by Suzanne Unck
Monday morning. I am in FEMke writing the blog about our last day experiences. With a rather small cup of coffee and enjoying our own campus, I try to contemplate on the meaning of this whole experience for me personally and for my role within honours education at HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht. What does it all mean? How can we translate the things we’ve seen and heard and which choices do we make for our students? Quite a responsibility.
This brings me back to our meeting with Ken Wilber. It actually was his main question to us: what do students want to learn? What do we want our students to learn? And in what we do we prepare them for their role in society and in their (future) work field? This week I noticed that honours education in The US mainly focuses on educating the whole person. Honours is an alternative; a different pathway. The honours students distinguish themselves by being more self directed, adventurous and by their love for learning. The bring depth into discussions, are curious and are willing and able to put their talents into meaningful action. Honours education cn help them by facilitating a community and an environment in which they can blossom. Also it opens the windows to the world and encourages them to use their talents to help create a better world.
By focusing on philosophy, arts, writing, speaking, service learning, community building and an international orientation students are being given chances to develop themselves to the max.
I’d like to add something to this. Honours education also is a different way of dealing with these students: in our pedagogy we can also help them being pro active, responsible and autonomous young professionals. Traditional education can never bring them as far as they are capable of. By combining the US honours way with our Dutch Didactics / pedagogy, we can create the best circumstances for them to become critical, creative and integral people. The experiential way of learning in the City as Text experience emphasizes this.
For our to be developed pre honours program, we’ll use this understanding. It will be a multidisciplinary program for freshmen students from all disciplines together to develop identity, to use their talents (based on multiple intelligence, not just the cognitive one) and to be aware of their role in society.
This past week I’ve learned about and experienced myself how forming a community can strengthen the honours experience. Being with 14 HU people, I decided to experiment with this group function. We all had our HU Honours baseball jacket. This enhanced our group feeling, for ourselves and by presenting ourselves that way to the other present Sirius participants and to other attendees at the conference. People complimented us on our jackets, asked us about them, went to see our blog site and we really felt part of our own ‘crew’. Besides that, we used our WhatsApp group to inform eachother and to make appointments for having lunch, going to sessions, exchanging experiences and sharing interesting knowledge. It was very easily accessible and a good way to meet and get to know the other HU crew members. We’re a good rope team :).
Before we went on our trip, we had a live meeting in which everybody shared their purpose for this visit. In this way we could be focused on our own goals and collect the right things for ourselves and our own teams. During the week we all were involved in writing blog posts and we updated our own colleagues on our experiences by sending them e-mails. Before the week started, we all had dinner in Denver together, getting to know eachother. The first ideas of working together already started. And on the last evening; last friday night, we had our wrap up dinner. Everybody one by one stood up and shared one moment in the past week following the ‘what – so what – now what’ method. The rest applauded and cheered: we also learned that from the Americans: acknowledge and appreciate effort and commitment.
What did you actually experience (descriptive)?
So what did this mean to you? How did you feel about it?
Now what are you going to do with this experience? Translate in to one concrete action for the next couple of weeks.
We all agreed on a follow-up meeting within three months to share how we made this happen. And we keep using the WhatsApp group for support and for sharing ongoing knowledge.
My personal goal is to write a community plan for Honours Clubs: how can we create honours communities with students and faculty who can make honours education a more intense and shared experience? The way we did so, can be a blueprint.
Also in Denver we experienced the easy way people make connections. Just by asking where we’re from or complimenting on our jackets, you have an immediate conversation with a stranger. This is so simple, but we’re often suspicious and are not intended to connect.
All the honours people involved in Denver were very proud of there achievements. Theyw ay they spoke about them, and the way everybody was committed, struck me. Besides the role of the community in this, we can also show off and share what we all do. The Celebration of Student Learning was quite a good example to do so. Also being less modest on what we do and how well we are doing it, should be more common.
In the next Sterrenweek in April this will be the topic: honours for honours. Let’s be proud, share all we know and present it to the world. We rock!