilization
      • Post-memory and the Holocaust
      • Afghanistan
      • Economic and Social Development in China

J-Term 2016

      • The History and Literature of Apartheid in South Africa

Fall 2015

      • Asian American Literature
      • Born in the USA: 19th Century American Lives
      • Cities and Sanctuaries of Ancient Greece
      • Environmental Ethics
      • Existentialism
      • General Chemistry I Honors
      • History and Culture of the Pamir Mountains
      • Issues in Philosophy
      • Popular Music & Cultural Politics
      • Postcolonial Anglophone Literature
      • Principles of Macroeconomics
      • The Anthropology of Nutrition: Food, Biology and Culture
      • The Witch in Literature

Spring 2015

      • Ancient Athens
      • General Chemistry II Honors
      • Indian Philosophy
      • Issues in Philosophy
      • Literature by Latinas & Latin American Women
      • Medieval Islamic History
      • Nomads, Warriors, Poets: Literature
      • Principles of Macroeconomics
      • World Englishes
      • US Studies

Fall 2014

      • Biomedical Ethics
      • Calculus A Honors
      • Creating and Contesting Sacred Spaces
      • Feminist Visual Culture
      • General Chemistry I Honors
      • 1989: Global Struggles for Justice
      • Icons of Islamic Architecture
      • Issues in Philosophy
      • Principles of Macroeconomics
      • Romanticism
      • Visual Sociology: Visualizing Economic (In)Justice