Honors Program Course Contract
Objectives for Carroll Honors Courses
Every Honors instructor teaches Honors courses differently, and every Honors course engages students differently. Nevertheless, there are intellectual elements that are common to most Honors experiences that we wish to cultivate in all of our Carroll Honors courses. Following the lead of the work conducted by the National Collegiate Honors Council, we believe that a successful Honors experience is not determined by the intelligence of the students, the volume of work that they engage in, or the subject matter, but instead by the attitude and approach of the faculty teaching the courses. Below are some guidelines for Carroll faculty teaching Honors courses that provide a range of objectives that all Honors instructors should consider integrating into their courses as appropriate.
- Develop students’ literacy:
- Effective written communication skills
- Effective oral communication skills
- The ability to make effective use of data and information
- Develop students’ critical and system thinking:
- Effective systematization of a broad range of material
- Understanding of how scholars and professionals think about problems
- Formulating hypothesis, examining and interpreting data and evidence
- Conducting research, drawing conclusions and providing interpretative explanations
- Grow their cultural consciousness and applied creativity:
- Thinking independently, critically, and systematically
- Actively using knowledge and logic while being mindful and respectful of cultural and ideological differences
- Considering and acknowledging the impact of their ideas, arguments, and mode of delivery
To measure the accomplishment of the above objectives, all Honors courses should also include an integrative signature assignment in which students must use knowledge gained in the course and prior learning experiences to address a real-world issue or solve a significant problem. In this assignment students should:
- Have some agency in identifying the nature of their project (this may be done individually or in groups).
- Meet rigorous professional and disciplinary standards.
- Build on and demonstrate fluency in the PioCore and in discipline-specific learning outcomes of the present course.
- Engage in a critical self-reflection on the process of writing the assignment and on their own professional development.
- Demonstrate their proficiency to integrate learning across courses, over time, and between campus and community life.
For assessment of this integrative assignment, we recommend use of the AAC&U rubric – see below.
INTEGRATIVE LEARNING VALUE RUBRIC
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The VALUE rubrics were developed by teams of faculty experts representing colleges and universities across the United States through a process that examined many existing campus rubrics and related documents for each learning outcome and incorporated additional feedback from faculty. The rubrics articulate fundamental criteria for each learning outcome, with performance descriptors demonstrating progressively more sophisticated levels of attainment. The rubrics are intended for institutional-level use in evaluating and discussing student learning, not for grading. The core expectations articulated in all 15 of the VALUE rubrics can and should be translated into the language of individual campuses, disciplines, and even courses. The utility of the VALUE rubrics is to position learning at all undergraduate levels within a basic framework of expectations such that evidence of learning can by shared nationally through a common dialog and understanding of student success.
Integrative learning is an understanding and a disposition that a student builds across the curriculum and co-curriculum, from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new, complex situations within and beyond the campus.
Fostering students’ abilities to integrate learning—across courses, over time, and between campus and community life—is one of the most important goals and challenges for higher education. Initially, students connect previous learning to new classroom learning. Later, significant knowledge within individual disciplines serves as the foundation, but integrative learning goes beyond academic boundaries. Indeed, integrative experiences often occur as learners address real-world problems, unscripted and sufficiently broad, to require multiple areas of knowledge and multiple modes of inquiry, offering multiple solutions and benefiting from multiple perspectives. Integrative learning also involves internal changes in the learner. These internal changes, which indicate growth as a confident, lifelong learner, include the ability to adapt one's intellectual skills, to contribute in a wide variety of situations, and to understand and develop individual purpose, values and ethics. Developing students’ capacities for integrative learning is central to personal success, social responsibility, and civic engagement in today’s global society. Students face a rapidly changing and increasingly connected world where integrative learning becomes not just a benefit...but a necessity.
Because integrative learning is about making connections, this learning may not be as evident in traditional academic artifacts such as research papers and academic projects unless the student, for example, is prompted to draw implications for practice. These connections often surface, however, in reflective work, self assessment, or creative endeavors of all kinds. Integrative assignments foster learning between courses or by connecting courses to experientially-based work. Work samples or collections of work that include such artifacts give evidence of integrative learning. Faculty are encouraged to look for evidence that the student connects the learning gained in classroom study to learning gained in real life situations that are related to other learning experiences, extra-curricular activities, or work. Through integrative learning, students pull together their entire experience inside and outside of the formal classroom; thus, artificial barriers between formal study and informal or tacit learning become permeable. Integrative learning, whatever the context or source, builds upon connecting both theory and practice toward a deepened understanding.
Assignments to foster such connections and understanding could include, for example, composition papers that focus on topics from biology, economics, or history; mathematics assignments that apply mathematical tools to important issues and require written analysis to explain the implications and limitations of the mathematical treatment, or art history presentations that demonstrate aesthetic connections between selected paintings and novels. In this regard, some majors (e.g., interdisciplinary majors or problem-based field studies) seem to inherently evoke characteristics of integrative learning and result in work samples or collections of work that significantly demonstrate this outcome. However, fields of study that require accumulation of extensive and high-consensus content knowledge (such as accounting, engineering, or chemistry) also involve the kinds of complex and integrative constructions (e.g., ethical dilemmas and social consciousness) that seem to be highlighted so extensively in self reflection in arts and humanities, but they may be embedded in individual performances and less evident. The key in the development of such work samples or collections of work will be in designing structures that include artifacts and reflective writing or feedback that support students' examination of their learning and give evidence that, as graduates, they will extend their integrative abilities into the challenges of personal, professional, and civic life.
