Response to Student Feedback
HSTY1034 - Early Modern Europe (2009)
Unit Coordinator: Dr Margaret Sampson
Margaret Sampson as lecturer & coordinator, and Alan Rome as tutor, thoroughly enjoyed teaching HSTY1034 this semester and learned a great deal from the experience. Students claimed that our enthusiasm for the course was ‘contagious’: ’I looked forward to coming to lectures and tutorials’, ’I’m a first year student, history only gets better and better’, ’ ‘if I could, I would do this course again, I’m recommending it to all my friends’. HSTY1034 was ‘taught exceptionally well’, according to another. 96% of surveyed students surveyed agreed and strongly agreed that ‘the teaching in this unit of study helped me to learn effectively’. 96% also agreed and strongly agreed that ‘overall I was satisfied with the quality of this unit’.
This was Margaret Sampson’s second opportunity to teach the course. Student feedback from 2008 helped to restructure the course for 2009. Students noted that we not only responded to student feedback but actively sought it out: ‘they constantly sought feedback on how the course was run and structured’, ’it was extremely evident that our suggestions were taken on board’ and ’it was nice to know that staff actually cared what we thought’. 96% of surveyed students agreed and strongly agreed that ‘it was clear to me that the staff in this unit of study were responsive to student feedback’. For example, we asked students whether they liked student tutorial presentations in class and most answered: yes. ‘Hearing others added to my understanding. The casual conversational nature of the presentations stopped them from being too stressful’, and ‘the tutorial presentation made me feel more confident’. Many also enjoyed the opportunity to practice doing history in a variety of interactive ways in the tutorials. Role plays for example ‘aided learning in a fun way’.
Students liked the way we presented a variety of different historical viewpoints rather than imposing our own on the course , for example : ’ both views were presented and we were not pressed to take one side’. They liked the opportunity to do their own research in the primary source based essay, though some described the task as initially daunting, ‘a bit scary’. We did run a lecture and workshop on how to do it. Some students asked for more close direction in future. Rena McGrogan’s introductory tutorial on library research was highly recommended by students as preparation for the essay. Some worried that the primary source essay might be tangential to the course as a whole but by the end recognised the relevance of their own precise research to the broad survey course. Students were able to make use of their primary research in the final exam, which was strictly based on tutorial topics.
Students described the response to their essay abstracts via usyd elearning as a ‘great idea’. The prompt and close marking of their major essays was praised as ‘better than any other subject’ and it was noted that ‘the chance of talking to Margaret afterwards was helpful too.’ 92% of surveyed students agreed and strongly agreed that they ‘received timely, constructive feedback from staff about my work in this unit’, one stating that ‘I feel that I have grown as a writer in this unit’ and another that ’I have built skills which can be used in later history units’. 85% of surveyed students agreed that HSTY1034 ‘helped me develop valuable graduate attributes’ and 87% that it ‘encouraged/stimulated my thinking ....beyond the subject’.
Most found the course well structured: ‘the unit was clearly set out and engaging the whole way though’, ‘everything was clear and easy to follow’. 91% agreed and strongly agreed that ‘the learning outcomes and expected standards of this unit of study were clear to me’. Several students found the thematic rather than chronological approach to EME unusual but most claimed to be won over by the end: ‘by the end of the semester I enjoyed the different points of view for all the different facets of life’. Some asked for more narrative political history in future though!
Many complained that the reader was too large and overwhelming, although some found it ‘great and comprehensive’, as they approached the exam. It will be slimmed down in future. Students appreciated the weekly film sessions, though they wished that they were on the same day as lectures and tutorials. The extensive online resources were popular. Students especially liked having the lecture notes (without images) available online before the lecture, though some thought that there were too many notes. Recorded lectures via lectopia were welcomed. Students appreciated the weekly emails keeping them up to date with the course throughout: ‘weekly emails helped greatly’ and ’kept us on track’. Prompt response to student emails was noted too. 88%of students agreed that ‘learning materials ...significantly helped the development of my understanding in this unit’.
Many students praised the lecturer: ‘great lecturer, interesting, clear, efficient,’ ‘passionate, engaged lecturer’ but some, perhaps rightly , thought that too much was attempted in each lecture. ‘Alan was a fantastic tutor’ with a great sense of humour and his first lecture on medicine was described as ‘great’. Students understood that ‘the staff really seemed to care about students.’ One student even declared love for the lecturer, though ‘in a non creepy way’. The history of love in EME was one of the many themes we covered in HSTY1034.