What is an honors option at Penn State University?
An honors option course is designed by incorporating honors elements into a regular, non-honors course so that a Schreyer Scholar can earn honors credit for completing that course.
Scholars must submit an honors option form on the Student Records System (login required) for any non-honors course that will be taken as an honors option. The honors option form must be approved by the course instructor and the student's honors adviser.
The honors option is an individually planned modification of a course’s syllabus, usually including modifications of both the learning objectives and assignments. The specific design of an honors option is created by the instructor and the student, in consultation with the student’s academic honors adviser. All three must agree to the honors option design before the option is approved by the SHC to meet the student’s honors requirements. The filing of an approved honors option form represents a commitment by both the student and the instructor, as well as the adviser.
The honors option design should adhere to the goals described for all honors courses, as much as possible. In particular, the ideal honors option design should delve more deeply into methodology, structure, and/or theory; address more sophisticated questions; and satisfy more rigorous standards than is generally expected by the non-honors syllabus. The honors option modifications to the course should fit within the content and intent of the courses published description, so specific changes in the learning objectives for the honors-option course syllabus should be explicitly articulated to demonstrate that they fit.
Whenever possible, the honors assignments should be done as an alternative to some or all of the regular course assignments. Simply increasing the volume of work required or the hours spent on it does not constitute an honors option. The character and quality of the assignment should be augmented. The time required for honors assignments should remain commensurate with a comparable honors course having the same number of credits.
An optimal honors option experience will include planned regular meetings throughout the semester between the faculty member and the student to review, discuss, and revise, as needed, the honors components of the course. Because honors option elements may be experimental, changes in the design will occasionally be necessary. Whenever possible, flexibility and contingencies should be incorporated into the design. In addition, specific deadlines should be identified for staged completion of the honors elements. The student’s grade for an honors option course should reflect all the student’s work in the course, including work done in common with other students, as well as honors work done.
An individualized honors option course generally limits the Scholar’s contact with other Scholars, so the interaction between the student and instructor becomes increasingly important. Therefore, in keeping with the SHC’s philosophy of honors instruction, honors option work will usually be supervised by fulltime members of the regular faculty who typically hold tenure-line professorial appointments. The professorial faculty members at Penn State are scholars recognized nationally and internationally as experts in their fields. Our hope is that the honors option courses taught by these faculty members will stem from, center around, and/or be enhanced by their particular area of research.
Generally, Scholars will be the initiators of honors option proposals. A student planning an honors option should consult with the faculty member early in the semester, and bring along information describing the honors option, in case the faculty member has not done one before. Instructors and honors advisers can stipulate clarifications, modifications, or alternatives to a student’s proposal and, if necessary, reject proposals which reflect limited or no serious preliminary thought.
An honors option is generally a voluntary effort by a faculty member over and above the usual time commitment for a course. Students should appreciate the fact that faculty are under no obligation to do an honors option.
Scholars should be counseled to incorporate honors option courses sparingly into their academic plans. A Scholar proposing an honors option for a course should have legitimate and understandable reasons for wanting to use an honors option course to meet their honors requirements. Honors option courses are generally done in courses at the upper-division level (300-499) and are generally used to fulfill major, option, or minor requirements, as well. At no time should an honors option course be used to avoid a regular honors course. In addition, a student should be counseled to seek viable alternatives before choosing an honors option course out-of-major or at the lower-division level (001-299).
Inspiration, innovation, and integration are welcomed elements of an honors option proposal. Participation in honors option course work should result in a mutually engaging and rewarding experience for everyone involved.
Scholars must submit an honors option form on the Student Records System (login required) for any non-honors course that will be taken as an honors option.
"What is an Honors Course?” Approved by SHC Faculty Advisory Committee, October 2004.
"Guidelines for Schreyer Honors College Teaching Faculty: A Position Paper” Approved by SHC Faculty Advisory Committee, March 2004.
Approved by a vote of the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Schreyer Honors College,
December 7, 2005.
Questions should be referred to:
Dr. Nichola Gutgold, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Phone: (814) 865-4257
Address: 10 Schreyer Honors College
University Park, PA 16802