History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY1088 Australian History: An Introduction (2005)
Unit Coordinator: Laina Hall
In 2005 Australian History: An Introduction aimed to provide students with an insight into the complexity of Australian history between the period 1880 to the end of World War One. In response to the question 'Overall I was satisfied with the quality of this unit of study,' 90% of students agreed or strongly agreed. In a course where the needs of domestic and international students need to be considered along with a range of ways of investigating Australian history this was a very satisfying result. One student commented:
'When I enrolled in this unit of study I thought it was going to be extremely boring. I was surprised by the way the lectures were conducted and the program as a whole. Not only have a acquired a much better understanding of Australian history, this course has whetted my appetite for more.'
One of the features of HSTY1088 in 2005 was the number of guest lecturers who presented throughout the course. The responses to this were varied and highlighted the need to maintain coherence and structure while also introducing students to different styles of presentation and ideas. In 2006 we will aim for a more integrated approach where the guest lectures fit more obviously with the course as a whole.
While most students (87%) felt the Unit of study outlines accurately described the unit one of the suggestions we will be taking on board regards additional reading. Exactly what is required, how much and where the readings are available will be reassessed for 2006.
Another satisfying result was the 85% of students felt staff were responsive to student feedback and 74% felt that feedback provided on assessment supported their learning. This is very much due to the great teaching effort from Katy Nebhan and Meredith Lake. A typical comment regarding the course was:
'I have felt more comfortable in HSTY1088 tutorials and lectures than in any other subject before.'
Thanks to the students for responding to the survey; it is a vital part of improving the courses over the years.
The issues that arose for students in this course go deeper than the differing backgrounds and knowledge levels of those who took it. Teaching a unit which consciously aims to unsettle rather than reinforce many of the truisms about Australian identity and heritage will always provoke divided responses - as it should. The unit was designed to introduce students to the complex historical stories that entwine nation and society in Australia, and to suggest that, for example, urban growth and policies regarding childhood and youth at the turn of the century had as much impact on the development of national history as did the experience of Australians who fought at Gallipoli (if not, indeed, rather more). Foundation myths such as Federation and Gallipoli therefore received relatively little attention. Some students found this perspective refreshing and exciting, some found it unsettling and even confusing. We will be striving in future versions of the course to eliminate the elements of confusion and make the excitement universal.