Response to Student Feedback
HSTY1044 - Twentieth Century Politics and Culture (2005)
Unit Coordinators: Dr Chris Hilliard and Associate Professor Judith Keene
Eighty per cent of the students surveyed (53% of the total enrolment) said they were satisfied with the course overall. Fifteen per cent were neutral, and five per cent said they were dissatisfied. Many students paid compliments to the lecturers, and a large number went out of their way to praise their tutors, on whose work a large first-year unit like HSTY 1044 depends. We’d like to add our voices to the students’ and thank our tutors for 2005: Kit Candlin, Nick Carter, Rhiannon Donaldson, Philip Gissing, Meredith Lake, Jemima Mowbray and Andrew Shields.
One student wrote: ‘Very big unit but the staff I dealt with were great.’ It’s easy to feel lost in a class with so many students, and we tried hard to be responsive to student feedback and input throughout the semester. Quite a few students answered question seven saying we had been successful on that front. Students were especially appreciative of the extra lecture/workshop on essay writing that Chris Hilliard organized. A number of students mentioned how useful they found the Write Site, and quite a few students sent us emails during the semester saying what a difference the Write Site had made to their learning. We’ll continue to use and promote the Write Site in this unit in 2006.
We were pleased at how many students said that they found the process of researching their major essays rewarding even enjoyable! Many liked the range of topics. A few commented that the essay questions weren’t ‘relevant’, which perhaps means that they didn’t cover the same material as the lectures and tutorial readings did. This was intentional: we wanted to provide a variety of essay topics, some of them to extend the material covered elsewhere in the course, and others to complement it. The document analysis got some mixed reviews. Some students said that it ‘aided in developing skills’. Others found it confusing. We will review the first assignment for the unit for 2006 based on the questionnaire comments and our experience of marking the exercise. Whatever form the first assignment takes in 2006, it is clear that having an early assignment such as this makes a big difference to students’ learning experiences. We introduced the document exercise in 2005 as a result of student feedback the previous year: in 2004, students remarked that they didn’t get written feedback from their teachers until they got their major essays back; in 2005, the document exercise enabled us to give students some early written feedback on their work, and suggest ways they could improve their writing skills when the time came to write their long essay. Student responses to the proposition ‘Feedback on assessment effectively supported my learning in this Unit’ (question ten) in 2005 were a dramatic improvement on what they had been in 2004.
A number of students commented that the two-hour lecture format wasn’t effective, and that it was hard to concentrate for that long. We’ve found that the two-hour format can work well in smaller senior courses, but the feedback from students makes it clear that it’s not so effective in units with as large an enrolment as HSTY 1044. In 2006, we’ll go back to two one-hour lectures on different days.
Only 37 per cent of the students surveyed thought that the workload was appropriate. Forty per cent were neutral, and 24% agreed or strongly agreed that the workload was excessive. The comments on the questionnaires make it clear that it was the weekly reading load, rather than the amount of written work, that was the problem. We realize that the workload was demanding, but the reading load had already been cut back to the bone the previous year. In 2002 and 2003, the average weekly reading assignment in this unit was three articles; in 2005 it was two. We really don’t think that the reading load for a university history course can be cut down further.