Response to Student Feedback
HSTY1076 - American History from Lincoln to Clinton (2004)
Unit Coordinators: Dr Stephen Robertson & Dr Clare Corbould
Most students (92%) agreed with the proposition “Overall I was satisfied with the quality of this unit of study.” Only one student strongly disagreed. Almost as many (91%), students agreed that “The teaching in this unit of study helped me to learn effectively” and again only one student strongly disagreed.
The evaluations are peppered with very positive comments about the course, especially the strength of the lecturing. Students mentioned frequently the enthusiasm of the lecturer, as well as complimenting him on the well-organised structures of the lectures and the interesting material, including visual and audio (one even described the lectures as “gripping”). Many students wrote that they also found the group presentations a fun and valuable way to learn.
The most common difficulty students had during the course was in evaluating what was expected of them, especially in the assessments. This is a common problem among first year students. The explanations of the assessment provided in lectures and tutorials were obviously not sufficient to provide direction to all students. We plan to address this next year by:
- providing an even more detailed explanation of the assessment tasks in the course outline
- devoting a tutorial to essay writing, with the essay writing guide as the required reading. The tutorial will take place after students have signed up for essays, so they can focus on the question they are answering.
A number of students were unclear as to how the lectures and tutorials related to one another. Their response appears to be based on a misapprehension about the purpose of tutorials; they wanted tutorials to repeat the material from the lectures.
The purpose of the tutorials is not to deliver more information, but to have students undertake historical analysis themselves. All the tutorials focused on primary sources that provided evidence regarding the issues discussed in a particular lecture.
Analysing that material provides a means for students to develop their own understanding of those issues, and gives them a basis on which to make judgments about the competing interpretations discussed in lectures. The tutorial format provides an opportunity for students to express and discuss their views, to be active learners.
A small number of students expressed a desire for a textbook, to provide them with the facts and statistics mentioned in the lectures, and to back up the lectures generally. So, next year we will make additional efforts to make students are aware of the resources that we provide to help them and provide:
- a textbook in the Library's special reserve for students who wanted to clarify details about the material covered in lectures; and
- a list of readings related to each lecture topic was placed on the course website to allow students to explore particular topics in detail. (Only a few students mentioned explicitly the course website, but those who did stressed that they found it extremely informative and helpful. Next year we will emphasise to students the usefulness of the website and encourage them to visit it more often).
However, we have no plans to assign a textbook in this course. One of our major concerns is to help students make the transition to university study, to the analysis of sources rather than textbooks, to doing history rather than simply reading history.