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While a small stipend is available for instructors who teach Honors courses as an overload, most of the advantages are related to student characteristics, expectations, learning activities, and assessment. Honors students are “normal” college students in many ways. They are typically at the same place in terms of age and social development. They have academic strengths and weaknesses as a product of their training and prior achievements. They are not graduate students, nor are they to be viewed as pre-graduate students in training. Honors students at JMU are an eclectic mixture of majors with diverse post-graduation plans.

However, areas where our Honors students differ is in their goals and expectations of themselves. Honors students are curious. They are ambitious and collaborative. They want to “give back” in a way that is meaningful to them. They tend to be comfortable working with people who – like themselves – have a wide range of abilities, interests, and experiences. They are risk averse – motivated more by practice leading to mastery than by negative critiques. They expect opportunities to rehearse and demonstrate competencies. They tend to dwell too much on grades and pleasing their teachers, trainers, parents, and guides.

Honors College Coordinator of Curriculum and Assessment
Provosts Award
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While there is no single model for Honors teaching, a number of evidence-based practices are identified in the scholarship of Honors pedagogy. They include:

  • Intensive practice of written and oral expression in all of its many forms
  • Analysis and integration of specific course work with liberal education, life-plan, and career expectations
  • Authenticity and immersion in assignments (i.e. “making it real” rather than mere “homework”)
  • Participation, co-learning, and peer review – in active pursuit of students as independent thinkers, engaged and reflective leaders, and global citizens
  • Exercises in compassion, virtue, and excellence that build resilience and encourage hard work and perseverance

There are many ways for JMU faculty to engage with the Honors College and its students. Please explore the links and content below for more details.

Designated Honors Sections

Honors Seminars

Honors Area of Emphasis Seminars

Honors Options

Policies and Helpful Resources

Provost Award for Excellence in Honors Teaching and Advising

Designated Honors Sections

The Honors College offers faculty the opportunity to teach special Honors sections of regularly offered university courses. Characteristics of Honors sections of existing courses are as follows:

  • Can be a GenEd course or a departmental required or elective course
  • Typically, the class size is limited to 20 students. However, exceptions to this maximum can be made if it makes pedagogical sense for the course and its content
  • Honors sections are designated by an "H" at the end of the course number (ex. ISAT 113H)
  • Allows faculty and students to go deeper into the course material and incorporate innovative teaching techniques
  • Does NOT necessarily require more deliverable work from students. Rather the emphasis is on building habits of critical thinking, communication, creative expression, independent thought, and deeper intellectual inquiry

Proposal Process

The Honors College, Academic Colleges and Departments will work in partnership to identify and support these types of Honors courses. However, Honors sections are handled administratively within the department in which the regular course originates. Faculty should contact their departmental course administrators about teaching an Honors section and then contact the Honors College if there is departmental support for such a course.

Honors Seminars

The Honors Seminar offers an excellent opportunity for faculty members to try out new ideas in teaching and research topics, to pilot a course that they may develop for their own department or program, and to work with a small group of excellent students. Defining features of the Honors Seminar includes:

  • Flexible class sizes that pedagogically reflect unique, sometimes experimental, styles of teaching
  • May be team-taught by a diverse faculty team from different disciplines
  • May focus on real-world, big issue topics facing humanity
  • May focus on topics at the cutting edge of a discipline not easily covered within an existing departmental course
  • Designated course numbers HON 200 or 300; always 3 credits

Honors Seminars often include, but are not limited to, some of the following enhancements:

  • Interdisciplinary material taught through a team of instructors
  • Extensive use of original sources (as opposed to relying primarily on compiled textbooks)
  • Intensive creative and/or other writing assignments
  • Independent research
  • Intensive discussion-based or “Oxford tutorial” style teaching methods
  • Course projects focused on community or civic engagement
  • Involvement with guest speakers and visiting or community artists

Honors Seminars often provide faculty the opportunity to teach topics of special interest or research, especially as they relate to significant current events, big problems and issues facing humanity, or the cutting edge boundaries of one’s discipline. These courses DO NOT need to fit within any one departmental curriculum or structure. Recent Honors seminar topics include:

  • Psychology of Sexual Diversity
  • The Social Animal
  • The Artificial Other
  • Women and Early Cinema
  • Viral Discovery and Genomics
  • Science in the Movies
  • Game Theory

Honors Seminar Proposal Process
Course Enhancement Fund Request
Honors Area of Emphasis Seminars

The Area of Emphasis seminars offers an excellent opportunity for faculty members to try out new ideas in selected focus areas within the Honors College. Areas of Emphasis focus on the following areas within the Honors College:

  • Creativity
  • Global Studies
  • Leadership
  • Research
  • Service and Civic Engagement

The defining characteristic of these courses is that they consist of a series of 2-3 linked courses within a focus area. These linked course sequences allow students to enhance didactic content with engaged experiential learning over a multi-semester period of time. Finally, students are then able to deepen their learning through an elective third semester practicum project. There are opportunities for faculty to participate at each stage of this multi semester process.