The definitions that follow were developed to clarify terms and concepts used in this rubric only.
- Academic knowledge: Disciplinary learning; learning from academic study, texts, etc.
- Content: The information conveyed in the work samples or collections of work.
- Contexts: Actual or simulated situations in which a student demonstrates learning outcomes. New and challenging contexts encourage students to stretch beyond their current frames of reference.
- Co-curriculum: A parallel component of the academic curriculum that is in addition to formal classroom (student government, community service, residence hall activities, student organizations, etc.).
- Experience: Learning that takes place in a setting outside of the formal classroom, such as workplace, service learning site, internship site or another.
- Form: The external frameworks in which information and evidence are presented, ranging from choices for particular work sample or collection of works (such as a research paper, PowerPoint, video recording, etc.) to choices in make-up of the eportfolio.
- Performance: A dynamic and sustained act that brings together knowing and doing (creating a painting, solving an experimental design problem, developing a public relations strategy for a business, etc.); performance makes learning observable.
- Reflection: A meta-cognitive act of examining a performance in order to explore its significance and consequences.
- Self Assessment: Describing, interpreting, and judging a performance based on stated or implied expectations followed by planning for further learning.
INTEGRATIVE LEARNING VALUE RUBRIC
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Integrative learning is an understanding and a disposition that a student builds across the curriculum and cocurriculum, from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new, complex situations within and beyond the campus.
Evaluators are encouraged to assign a zero to any work sample or collection of work that does not meet benchmark (cell one) level performance.
Connections to Experience
Connects relevant experience and academic knowledge
- Capstone 4: Meaningfully synthesizes connections among experiences outside of the formal classroom (including life experiences and academic experiences such as internships and travel abroad) to deepen understanding of fields of study and to broaden own points of view.
- Milestone 3: Effectively selects and develops examples of life experiences, drawn from a variety of contexts (e.g., family life, artistic participation, civic involvement, work experience), to illuminate concepts/theories/frameworks of fields of study.
- Milestone 2: Compares life experiences and academic knowledge to infer differences, as well as similarities, and acknowledge perspectives other than own.
- Benchmark 1: Identifies connections between life experiences and those academic texts and ideas perceived as similar and related to own interests.
Connections to Discipline
Sees (makes) connections across disciplines, perspectives
- Capstone 4: Independently creates wholes out of multiple parts (synthesizes) or draws conclusions by combining examples, facts, or theories from more than one field of study or perspective.
- Milestone 3: Independently connects examples, facts, or theories from more than one field of study or perspective.
- Milestone 2: When prompted, connects examples, facts, or theories from more than one field of study or perspective.
- Benchmark 1: When prompted, presents examples, facts, or theories from more than one field of study or perspective.
Adapts and applies skills, abilities, theories, or methodologies gained in one situation to new situations
- Capstone 4: Adapts and applies, independently, skills, abilities, theories, or methodologies gained in one situation to new situations to solve difficult problems or explore complex issues in original ways.
- Milestone 3: Adapts and applies skills, abilities, theories, or methodologies gained in one situation to new situations to solve problems or explore issues.
- Milestone 2: Uses skills, abilities, theories, or methodologies gained in one situation in a new situation to contribute to understanding of problems or issues.
- Benchmark 1: Uses, in a basic way, skills, abilities, theories, or methodologies gained in one situation in a new situation.
- Capstone 4: Fulfills the assignment(s) by choosing a format, language, or graph (or other visual representation) in ways that enhance meaning, making clear the interdependence of language and meaning, thought, and expression.
- Milestone 3: Fulfills the assignment(s) by choosing a format, language, or graph (or other visual representation) to explicitly connect content and form, demonstrating awareness of purpose and audience.
- Milestone 2: Fulfills the assignment(s) by choosing a format, language, or graph (or other visual representation) that connects in a basic way what is being communicated (content) with how it is said (form).
- Benchmark 1: Fulfills the assignment(s) (i.e. to produce an essay, a poster, a video, a PowerPoint presentation, etc.) in an appropriate form.
Reflection and Self-Assessment
Demonstrates a developing sense of self as a learner, building on prior experiences to respond to new and challenging contexts (may be evident in self-assessment, reflective, or creative work)
- Capstone 4: Envisions a future self (and possibly makes plans that build on past experiences that have occurred across multiple and diverse contexts).
- Milestone 3: Evaluates changes in own learning over time, recognizing complex contextual factors (e.g., works with ambiguity and risk, deals with frustration, considers ethical frameworks).
- Milestone 2: Articulates strengths and challenges (within specific performances or events) to increase effectiveness in different contexts (through increased self-awareness).
- Benchmark 1: Describes own performances with general descriptors of success and failure
Complete the Honors Course Contract Application
Complete the Honors Program External Research / Internship / Volunteering Contract