Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Generative Intersections: Supporting Honors through College Composition

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Generative Intersections: Supporting Honors through College Composition

Article excerpt

Given the current emphasis on acceleration toward graduation, common sense might seem to argue against First-Year Composition (FYC) as a compelling course offering in an honors curriculum. Many honors students enter college with significant college credit: Advanced Placement and dual enrollment programs allow students to fulfill their first-year college writing requirement and other lower-division requirements before leaving high school. These programs are flourishing. The number of students taking an AP exam in high school has nearly doubled in ten years, with over a million high school graduates taking an AP exam in 2013. That year, 58% of English Language and Composition AP test-takers and 55% of the English Literature and Composition cohort earned a 3 or better on the exam (College Board).

During the same time period, 82% of high schools offered dual enrollment courses, and 93% of the courses with an academic focus awarded college credit immediately upon course completion (National Center for Education Statistics). Two million students strong, dual enrollment is changing the landscape of students' first two years of college, in many cases affecting their decision about whether to enroll in First-Year Composition.

The deck seems stacked against Honors Composition. However, before passing over the course for a more appealing requirement, we should examine the benefits of the class for the honors student. Annmarie Guzy has recently reviewed some of these merits, citing research that shows a correlation between enrolling in FYC and achieving success in future academic writing She also shares data indicating that honors students make frequent sentence-level errors, suggesting that they would benefit from additional instruction, and she contends that college writing instruction promotes needed holistic growth in research and writing. In light of these benefits, she argues that first-year students should consider the advantages of enrolling in First-Year Composition before substituting it with an AP score.

Disciplinary activity in the field of writing studies is adding strength to Guzy's stance Trends in composition teaching are creating intriguing parallels with honors, paving the way for shared goals and unique collaborations. Grammar, citation, library search engines, and thesis statements continue to be important but have also been joined by other aims that align admirably with the commitments of honors. Honors directors and composition faculty would do well to become familiar with their mutual aims, opening the doors for partnerships that support honors students' development as writers and thinkers

Three disciplinary trends in particular make First-Year Writing a likely candidate for an honors curriculum: the field's increased attentiveness to reading as an area of emphasis, its growing interest in metacognition and learning transfer, and its potential for facilitating digital engagement Taken together, these characteristics suggest that the first-year writing course deserves a second look


Historically, reading has held a privileged position in the honors curriculum . Ted Humphrey notes that "the early practitioners of honors education regarded it primarily as a kind of subject matter, that is, as a classically based education in the Great Books, organized either historically or topically" (16). At some institutions, this emphasis continues to hold sway; many honors courses take as their centerpiece "rigorously classical masterpiece reading lists," functioning as "the only place a student who is not a classics major might encounter Homer or Sophocles" (Schuman 2006).

Alongside this tradition, however, a range of other pedagogical approaches have emerged, with the focus shifting to features like independent research, community involvement, self-reflection, cross-disciplinary integration, and experiential learning. …

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