Defining features of the Area of Emphasis course sequences includes:

Fall semester (sophomore year): Introductory Seminars

  • Each Area of Emphasis begins with an introductory seminar. These introductory seminars are taught by faculty who bring expertise from on- and off-campus and typically cover key scholarship, topics, and skills associated with the focus area.

Spring semester (sophomore year): Experiential Seminars

  • Experiential seminars come in two varieties: 1) Deepening and 2) Broadening. Deepening seminars are intended to provide a more in-depth exploration of the skills/concepts/topics introduced in the fall introductory courses. Broadening courses are open to students of more than one Area of Emphasis and are meant to extend the diversity of topics/concepts/skills covered in the introductory seminars. All spring semester Area of Emphasis courses will incorporate a mentored group experiential learning project, which allows students to gain hands-on experience in the selected area. 

Junior year: Elective Practicum Courses

  • These courses allow students to design an individual or collaborative practicum project to pursue a unique experience in their chosen area. These experiences are student driven and are often, though not necessarily, extensions of the second semester experience.  

Honors Area of Emphasis seminars provide faculty the opportunity to teach topics of special interest in a more extended fashion as compared to a typical single-semester course. Area of Emphasis courses allow faculty to work with sophomore students in a focus area over multiple semesters. These courses also allow the faculty members an opportunity to intentionally layer experiential activities into a 2-semester course sequence. These courses DO NOT need to fit within any one departmental curriculum or structure; however, there are opportunities to link existing courses within a department to an Honors College Area of Emphasis.  

Area of Emphasis Seminar Proposal Process
Course Enhancement Fund Request
Honors Options

The Honors option allows students to earn Honors credit for a non-Honors course (at the 200-level or above). It consists of an agreement between an Honors student and a professor so that the student can complete an additional or enhanced assignment and make the course eligible for Honors credit. It provides students the freedom to individualize a portion of their curriculum to focus on their personal, academic and professional interests. Honors options are a great way for students to get to know their professors and to begin exploring topics that can lead into their Honors Capstone Project.


  • Student is in “good standing” in the Honors College.
  • Open to students after the completion of 30 credits of college coursework.
  • Honors Option course must be 200-level or above.
  • Honors Option course must be taken for a letter grade.
  • Cannot be a course currently offered as an Honors course. Students cannot contract a class that already offers an Honors section unless there is a scheduling conflict.
  • Supervision by a tenured, tenure-eligible, or RTA faculty member is preferred.
  • Limited to six hours (two courses) per semester. 

Application Process for Students

Action Items for Faculty

Approving Honors Options in MyMadison

Faculty who agree to supervise an Honors option student will need to approve the proposal in MyMadison once the student submits it. Please see the following images for guidance in navigating the approval process:

 MyMadison Approval

MyMadison Approval2

Requirements for Successful Completion:

  • Student must maintain regular independent meetings with the course’s faculty member (at least four times within the semester).
  • Student must submit all work associated with the Honors option assignments to the Honors College by the last day of finals week.

Reporting Final Grade:

  • Faculty member officially reports completion for credit (C), unsatisfactory completion for no credit (NC), or incomplete (I) through MyMadison after grade submission at the end of the semester.
  • If a faculty member fails to officially report completion of the Honors Option by the end of the semester, the Honors Option designation will be removed from the course and the faculty member may be contacted by the Honors College regarding the status of the option. It is the responsibility of the student to follow up with the faculty member thereafter. 

Designing an Honors Option

General Considerations

  • Value added: How might this Honors student add value to your content or process?
  • Deeper learning: Does the project allow the student to go deeper and think more critically about a new or pre-existing assignment?
  • Focused learning: Is the enhanced or additional assignment related to a topic of interest that may help the student towards defining their Honors Capstone Project?
  • All Honors options should extend and/or supplement the current course content


  • Complete readings for individualized tutorial sessions with the faculty member.
  • Complete a literature review or annotated bibliography on a topic related to the class and potential Honors Capstone Project.
  • Complete an extra or extended paper or project; especially if it is related to a potential Honors Capstone Project topic.
  • Do a challenging lab experiment or observation study.
  • Create a computer program.
  • Apply the principles of the course through volunteer or internship service and complete a reflective journal and project.
  • Compare and contrast two perspectives or events related to the course content.
  • Create visual representations (graphic organizers, 3D models, photographs, etc.).
  • Lead class discussion on a topic of particular interest; especially if it is related to a potential Honors Capstone Project topic.

Further examples of Honors option projects organized by college

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