Monday, August 15, 2005

Honors, Plums, and Unintended Consequences

Timna raised a disturbing point in the comments following my cry for help on Honors programs. If an honors program at a cc is structured in a ‘modular’ way – that is, the honors component can be added to any given course, if the student does approved extra work and achieves a given grade – are we essentially asking the faculty to take on more unpaid work? (Timna raised the point in the context of adjuncts, where the issue is particularly acute, but I could imagine some full-time faculty making the same point.)

As it is now, the program at my cc relies on specific sections with smaller sizes, so the faculty see honors classes as plums – better students, less grading. If a kid going for honors simply meant still more papers to plow through, would the faculty be more hesitant? (Would the plum become a prune?) Note to the folks at schools with programs set up this way – does faculty buy-in become a problem?

(The alternative is even worse. Imagine if we paid a stipend for each honors student, to compensate for the extra work. The grade inflation would set records!)

On a related note, how much extra work does it take to earn an honors designation? If there’s tremendous variation from section to section, the integrity of the designation could come into question. How is this handled across multiple sections of the same class?

Inquiring deans want to know...