Recent workshops provide opportunity for Honors Program to share best practices

Former directors of Elon's Honors Program headed workshops in Monterrey, Mexico, and Winchester, Virginia.

Mike Carignan and Tom Mould, former directors of Elon’s Honors Program recently headed to Shenandoah University in Virginia to lead a two-day workshop on best practices in teaching Honors students. It was the second recent opportunity for the pair to share these best practices, having participated in a three-day workshop in Monterrey, Mexico, in December.

“It really exceeded my expectations,” wrote one attendee at Shenandoah.

“I’m leaving with a lot of ideas and motivation,” added another.

The workshop is an adaptation for Honors teaching workshops that Carignan and Mould developed for Elon faculty with Deandra Little, director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. Little was instrumental in developing the workshop and continues to provide valuable resources and insights for each new year. “The workshop is not static,” Carignan explained. “We wanted to develop something not only for new faculty to orient them to teaching in Honors, but also fresh topics in pedagogy for returning faculty as part of our commitment to always growing and striving to be better.”

In 2014 and 2015, the workshops were held exclusively at Elon University for Elon faculty. In addition to general best practices in honors pedagogy, special topics have included leading effective discussions, grading, collaboration and group work, crowd-sourced rubrics, multidisciplinary teaching, team teaching, and getting buy-in from students.

In 2016, however, Carignan and Mould took the workshop to the National Collegiate Honors Council Annual meeting in Seattle, Washington. The presentation was standing room only. “It’s been important to us that this is about improving Honors education not just at Elon, but everywhere. That’s why we have made all of our materials available online,” Mould explained.

Some programs, however, wanted even more guidance as they prepared their faculty to teach their Honors students. This led to the invitations from The Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Monterrey, Mexico, and Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. “The directors of the Monterrey Honors program invited us right on the spot,” explained Carignan, “and the director from Shenandoah began an exchange that yielded another invitation. We were so pleased that our workshop appeared to be useful.”

While the Shenandoah University workshop included more than a dozen faculty who will teach honors students in the coming year, 24 faculty from across the university in Monterrey attended the December workshop. Both groups found sessions on backward course design, course alignment, student expectations, and characteristics of high achieving and gifted students to be among the most helpful.

Current Honors Director Lynn Huber has continued these workshops at Elon and hopes to continue sharing best practices with her national and international colleagues in Honors. “The fact that colleagues at other institutions are reaching out to us as experts in teaching honors points to the strength of our program and to the high-quality work of all those who have led Honors at Elon throughout the years.”