What is Honors?

One of the first questions the students, faculty, and academic leaders at our collaborating colleges ask is: “What makes this an honors program?” At American Honors, we believe that the integration of a range of key elements creates a world-class honors experience.

An emphasis on depth versus breadth

We contend that an honors learning experience is about quality, not quantity. Rather than covering more material or assigning more coursework, we encourage faculty to challenge students to go deeper into the course content and to do so in ways that engage their higher-level thinking skills. While an honors course will address the same course learning outcomes as its non-honors analog, it will utilize high-impact learning approaches and supplement the experience by including higher- level learning outcomes.

Active learning pedagogy

Active learning is a highly effective way to motivate and engage students. AH supports active learning pedagogy both inside and outside of the classroom through the “flipped classroom” approach as well as through emphasis on discussion, collaboration, and problem-solving.

Personalized learning experiences

Creativity is key for innovative thought. AH aims to foster creativity through personalized learning artifacts that capitalize on students’ unique interests, talents, and experiences.

Highly motivated honors students

Selected for their academic potential and strength of character, these students seek a supportive learning community that is a force for positive change in the college and community. Honors students expect to be challenged, and their involvement in a similarly engaged cohort creates the positive peer pressure and shared high academic expectations to keep them motivated.

Excellent faculty

Selected for the mastery of their subject and commitment to creating an engaging learning experience, faculty have the opportunity to collaborate in communities of practice with others across the AH network, sharing new pedagogical approaches, exchanging best practices, and continuously improving through innovative course design.

Interdisciplinary integration

The most pressing issues facing our society and the innovations required to solve them do not fall into traditional academic disciplines.AH will work with faculty to integrate cross-cutting themes and foster strong student connections across disciplines.

Digital literacy

Digital literacy is the ability to analyze, interpret, and communicate information through multiple forms of digital media. Students must learn to navigate online social tools and research databases and to discriminate between legitimate sources of information and those that represent opinion or commentary. Students must also learn how to present information to peers and faculty in dynamic ways.

Global awareness

We want students to deepen their understanding of the opportunities and challenges created by an increasingly connected, interdependent world.

Service learning

We seek to develop leaders with strong integrity.AH students understand that they have both the responsibility and opportunity to give back to their fellow students and the community.


American Honors Proposed Learning Outcomes

The following honors program outcomes are provided as an example or template from which you can craft your own outcomes. The specific honors learning outcomes adopted by institutions may vary from these examples. Please consult your American Honors Program Guide for the specific language approved by your institution.

Effective Communication & Collaboration
  • Communicate skillfully in written and/or oral formats to a wide range of specific audiences.
  • Demonstrate an ability to work productively in groups and create solutions to a given problem.
  • Foster cooperation with peers to increase constructive collaboration.
  • Build consensus amongst a diverse group of individuals.

Critical Thinking


  • Employ academic sources to support claims with relevant and credible evidence.
  • Recognize, describe, and respond to bias in various contexts and formats (e.g., cultural, cognitive, research, etc.).
  • Utilize acquired knowledge, effective academic research methods, and critical thinking skills to generate new ideas, processes or approaches to relevant issues.

Knowledge Application 


  • Apply accurate and logical analysis to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Illustrate digital literacy through the appropriate use of digital tools and resources.
  • Synthesize information across multiple disciplines to create a more fully contextualized response to problem or issue.

Global Awareness & Cultural Sensitivity

  • Integrate varied and differing viewpoints to create multidimensional answers to global questions.
  • Manifest knowledge, sensitivity, and humility about a diverse range of opinions resulting from ethnic, cultural, and national differences.




  • Evaluate the effectiveness of personal critical-thinking strategies in order solve problems.
  • Confidently convey one’s goals and evaluate achievement based on self-assessment.  
  • Revise judgments and change behavior based on new evidence information in order to choose the best option for reaching one’s personal goals.
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