National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Innovations in Undergraduate Research and Honors Education: Proceedings of the Second Schreyer National Conference 2001, ed. Josephine M. Carubia & Renata S. Engel. Copyright © 2004 The National Collegiate Honors Council.


This paper explains how problem-based learning (PBL) is incorporated into a multidisciplinary, team-taught honors seminar, "Poverty amidst Plenty," by means of an eight-step process that implements a curricular metaphor-student as legislative aide. The process allows students' self-directed skills to develop while faculty roles in the course change from instructors to resource and research guides. In turning their research into policy position papers, students develop and share sources, strategies, and solutions. They also acquire web-design skills in order to cultivate informed "outside constituencies" supportive of their policy positions.

In addition to a course-planning strategy that can be modified to fit most course contexts, whether for honors students or the general student population, the paper provides an outline of the important elements of the PBL approach-problem, process, student, instructor, learning goals, and outcomes-and offers reasons for its success. "Poverty amidst Plenty" gives students the opportunity to acquire an understanding of economics and ethics and to form an integrated, multi-disciplinary knowledge base. This occurs in a "real-world" context that demands that students gather information, evaluate it, and then use it to make judgments. As a result, the course satisfies important measures of authentic learning and fosters a form of learning that typically emerges only after students have graduated from college.