Date of this Version
As honors curricula develop and mature at our institutions, we constantly grapple with questions of what comprises an honors education. Besides the philosophical discussion of what it means to be “broad, well-educated, informed, challenging,” there is also the practical or methodological discussion of “How do we do that?” These questions become more complex as honors programs mature, possibly as a consequence of course sequencing or developing degree plans. In my experience, one of the more difficult areas to address is differentiation between a lower-division introductory experience and a mature, sophisticated upper-division seminar. Where exactly is this boundary when building a new course? Being able to “read our students’ needs” is important in addressing concerns about students’ individual development, maturity level, and degree preparation as well as problems associated with student retention. One practical avenue that addresses methodological questions is the use of research journals.
Research journals have been beneficial in two types of classes I have taught for honors over the past three and a half years. Each of these classes is a seminar offered at the junior level: “Perspectives on the Present,” a current-events course that I have taught three times and two cultural seminars, “Progressivism and the Arts” and “Arts and Social Reform,” each of which I taught once. In order to deal with problems of late and/or sloppy final projects, plagiarism, and lack of commitment or depth, I have developed research journals as a way to address these issues early and often. Using trial and error and modifying my approach each time I taught these classes, I believe the latest version has some strong points that now make research journals broadly applicable in many different class situations and across disciplines while specifically addressing certain concerns about motivation inherent in the honors population.