Response to Student Feedback
HSTY1034 - Early Modern Europe (2008)
Unit Coordinator: Dr Margaret Sampson
86% of students agreed or strongly agreed that they were overall satisfied with the quality of HSTY 1034, frequently making comments such as: ‘I loved this course very much - it was brilliant,’ ‘my favourite unit of study,’ ‘overall excellent unit of study,’ ‘enjoyed it immensely,’ ‘thoroughly enjoyed the course’. HSTY 1034 is a ‘very broad overview of 250 years’ of European history. Some thought it too broad a survey (‘too many topics, too much reading’) but others found it possible to focus on developing their individual areas of interest: ‘it gave us a taste or everything and then allowed us to choose.’ Most found the course ‘well structured,’ with ‘a logical progression throughout’ and ‘relevant tuts’ on interesting topics. Critical consideration of the Elias thesis was thought to give unity to the course: ‘myths were challenged, concepts clarified.’ Students appreciated that ‘a huge amount of work went into planning the course.’
87% of students believed that HSTY1034 enhanced their critical thinking beyond the actual content of the course: ‘it helped me learn how to research and analyse effectively, how to write essays & to contemplate deeper issues in regards to history,’ and ‘furthered my ability in discussion, debate and writing history.’ Well over 80 % of students also agreed that learning outcomes and standards were clear, that our teaching helped them to learn effectively & to develop Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences graduate attributes.
89% agreed or strongly agreed that staff in HSTY1034 were responsive to student feedback. Teaching staff ‘went out of their way to help’ and students enjoyed a ‘lot of interaction with staff.’ Emoticons appeared on student evaluations forms, including smiley faces and even one ‘I [heart] margaret’. All three tutors, Lorna Barrow, Fergusson Elliott and Margaret Sampson, were praised as ‘fantastic’ in their enthusiasm, preparation and knowledge: although only Fergusson was said to ‘Rock and Roll’.
Tutorials were described as ‘awesome,’ ‘tutorials had a fun, friendly yet academic atmosphere,’ ‘primary sources in tuts allowed us to reach our own conclusions.’ When asked whether the tutor was open to alternative ideas and viewpoints, one student answered: ‘For sure - she loved them.’ Individual tutorial presentations were found ’nerve wracking’ by some students. Others said that tutorials were ‘relaxed and encouraged communication,’ ‘participation was a must, so I was motivated.’
Lectures were praised as ‘very entertaining,’ ‘clear & engaging,’ ‘very clear, informative, organised’ with ‘many different viewpoints given.’ The lecturer was described as ‘one of the best lecturers I have had,’ though some would have preferred fewer slides and slower delivery! Some liked the double lecture format very much but many more stated that they would have preferred single lectures, which is also the preference of the course co-ordinator. Thanks to both Lorna Barrow and to Fergusson Elliott for their excellent guest lectures and tutorials.
Students understood that the assessment process was designed to encourage them to think for themselves: ‘emphasis is on development of argument by students.’ The primary source based essay task was liked by many students, though some thought too much weight was given to it: ’the major essay was highly enjoyable,’ ‘I enjoyed reading my primary source,’ ‘essay helped apply and think about what you have done.’ As the primary source based essay was quite difficult, we provided ample support for students. A lecture and a tutorial were devoted to ‘how-to’ sessions. Students were asked to submit an abstract via WEBCT in order to receive feedback before they submitted the essay. In future, the coordinator would make this submission compulsory as students very much appreciated the help they received. Students also welcomed the feedback they received from the prompt essay marking: ‘excellent’, ’the comments for essay were very helpful and I appreciated getting so much feedback.’
Though containing ‘lots of interesting reading sources,’ the course reader in general was not loved by students: ‘the amount of text to read each week was quite overwhelming,’ with ‘way too much to read,’ ‘less reading material please.’ Several students acknowledged that they were however ‘finding the reader very helpful for exam study’. The unit coordinator agrees that the reader was too large an unwieldy for use in tutorials and would edit it down in future. Many found that the textbook, Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789, gave excellent coverage of the course.
Students appreciated the extensive online resources made available to them via WEBCT. Lectures were recorded by Lectopia and Powerpoint notes minus images were accessible too. Students liked the weekly emails from the course co-ordinator introducing that week’s lectures and tutorials, though one complained that there were too many. The Thursday afternoon film sessions were a popular innovation with students: ‘I loved the lecture, movies, discussion, research – it was all fantastic’.