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ERIC Number: EJ1104381
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 21
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1559-0151
Variability and Similarity in Honors Curricula across Institution Size and Type
Cognard-Black, Andrew J.; Savage, Hallie
Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, v17 n1 p93-113 Spr-Sum 2016
When a well-developed honors curriculum is paired with co-curricular opportunities, it serves to distinguish an institution's honors education. Together, these curricular and co-curricular experiences are described as best practices in the National Collegiate Honors Council's (NCHC's) "Basic Characteristics of a Fully Developed Honors Program." Although literature is available to describe honors curricula, and while the NCHC "Basic Characteristics" documents provide some guidelines for best practices in honors education, data are needed to support these guidelines and to determine what curricular models effectively frame and incorporate best practices. Questions remain, however, about variation across other structural characteristics that often interest educational researchers, such as size and institutional control by private or public interests. Researchers used data from the 2012-2013 NCHC Membership Survey to focus on eight measures from survey items that tap into nine curricular characteristics of honors programs: (1) thesis requirement; (2) capstone course; (3) a combined measure of the first two indicating the presence of either a thesis requirement or a capstone course; (4) service requirement; (5) service learning courses; (6) study abroad courses; (7) experiential education courses; (8) research-intensive courses; and (9) internships. The analysis presented in this paper examines the nine curricular and co-curricular measures identified, and explores the supposition that circulates in many NCHC conversations that there is great variability among NCHC institutional members in honors structure, curriculum, and other institutional characteristics. Researchers used "z"-tests of difference between proportions and also examined patterns of consistency within similar dimensions (e.g., private institutions with honors colleges and private institutions with honors programs). The study explores variation across not only honors organizational structure and broad degree classification (associate's degree institutions vs. those that offer baccalaureate and advanced degrees), but also across institutional control, i.e., private vs. public institutions, and institution size (total undergraduate full-time equivalent [FTE] enrollment). The findings point to two central conclusions: (1) Honors units at member institutions seem to value undergraduate research and senior-level experiences involving increased intellectual independence, as reflected in the widespread presence of thesis requirements, capstone courses, and research-intensive courses; and (2) The service and experiential learning components (including honors internships and study abroad courses) that are highlighted in NCHC best practices documents have much less consensus and implementation across United States honors.
National Collegiate Honors Council. 1100 Neihardt Residence Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 540 North 16th Street, Lincoln, NE 68588. Tel: 402-472-9150; Fax: 402-472-9152; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A