History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY1025 - Early Medieval Europe (2002)
Unit Coordinator: Dr Lynette Olson
HSTY1025 'Early Medieval Europe' evaluations were positive, with the results for all criteria for all of the Scales above 3 but not above 4, although the Good Teaching and Appropriate Assessment Scales were getting there and so was overall satisfaction with the quality of the unit. I always take careful note of the comments, although by no means all students write them. Many of these praised the tutorial exercises, the innovation that was such a success last year. Even the most negative evaluation form did so. Only three negative comments about them were made, and in one of these cases the student also praised them. In another case the student's comment was extremely helpful: under what could be improved in the course she said the essay and tutorial exercises and wrote, 'There needs to be a clearer guideline of what is expected in historical analysis, with group workshops in tutorials on how to analyse and what to look for. I found a minimum of this.' I will try to incorporate something of what she is asking for in the skills tutorial and, more flexibly, as we go along.
In general, improvement in the way the course was taught was asked for in three areas; in the first of these I will try hard to do what is asked for, but about the other two I am stubborn (there were only a few comments about them, but enough to generate a pattern).
1. More guidance should be given about what is expected and where we are heading. The comment quoted above about skills is in this category. Also, how much do students need to know (this relates to point 3 below)? What is the course, and individual lectures, going to be about? In relation to the latter there was a curious difference from the year before last: I always provide summary points at the end of lectures, out loud, on the overhead, on the website and in a folder in Special Reserve, and the students that year loved them, whereas last year I could tell from the first lecture that somehow they didn't suit the group so well. This year I'll try to go over them at the beginning of each lecture and see how well that works.
2. Course (lecture) notes should be fuller. I provide names and terms for each lecture in the places specified above; they are available in advance of the lectures so that students can bring them to lectures if they like. They are intended to help with spelling and comprehension. To make much of them, except for the summary points, students do need to attend the lecture or hear it on tape in the Library. I don't plan to change this.
3. The unit covers too much material, such a long time. Yet there were no criticisms of it as lacking coherency, which was our old problem in the 80s and still occasionally in the 90s, that I worked hard to improve on. Looking at a broad scope of History is good for students in my view, and of course we do provide focus. Aside from taking action where there is overlap with point 1 above (such as emphasising even more at the beginning what to expect in the breadth of what is studied, which is the birth of Europe, and explaining our focus on developments within that), I'm not significantly altering the content. Next year the one-semester medieval unit will examine a different, but still extensive, period.