Faculty: Creating a Pitt Honors course

University Honors College Course Proposals for Faculty

Honors courses address the educational needs of talented, motivated, and intellectually curious undergraduates. Honors courses are intended to encourage curricular breadth and/or depth, to emphasize free inquiry as a stimulus to independent thought, and to foster a disciplined intelligence through the critical understanding of ideas and principles.

Faculty members wishing to teach an honors course must first receive approval from their department to do so. Once department approval is received, the faculty member submits the course for final approval by the Honors College through Curriculog, Pitt’s curriculum management system.

In order to begin the submission process to the Honors College, access Curriculog through the Pitt Portal or directly through this link (you will need to login through Pitt Passport SSO). Next, follow this path:

  1. Click on “+ New Proposal”
  2. Go to “HONS – Course Attribute Approval”
  3. Click on the check mark to start the proposal

Your proposal will include a copy of your syllabus and an explanation of how your course meets specific learning outcomes related to honors courses. These learning outcomes are based on the objectives for honors courses established by the National Collegiate Honors Council. Although an honors course may not be able to fulfill all five learning outcomes, it is expected that the course fulfills most of them.

Objective One – Developing written communication skills

Honors courses emphasize papers and essays, not multiple-choice exams. Papers as written assignments are acceptable, as are other methods such as journals, creative writing, reports, and critiques. Ideally, the written work should involve revision in response to instructor feedback and class discussion.

Objective Two – Developing oral communication skills

Honors courses are discussion-based rather than having a lecture format. A “flipped classroom” environment can facilitate this objective. Wherever possible, students should be given the opportunity to lead class discussions and engage in collaborative projects with their peers.

Objective Three – Developing the ability to analyze, synthesize, understand, and contribute to scholarly work

Honors courses cover content in greater depth and are not required to cover more material than a non-honors equivalent course. As such, honors courses should emphasize primary source material. This may include working with original documents, recent research and scholarship in the field, or archival research. Opportunities for students to engage in their own data collection and analysis, or creating their own work of art, music, film, etc., are encouraged, as are community-based, service learning, or experiential projects that allow for hands-on exploration and discovery.

Objective Four – Helping students become independent and critical thinkers

Honors courses engage students in active learning, thus providing students with opportunities to read, write, and think across disciplines. Doing so, enables students to synthesize their own ideas into a broader context, which is a hallmark of adult learning. Honors courses create an environment supporting the development of students as engaged and active citizens and leaders, and which encourages intellectual risk taking.

Objective Five – Deepening students’ historical and cultural awareness, as well as their awareness of the diversity of human societies and cultures

Honors courses incorporate cross-cultural perspectives, non-Western texts, and texts composed by women and racial/ethnic minorities. Honors courses are expected to foster a culture of inclusive teaching rooted in theoretically informed ideas of inclusion specific to the academic discipline of the course. For an overview of inclusive teaching, with an emphasis on inclusive teaching in the STEM fields, please view the keynote talk from Dr. Terrell Morton at Pitt’s 2021 Assessment and Teaching Conference.

The Honors College welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with you to develop how your course can meet these objectives.