Though we all said it in different ways the group came to one agreement--if we had freedom and/or resources, we would spend more time working directly with students, and that work would look a lot like an honors program.
I should explain--most of the group has little interest in teaching honors classes--at Westminster small seminars team-taught by our best faculty for students with the highest academic profile. But there are components of the honors program, or athletics, or music students, that most of us enjoy and believe lead to good learning. Here they are:
- students strongly committed to the program--once students are admitted to honors they rarely leave. Instead that commitment becomes part of their identity
- long-term commitments and connections--honors students participate in two years of seminars and then complete an honors thesis. In other words, they commit to each other and the program for the duration of their time at the college. And the honors faculty return year after year, so the connections between faculty and students endure as well.
- freedom to give the program distinctiveness--honors students complete their liberal education requirements in the program. But their LE looks substantially different from that of other students
- the campus would be broken into smaller and longer-lasting groups--every student in a cohort of 20, say, for their entire experience at the college.
- individual faculty/staff would connect with a group the entire time they are on campus.
- the faculty/staff group leader would have a substantial amount of say on who is admitted to the group and what the group's program looks like.
- groups might overlap, and they would share administrative support, but there would be no common experience for all students, except the experience of being part of an on-going group of fellow-learners.
- within the groups, students would have heightened leadership roles, shaping the activities of the group, its educational experience, and its standards.
- in short, the educational experience would be decentralized.