National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Honors in Practice, Volume 9 (2013)


Copyright 2013 by the National Collegiate Honors Council


A significant challenge in honors education is providing experiences through which students deeply engage ideas and content so that both their analytical abilities and core beliefs and values are transformed. Frequently, honors students approach a course as a goal to achieve: they establish ambitious study plans, map out study strategies, form study groups, and keep track of whether they are hitting the highest academic marks. In the end, if they are truly “honors material,” they earn an impressive grade. However, honors students often are hesitant to embrace ambiguity and deal with conceptual challenges that need to be approached from multiple perspectives and without an absolute solution in mind. Moreover, they sometimes avoid courses, such as problembased learning courses, that are not structured in a traditional manner. In fact, honors students can be so achievement-oriented, i.e., they want to earn a good grade, that they gravitate toward intellectually safe territory, resisting the very experiences that are most likely to enrich their knowledge and sharpen their analytical abilities. David Kolb (Kolb & Kolb), who developed a model of experiential learning in the early 1980s, would argue that this focus on concrete and well-defined areas of knowledge has the potential to limit the development of metacognitive skill. Instead, his model suggests that four elements—concrete experience, abstract conceptualization, reflective observation, and active experimentation—should be present to ensure that the student’s full learning capacity is achieved. Inspired in part by the work of David Kolb, NCHC has incorporated this kind of experiential learning into its Honors Semesters and City as Text™ experiences since the 1980s (Braid & Long).