Honors Syllabus Examples and FAQ

Honors Syllabus Examples

Listed below are examples of honors syllabi and addendums for approved honors contracts in
previous College of Engineering courses.

Note: this list is not intended to be comprehensive, and faculty and students are encouraged to
consider other creative approaches for honors contracting. Ultimately, a good honors contract
should involve learning experiences that go above and beyond the standard learning objectives of
the course being contracted, and it is understood that no single list can capture the wide range
of novel activities that would be appropriate as a basis for an honors contract.

  • Example #1 -- This is a fairly traditional honors syllabus for an honors contract.
  • Example #2 -- This is an example of an honors syllabus for a team-based honors contract. As long as the syllabus identifies which student is doing what work, using one syllabus for each student's honors contract is perfectly acceptable. (Note: in this example, student names were removed for privacy reasons.)
  • Example #3 -- This honors syllabus gives a lot of detail concerning the project to be completed. Extra details can be very helpful in getting an honors contract approved!
  • Example #4 -- This honors syllabus describes a contract that involves extended problem-solving. Note that, in general, requiring extra homework or exams is not considered appropriate for an honors contract. (See the FAQ question below.) So this syllabus goes into some detail to explain how the objectives of this work extend the learning that would normally occur in the class.
  • Example #5 -- The work described in this honors syllabus is centered on analysis. While the deliverables may seem a little meager, the key idea is that the work ties together and extends work done in class, which makes it suitable for an honors contract.
  • Example #6 -- This is an example of an honors addendum. The content is very similar to that of an honors syllabus but is intended to be included as a part of the regular course syllabus, which means it can be a little shorter on some details. Notice that all (eligible) students would be working on this as their honors contract; there would not be any individualized honors contracts.

Honors Syllabus Frequently Asked Questions

How long should the Honors syllabus be?

We recommend that the syllabus be around one page long -- shorter syllabi tend to be skimpy on
the details, which makes it harder to approve the contract.

How long should the Honors addendum be?

An honors addendum can be shorter than a syllabus due to the fact that some important details
are already part of the standard course syllabus. Something on the order to 2 to 3 paragraphs is
typical, as long as all of the necessary information has been communicated.

What information has to be included in the Honors syllabus?

At a minimum, there needs to be a description of the work to be done for the honors contract
(including descriptions of deliverables and due dates), plus a revised grading scheme for the
course that incorporates the work being done for the contract into the course grade.

Does all of the other stuff in the Honors syllabus template have to be included?

The template does indicate what items are optional. However, it is still recommended that at least
some of this optional information be provided in the syllabus since often it is this information
that makes it clear how the contract work goes above and beyond the regular requirements of the class.
Also, having more detail cuts down on the chance of a misunderstanding occurring between a student and faculty instructor regarding expectations.

Why is a revised grading scheme necessary? Can't the Honors designation just be removed from the course if the contract is not completed?

Honors contracted courses must have their grade mode changed at the beginning of the semester in order
to be eligible to award honors credit. The Registrar's Office does not allow the grade mode of a course
to be changed after the ninth week of the semester, so once the course is completed there is no way to
separate the honors work from the regular work done for the course. Hence, the course grade needs to
reflect both the honors and regular work done by the student.

How big of a change is needed for the revised grading scheme?

The Honors College leaves this decision up to the individual instructors. However, a good rule of thumb
is that the honors coursework should contribute enough to the overall course grade such that failing to
complete this work satisfactorily will result in a "noticeably" lower course grade. Typically, honors
coursework contributes about 10% to the overall course grade, but other interpretations are possible.

Can extra homework (or an additional exam) be assigned to the student for their honors contract? 

Honors contracts should not involve more work simply for the sake of making the class harder. The goal
is to give the student an opportunity to learn about something relevant to the class that he or she would
not have had the chance to learn about in the absence of doing an honors contract. Requiring more homework or an extra exam does not meet this threshold unless it is clear that the extra work involves concepts that the other students are not expected to have seen.

Who can I talk to if I'm not sure about what to put into the Honors syllabus?

If you have questions or concerns regarding acceptable items for an honors syllabus/addendum, please contact Dr. Timothy Whalen at whalen@purdue.edu.