Defining Characteristics of Honors Courses at TCNJ– The Three Pillars
The Honors Program is built on three pillars that serve as the basis and scaffold for the Honors program requirements and its courses offerings. Honors students and faculty are encouraged to be creative and innovative in achieving these goals.
The First Pillar– 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 topi
The Second Pillar– 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.)
The Third Pillar– 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
Honors-level foundation courses. These courses are special honors versions of regularly run departmental courses, providing additional depth and focus compared to related non-honors courses. Examples include Principles of Macroeconomics, General Chemistry, and Issues in Philosophy.
Upper Level Honors Courses. These course are unique offerings to the honors program– they are often specialized topics with a significant interdisciplinary focus, and may be team-taught or involve a specialized project/experience. Some examples include: Creating and Contesting Sacred Spaces, Art Amongst War: Visual Culture in Afghanistan, and An Odyssey in Ancient Greece (an abroad course that tours Greece and Turkey).
Course enhancements. Students who wish to obtain greater depth and scope in non-honors courses may do so through course enhancements. Honors faculty who teach an upper level non-honors course may provide additional opportunities for honors students. A select number of seats normally reserved for majors are reserved for honors students. Examples include: Transnational Feminisms and Photography in India.
Honors-by-Contract. Honors students are able to customize the learning outcomes of a non-honors course through Honors-by-Contract. This offering is unique to students enrolled in the Honors program and is well suited to students who have specific scholarly interests, or who are interested in exploring new fields. Students work with the instructor to develop a curriculum plan and a series of course enhancements, which are submitted to the Honors Program coordinator for approval. Students can enroll in up to 2 HBCs as part of their Honors Program curriculum. An example of recent HBC projects includes an original music composition based on the DNA code (Biology Honors student enrolled in a music course on electronic music).
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, one of these courses can count be counted as an Honors course, fulfilling your global requirement. Students should receive approval for study-abroad Honors courses before departing for the study-abroad experience.
Recent Honors Courses
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: