National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Honors in Practice 13 (2017)


Copyright 2017 National Collegiate Honors Council


Discussion-based classes are a defining characteristic of honors curricula (National Collegiate Honors Council). Of the 177 institutions to describe their curriculum in the Official Online Guide to Honors Colleges and Programs, 50% promote their classes as “discussion” or “discussion-based.” The descriptions include the following: “Honors Seminars are unique, discussion- based courses” at the University of Minnesota; “Discussion-based seminars . . . [provide] the highest level of personal attention” at Villanova; and the importance of “Discussion-based courses, where lecturing is avoided” at Western Carolina. I, too, follow a conversational learning model, a “dialogic pedagogy” (Knauer 44), in my honors teaching. Students learn by externalizing their thoughts in debate with others, and helping students improve their abilities to discuss topics is thus a key element of higher education. This study reveals techniques that faculty can use to help students hone their thinking and learn the fine art and skill of effective oral discourse.