Date of this Version
Miller, K.A., ed. 2020. Building Honors Contracts: Insights and Oversights. National Collegiate Honors Council Monograph Series. pp. 221-240.
As we have seen in this volume so far, contract courses are an increasingly valuable pedagogical strategy for maintaining access to and demand for honors education. Administered with the “[i]ntentionality, transparency, [and] consistency” that Richard Badenhausen proposes in his opening essay (17), they can even, as Margaret Walsh suggests, help “shift [students’] focus from getting out of course requirements to getting into new and different courses to advance their capacity to learn” (40). While good reasons to offer contracts clearly exist, administering them nevertheless presents challenges. This essay considers process and pedagogy, with the aim of empowering both students and faculty to explore the pedagogical possibilities of contracts. At the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), we identified two interrelated challenges with the contract process: 1) the approval and assessment of contracts and 2) the impact of contracts on faculty members’ workloads. The UNR Honors Program streamlined the approval and assessment of honors contracts for students and faculty by updating our contract form and introducing a qualitative online assessment tool to help faculty evaluate student progress on honors learning outcomes. Our quantitative and qualitative data suggest that such changes make a positive impact on both student learning and faculty engagement for honors programs and colleges considering contract automation and streamlining.
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