Honors First-Year Interdisciplinary Colloquia Guidelines for Faculty

(From "Guidelines from the 1996 Task Force on Colloquia")

All first-year students in the Honors Program, regardless of their intended college or major, are required to take one Honors first-year interdisciplinary colloquium. Although colloquia topics differ according to the interests and expertise of the faculty teaching them, all colloquia are designed to provide certain learning experiences held by faculty to be important for the beginning of every Honors Program student's undergraduate career.

Honors colloquia are broadly conceived, generally going beyond conventional disciplinary boundaries and focusing on topics of major and enduring significance. Topics thus deal with central concerns of liberal education. Colloquia are intellectually rigorous without requiring more than a high-school background in a field. They are elementary not in the sense of preparing students for further study in a discipline, but rather in the sense of preparing them for further skilled reflection on issues and ideas of interest to all educated persons.

Intensive reading, thoughtful analysis, intelligent speech, and good writing are expected of colloquium participants. Typically, readings are texts rather than textbooks and may include film and other media in addition to print; they convey to the student the experience of inquiry and discovery rather than simply presenting results. Field trips and special co-curricular programming may also be appropriate. Given the intended interdisciplinary breadth of the colloquia, team-teaching and/or participation by guest scholars may be employed.

Course Design of Colloquia

Faculty teaching colloquia have a unique opportunity to introduce important subject matter to some of the University's most talented students at the beginning of their college careers. Because of the different goals of the colloquia, however, most faculty find that structuring these courses requires a different type of planning than that needed for a course within the major, even an Honors course in the major. Even though enrollment in most Honors courses is typically limited to no more than 25 to facilitate students' active learning, faculty can expect that active learning in colloquia will be even greater than is usual for an Honors course. The following requirements and suggestions have been helpful to faculty over the years.

Writing Requirements

Substantial writing is required in all colloquia. Writing assignments include but are not necessarily limited to three medium-length papers. Faculty should expect to spend considerable time outside of class assisting colloquium participants with the subject matter and effective organization and presentation of their ideas in their papers. Discussion-based learning

In addition to the time students devote to writing papers, considerable class time must be given to thoughtful discussion. Lectures and lecture-discussions are not appropriate as the main method of instruction for colloquia, which require each class member to participate regularly in discussion. Small-group work and other forms of collaborative learning are helpful tools, and workshops are available for faculty interested in problem-based learning.

Writing Fellows

Undergraduate peer writing tutors (Writing Fellows) are an integral part of the Honors Colloquium experience. Each Colloquium has a Writing Fellow assigned to it. Please see the Writing Fellows web site for more information about the Writing Fellows program.

Individual student conferences

To assist students in developing paper topics, understanding the material, and finding their voices in class, individual conferences between faculty and students are an important component of colloquia and should supplement the one-on-one instruction in writing and revision provided by the Writing Fellow(s) assigned to each colloquium. (Writing Fellows Program information)

Content coverage

Although colloquia are intended primarily for first-year students, they are not considered introductory courses in any discipline. Rather than presuming extensive background knowledge and preparing students for further study in a particular field, colloquia help students develop the ability to read carefully, question actively, analyze thoughtfully, speak intelligently, and write clearly. In other words, colloquia do not emphasize extensive content coverage at the expense of other educational goals.

300-level courses

Colloquia have 300-level numbers because of the kind of reading, analysis, writing, and discussion involved, not because of any advanced content knowledge that the faculty either presuppose or convey.


Because content coverage is not a primary goal, many faculty do not use exams. When they are used, methods of testing students should emphasize writing. Faculty should not use multiple-choice and/or other machine-gradable tests.

Frequency of class meetings

Colloquia are scheduled to meet at least twice a week since continuity in class discussions must be sustained. There are no three-hour sessions.

Sample course descriptions, syllabi, and other help from colleagues

Topics and approaches of faculty who design colloquia show considerable variety. Colloquium faculty have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to think creatively about their own disciplines, their teaching, and their own writing. Many are eager to share experiences and to hear from faculty interested in designing new colloquia. For referral to experienced colloquium instructors to discuss your ideas for creating or carrying out a colloquium, contact Ms. Katharine Kerrane in the Honors Program Office, 831-2734.

Honors Courses

Semester Course Listings:

General Education Group Approvals for Colloquia

Approved Capstone Courses

At the end of their course of study, UD students integrate their previous work in a culminating experience such as a senior seminar, group project, or similar activity. Please consult the Capstone course list for courses that have been approved for the Honors Degree and Honors Degree with Distinction.

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