National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Fall 2018


Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 19.2 (Fall/Winter 2018) ISBN 978-1-945001-01-7 ISSN 1559-0151


© Copyright 2018 by the National Collegiate Honors Council


The seeming lack of connection between honors and gifted education has puzzled us for some time. Both of us incorporated gifted education and higher education into our doctoral studies, and both of our dissertations used gifted education theories as lenses into the honors student experience. Our lives as researchers and higher education administrators have been spent in the shared space between gifted students and honors programs. We know that this combination strengthens our work with the University of Connecticut Honors Program, and we are excited at the possibility of greater collaboration between the two fields. In this essay, we will respond to Guzy’s central tenet that there is a difference between gifted and honors students, using the theoretical framework and structure of UConn Honors for examples. Our recent programmatic changes have led us to the conclusion that we should focus on an honors education designed for gifted students and honors students.

One of the prompts for this special Forum of JNCHC invited us to “focus on one or more contrasting traits of gifted and honors students.” Not only does this prompt presuppose that the two labels refer to different groups of learners, but it also implies that there are set definitions for both terms that are agreed upon across the professions. One of us has taught a master’s seminar on the various conceptions of giftedness, using Sternberg and Davidson’s 2005 book of that title and supplementing it with ideas from the Columbus Group (Morelock) and others. An ambitious recent effort to orient the field around talent development and the pursuit of eminence (Subotnik, Olszewski- Kubilius, & Worrell) prompted significant criticism (e.g., Grantham; McBee, McCoach, Peters, & Matthews). On the honors side, variations in admissions and programming across institutions dictate that the only functional definition of an honors student is one who is enrolled in an honors program or honors college. For that matter, a similar approach is often found in gifted education research, where the operational definition of “gifted” is a student who has been identified as such by their school district.