Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Research on Honors Composition, 2004-2015

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Research on Honors Composition, 2004-2015

Article excerpt

The spring/summer 2004 issue of the Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council (JNCHC) was devoted exclusively to research in honors education. The issue was divided into three sections: the introductory Forum on Research in Honors, which revisited three essays published in Forum for Honors in 1984 and included two 2004 responses; Research in Honors; and Research about Honors. After I had revised my dissertation for the 2003 NCHC monograph Honors Composition: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Practices, I incorporated some of my unused dissertation material for two pieces in the issue, one being a response essay in the Forum, "Research in Honors and Composition," and the other an article in the Research in Honors section, "Faculty Compensation and Course Assessment in Honors Composition," using material that my dissertation director thought was too political to survive the dissertation defense.

A little over a decade later, as NCHC celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, JNCHC is contemplating the future of research in, on, and about honors. In his lead essay, "An Agenda for the Future of Research," George Mariz compares the disciplinary research he conducts in European history to research in honors, which he argues "is another species altogether: it has more nebulous standards of worthiness, and there are no archives, bodies of scientific knowledge, established procedures, or information-rich data sets" To that end, I wish to create an ad hoc bibliography for the purposes of archiving qualitative and quantitative research on honors composition to date, providing a context for interdisciplinary work in honors composition with sources from both honors education and composition studies, and initiating directions for future research using multiple methodologies in each field.

The three main areas of inquiry for honors composition during the past decade have been programmatic issues, pedagogical approaches, and student performance I focus on programmatic issues, advocating for the vital role that honors composition plays within honors programs and colleges by aiding students with the transition from high school writing to college-level research, which in turn increases program retention rates, particularly with the expanding CUR-based emphasis on honors theses and capstone projects. Other researchers have explored pedagogy and performance, such as Jaime Lynn Longo's 2008 dissertation, Forging Connections: Development of Academic Argument in First Year Honors Students' Writing. As a doctoral candidate in English at Temple University, Longo conducted "ethnographic observation, case study interviews, and a code-driven analysis of student writing" to determine whether honors students were "constructing effective academic arguments after a year spent in the program":

   This study demonstrates that, by the end of their first year, most
   Honors students in this program have begun to construct effective,
   and sometimes even exceptional, academic arguments ... Moreover, my
   research findings suggest that Honors students are not
   fundamentally more capable of creating academic arguments than
   general university students; rather, programmatic and professorial
   writing expectations, as demonstrated through in-class instruction,
   type and scope of assignments given, feedback given in conferences
   and on papers, and learning community participation, challenge
   Honors students and spur their development as writers in ways that
   the general university population does not experience, (v)

Longo has codified what honors compositionists have long reported anecdotally: honors students are not necessarily better writers than general students but improve as writers at a faster pace through challenging instruction in honors composition courses. The complete study is available through dissertation databases, but Longo took an administrative position as Director of Academic Support Programs at LaSalle University and therefore did not pursue publication of the dissertation, nor did she continue research on honors composition. …

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