History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY1076 - American History from Lincoln to Clinton (2008)
Unit Coordinators: Dr Clare Corbould & Dr Michael McDonnell
106 of the 220 students enrolled in this unit responded to the Unit of Study Evaluation survey. We’re pleased to report that 93% agreed or strongly agreed with the proposition “overall I was satisfied with the quality of this unit of study,” for a mean of 4.44. Happily, only 6% disagreed that “I was motivated to engage with the learning activities of this unit of study,” with a mean of 4.02. Only 4% disagreed that “the teaching in this unit of study helped me to learn effectively,” with a mean of 4.13. This is in part a testament to the hard work of the tutor, Katie Slattery.
Students’ comments indicate they were impressed with both lecturing and tutoring. They included the following:
- “The staff were alot more responsive in this unit of study than others. They were always looking to improve.”
- “The learning materials were great, I really liked how there were an array of different types of sources used, ie, movie, pictures, readings. I also liked how none of the readings were too long.”
- “Though this unit of study was not that relevant to my degree, it was probably my favourite. The lectures were always interesting and engaging. Tutorials were really fun as well. Overall it was a great unit of study and I’m really glad I did it.”
- “I was first hesitant to do a history subject because of my HSC mark that I was unhappy with but it proved to be really interesting. The structure of the lectures allowed for an easy understanding. Clare and Katie were very helpful to me when I had questions on the essay. And Mike and Clare took the time to send us a lot of helpful emails.”
- “Plenty of opportunity to ask questions and clarify points both in tutes and organised consultation times. Both Mike and Clare are easy to approach and treat all questions seriously.”
- “My tutor, Mike McDonnell, was fantastic in creating a relaxed and friendly atmosphere in our tutorials. He constantly provided helpful feedback and was very good at facilitating class discussions. The lectures were well done and it was great to be able to listen to them and look at the slides again on WebCT.”
- “The lectures were fantastic. Ideas were explained clearly and Clare was very engaging. Tutorials were also great.”
- “Lectures were very straightforward, a lot of information but with clarity and were very enjoyable.”
- “Loved it. The unit was taught well, the tutors/lecturer were friendly. The lecture slides were clear and outlines were very useful. Discussions were enjoyable and diverse and I loved the course content. I dreaded fitting so much in in one semester but it was clear and well grouped/structured. Favourite course, thanks so very much.”
And our favourite:
- “American History: From Lincoln to Clinton is the single greatest course taught at any point in history. The sheer amount of knowledge that I have gained in such a short amount of time has led me to believe that Clare and Mike are supernatural beings. I have decided to have children now solely so that I can provide more potential students for this course.”
Students were less enthusiastic about the assessment, with only 68% agreeing that “The assessment in this unit of study allowed me to demonstrate what I had understood” (22% neutral while 10% disagreed). The essay does require students to focus on a particular topic, but if it is answered very well, it will touch on at least one of the unit’s major themes, thereby enabling students to demonstrate the breadth of what they have understood. Thus we need either to change the assessment or to communicate to students better how they can link their analysis of primary sources in the essay to the broader themes of the course. The exam, which students had not yet done when they answered this survey, does require students to apply their broader knowledge of the themes of the course.
At the same time, a few students also had concerns about the amount covered in the course. We agree that this is a unit that gives breadth more than depth (aside from students’ own efforts in essays), but that is the nature of a survey unit. We encourage students to take more history in their senior years to focus on particular subject areas in more depth!
Finally, some students requested more information on the powerpoint slides. In future, Clare will provide statistics and other information that is hard to catch in lectures.