Response to Student Feedback
HSTY1044 - Twentieth Century Politics and Culture (2010)
Unit Coordinator: Margaret Sampson
‘Thanks. It was great. History itself became a life,’ ended one student evaluation. Other enthusiasts declared themselves ‘extremely interested in learning more.’
HSTY1044 is inevitably a white knuckle ride through time, place and a vast historiography. 90 % of students agreed and strongly agreed with the statement that ‘overall I was satisfied with the quality of this unit of study.’ HSTY1044 was taught as ‘big’ history, ‘learning about 20th century in a larger sense than what was taught at school… examining big ideas and concepts’ and ‘related so much to contemporary global issues.’ HSTY1044 ‘encouraged thinking about current affairs’ and 89% of students agreed that ‘this unit of study encouraged/ stimulated my thinking … beyond the subject matter.’ Most students seem to have enjoyed the content of the course, which ‘covered a broad range of topics in just the right amount of depth,’ though one student suggested we needed a year rather than a semester to cover ‘a subject so broad it is daunting.’ Another concluded that ‘the concept based lectures and tutes were very good, as was the history from below … with lots of higher level thinking.’ Some students called for more military history but many others disagreed. 81% believed that the unit helped them to develop valuable graduate attributes: ‘I feel that specially my personal and intellectual autonomy were developed.’
86% agreed that ‘the teaching in this unit of study helped me to learn effectively.’ Students thought the course well planned and structured: ‘teachers were well organised and passionate,’ ‘[there has] clearly has been a lot of time and effort put into the planning of the course.’ 81% agreed with the statement that ‘the learning outcomes and expected standards of this unit of study were clear to me:’ ‘they were clearly expressed in the first lectures and the whole course was done in accordance.’
With a few hostile exceptions, most students praised the lectures as ‘great, clear,’ ‘excellent,’ ‘inspiring and fascinating,’ offering ‘new ways of viewing what we thought were facts.’ Several found lectures ‘too fast paced at times,’ urging that ‘the lecturer needs to slow down.’ Many agreed with the lecturer that there were ‘maybe too many PowerPoint slides.’ Many also agreed with the lecturer that two one hour lectures would be better than one two hour session (‘It kills my mind’), though others disagreed (‘I loved double lectures’). Great guest lectures by Professor Sluga and Assoc Professor Keene were welcome diversions. Opinions about tutorials were more polarised. Though we were told that ‘teachers were amazing ... generous with their time and showed respect to the students,’ only 70% agreed and strongly agreed that ‘Group work/ discussions added to my understanding of the topics.’ There was persistent praise for most tutorials: ‘great tutors,’ ‘tutes were great - many talking points,’ ‘well run tutorials got everyone involved,’ ‘helps to explain and discuss topics, as opposed to just reading about them,’ ‘tutorials were hands on and interactive,’ ‘tutorials were excellent…tutorials and lectures worked together to enhance and expand knowledge,’ ‘it was good to be able to hear about the view of others.’ There was also criticism of some tutorials: ‘tutorials did not facilitate discussion,’ ‘tutor was not so approachable nor welcoming of student opinion or input in tutorials,’ ‘tuts weren’t very productive,’ ‘it was not comfortable to discuss answers.’ One student suggested that we shift entirely over to online tutorials. It should be possible in future to ensure that all ‘tutorials be more open to discussion’ and meet the same high standards.
The weekly film session was well received: ‘the lectures followed by documentaries/films are amazing.’ Some would have preferred the film session on another day. We had no choice in this matter.
80% believed that ‘staff were responsive to student feedback’. The convenor was described as ‘very eager to get feedback from students to improve the course.’ Many students made useful practical suggestions which should be implemented in the future. For example, the ‘the very thorough and detailed,’ ‘well made’ reader was found to be too large, unwieldy and faint by many. Students called for fewer readings, claiming that too many in the reader acted as a disincentive to read: ‘its massive content discouraged me from engaging in further investigation.’ On the other hand, this year, markers did find the exam answers noticeably better and more sophisticated than usual. 85% of students thought that the learning materials ‘significantly helped the development of my understanding in this unit.’ Most students appreciated the ‘great’ online resources, though some argued that they ought to be incorporated into the reader. Students welcomed the frequent emails and prompt response to emails. Several thanked the convenor for her online response to their essay abstracts: ‘the feedback for the abstract was helpful,’ ‘I really liked the practice of writing responses before the major essay.’
Many praised the wide choice of primary source essay topics. The essay was welcomed as an opportunity to do research (‘I learned a lot when researching essay’) but many thought it carried too much weight in the assessment scheme (‘one major essay is too stressful; I don’t like big high pressure essay - break it up a bit’). Some called for more explanation of how to do it, though others found that ‘lectures and tutorials focussed on the methodology of history learning.’ ‘Using primary sources in tutorials’ helped many to prepare for the essay. Another essay was called for by several students: ‘maybe 2 smaller essays instead of one big one.’ Most were happy with the prompt essay feedback: ‘received the essay with helpful, constructive feedback.’
Students enjoyed hearing the tutorial presentations of other students, ‘people presenting topics every week in tutorials is a great idea,’ but not if they took over the tutorial as a whole. Many called for feedback on the presentations before the end of semester.
Finally, two firsts for the convenor: ‘Margaret Rocks’ and ‘Margaret Sampson is a God of History.’ We encouraged HSTY1044 students to develop original ideas and their own historical voices. I hope we succeeded