The Writing Tool can help you to offer your students a different kind of assignment to see which students would be suitable for a Honors Program.
What is the Writing Tool?
Talented students often show different character traits than more traditional students, which can allow teachers to spot them. Regarding learning strategies, students already enrolled in honors often rewrite papers until they are satisfied and apply theories¹ ². It is assumed that talented students not yet enrolled in honors do show sort-a-like character traits. Some of the traits can hardly be discovered during regular class, taking into account that not every talented student obviously shows those character traits.
Additionally, we know from research on learning strategies that a questionnaire about used learning strategies of a student does not always reproduce the learning strategies actually used³. Therefore, spotting talented students cannot be solved only by observation or using f. e. questionnaires or checklists. Talented students have the potential to rise to the top and their way to handle assignments can give a hint on their talent, as well.
Giving every student the opportunity to voluntary hand in a written assignment can already give a hint on those students willing to do more than the regular curriculum or class offers.
How do I use it?
There are three different types of writing topics. Explore them here
When talking about talented and motivated students, they also show different perspectives on their own learning path and biography. They show a high openness connected to curiosity, originality and creativity.⁶ Additionally, they show higher self-concepts ⁷.
These qualities can be visible during class, but note that some students enrolled in Honors can be more introverted ⁸ and so they might not be spotted. Giving them the opportunity to hand in a written assignment about personal development can be an opportunity.
Those questions can be about reflecting on your own learning biography and the academic path you went on, but also can be about the future. There are already questions on the assignment sheet, which can be used or added with your own suggestions.
Students enrolled in Honors show a higher interaction with their department, teachers and outside university ¹ ² ⁹. Often the engagement in co-curricular activities cannot be perceived inside classroom activities. Giving talented students the opportunity to write an assignment around questions of how to use their talent for society can help to spot those active students.
This occurs especially when they are “heavily encouraged to take part in experiential learning through internships, studying abroad, leadership roles, and faulty-directed research” ¹⁰.
The questions on the assignment sheet can also be connected or expanded regarding special research questions inside your own department or class.
Both Europe and the world are changing rapidly and are facing issues which need to be addressed. But there are no easy answers to these great dilemmas, and we need talented and creative people, willing to change the world for the better. Every problem can be approached from multiple angles, and thus different perceptions on how to address problems can lead to a vast array of unique solutions.
A dilemma describes a situation when suggested decisions do not lead to a desired result. Dilemmas often are perceived as a paradox and, normally, there is no right or wrong decision, as both of the opportunities do have negative effects. In regards to this social policy, Rittel & Webber already pointed out the difficulties of answering social problems in 1973:
“The search for scientific bases for confronting problems of social policy is bound to fail, because of the nature of these problems. They are “wicked” problems, whereas science has developed to deal with “tame” problems. Policy problems cannot be definitively described. Moreover, in a pluralistic society there is nothing like the undisputable public good; there is no objective definition of equity; policies that respond to social problems cannot be meaningfully correct or false; and it makes no sense to talk about “optimal solutions” to social problems unless severe qualifications are imposed first. Even worse, there are no “solutions” in the sense of definitive and objective answers.”⁴
Furthermore, they point out that decisions made cannot easily be reversed, as “every attempt to reverse a decision or to correct for the undesired consequences poses another set of wicked problems, which are in turn subject to the same dilemmas. ⁵
Spotting talented students who show a great desire to learn and who can wrap themselves around wicked problems can be difficult. Handing in a written assignment based on a dilemma can help find those talented students. You can find some suggestions for dilemmas on the assignment sheet, but surely there are some questions around your own scientific topic which can be transported into a likewise dilemma.
Let yourself be inspired on creating an own field-based dilemma by watching the video below this box.
¹ Buckner, Ellen; Shores, Melanie; Sloane, Michael; Dantzler, John; Shields, Catherine; Shader, Karen; Newcomer, Bradley (2016): Honors and Non-Honors Student Engagement: A Mode of Student, Curricular, and Institutional Characteristics. In: Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council Vol. 17, No. 1, p. 191–217.
² Achterberg, Cheryl (2005): What is an Honors Student? In: Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 170 (Spring/Summer), p. 75–84.
³ Leutner, Detlev & Leopold, Claudia (2002). Der Einsatz von Lernstrategien in einer konkreten Lernsituation bei Schülern unterschiedlicher Jahrgangsstufen. In: Zeitschrift für Pädagogik (Beiheft 45), p. 240-258.
& Leutner, Detlev; Leopold, Claudia (2003): Selbstreguliertes Lernen als Selbstregulation von Lernstrategien – Ein Trainingsexperiment mit Berufstätigen zum Lernen aus Sachtexten. In: Unterrichtswissenschaft Vol. 31, p. 38–56.
⁴ Rittel, Horst W. & Webber, Melvin M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. In: Policy Sci 4 (22), p. 155. DOI: 10.1007/BF01405730
⁵ Rittel, Horst W. & Webber, Melvin M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. In: Policy Sci 4 (22), p. 163. DOI: 10.1007/BF01405730
⁶ Miller, Angie L. & Speirs Neumeister, Kristie L. (2017). The Influence of Personality, Parenting Styles, and Perfectionism on Performance Goal Orientation in High Ability Students. In: Journal of Advanced Academics Vol. 28, No. 4, p. 317.
⁷ Spisak, Art L. & Squires, Suzanne Carter (2016). The Effect of Honors Courses on Grade Point Averages. Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2016). In: p.103-114.
⁸ Achterberg, Cheryl (2005): What is an Honors Student? In: Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 170 (Spring/Summer), p. 78
⁹ Scager, Karin; Akkerman, Sanne F.; Keesen, Fried; Tim Mainhard, M.; Pilot, Albert; Wubbels, Theo (2012): Do honors students have more potential for excellence in their professional lives? In: High Educ Vol. 64, No. 1, p. 19–39. DOI: 10.1007/s10734-011-9478-z.
¹⁰ Plominski, Abigail P.; Burns, Lawrence R. (2017): An Investigation of Student Psychological Wellbeing. Honors Versus Nonhonors Undergraduate Education. In: Journal of Advanced Academics Vol. 29, No. 1, p. 18. DOI: 10.1177/1932202X17735358.