Meet the Director
What makes education truly meaningful? I recently saw a review (by John Rosenberg) of a new book by Richard J. Light, who finds that Harvard students learn best through close interaction with their professors. In Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds, Light sees the consummate academic experience as a one-on-one apprenticeship in which students “define a research question and pursue new knowledge” with the assurance they’ll get immediate feedback. But even the student sensing the “loneliness of the lecture hall” can find in the larger class opportunities that make it “a venue for active learning.”
Peer review, for example, imposes a “more demanding standard of explanation and written thought” on the work of even the most advanced students, requiring them to find their own authorial voices in writing for their classmates (rather than unthinkingly adopting the academic style of their professors). Professors who employ such tactics “get in the way” of their students and test their capacity to engage with their cohorts in a class (Rosenberg 33-34).
-Dr. Liza Davis
It strikes me that this is pretty close to what our own Honors Program does across the disciplines with the Honors Colloquium and the Honors Seminar. And I’m convinced that Light’s ideal apprenticeship is often realized in both the Honors Directed Study and the regular interactions between Honors students and their mentors. But the Honors Senior Capstone Experience most faithfully fulfills Light’s definition of a peak academic experience, requiring students to exercise originality in defining a research topic and to solicit direction, at every stage of a project, from one or two faculty mentors in their major disciplines (and, ultimately, from the interdisciplinary Honors Council). It looks, then, like we’re on the right track.