National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Honors in Practice, Volume 10 (2014)


Copyright 2013 by the National Collegiate Honors Council


Teaching does not happen in a vacuum just as good courses do not fall from the sky in whole cloth. How and what we teach is woven from any number of past or present influences that include, for instance, tradition, conversation with colleagues, student requests, job market demands, curriculum committees, popular culture, academic advances in a field, or how an academic unit has developed over time. Many honors programs or colleges, however, teach a course sequence that is anchored in the classics and has core texts that one might think are somewhat immune to change. While all such course sequences had a beginning and a developmental trajectory, I would wager that often their genesis is forgotten even if the success of the honors program or college rests on them. Remembering the roots, however, serves as a touchstone when pedagogical or developmental crossroads arise. Knowing why a course was originated and how it developed can facilitate decision-making, clarify the program’s mission, and allow experimentation without losing the program’s focus. Historical consideration of the genesis and development of a course sequence teaches us how to gain institutional support, develop a foundation, achieve collaboration inside and outside the program, and enhance faculty development.