Response to Student Feedback
HSTY2029: Sex and Scandal (2005)
Unit Coordinators: Dr Frances Clarke and Dr Penny Russell
This unit has been offered since 1999. In the past, it covered a wide range of topics in periods spanning late Republican Rome to the contemporary White House scandals of the 1990s. For the first time in 2005, the unit was team-taught by Dr. Frances Clarke and Associate Professor Penny Russell. To take advantage of our mutual research fields and interests, we decided to adopt a narrower focus. Now, the unit concentrates on the period between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries, and on specific comparisons drawn from European, Australian, British and American sources. We were especially lucky in securing Catie Gilchrist, a specialist on scandals in colonial Australia, as a guest lecturer and tutor. According to many students, one of the highlights of participating in this unit was having Catie as their tutor.
To judge from the overwhelmingly positive student feedback, the revisions we made to the syllabus worked particularly well. Rarely do units generate the kind of thoughtful and enthusiastic commentary that this one received. It was clear throughout the semester that students were not just riveted by the subject matter but also genuinely interested in how the course was taught. And when they came to fill out their evaluations, they made this clear. Here are just a few of the lovely comments we received:
- "Brilliant, creative, enjoyable, interesting lectures that were both extremely informative and ultimately inspiring."
- "I was VERY impressed with the quality of teaching, [and] the lecturers’ passion for the subject which made me enjoy it as much as them."
- "Fabulous course, wish I could do it again next year!"
- "I loved this course. It is the best history I have done in my three years at Uni. Brilliant topics, and I learnt a lot of new things and new approaches to history that I would like to pursue."
- "A ‘fresh’ approach to history, contrasting America to Europe and colonial Australia was interesting, [in adopting] a trans-national approach."
- "This course was fun, interesting, & educational. The lecturers were fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed this unit of study. Thank you.!"
Students also acknowledged the “clear outlines,” the “very useful website” (which is extensive), the use of “effective” case histories, the “freedom to choose” their essay topics, and the “diverse and interesting” mix of subjects.
In aiming to improve this unit in 2007, we’ll be taking into account many of the suggestions that we received this year. In the following table we have listed all the changes that students suggested on their evaluations, along with our response.
|Include more primary sources (7 students)
||In 2007, we aim to add primary sources to at least 6 of the weekly readings.|
|Lessen the length of tutorial readings (17 students) and change the wording of tutorial assignment (3 students)
||Both will be done in 2007.|
|Requests for lecture notes on the web (3 students)
||We provided lecture outlines and posted them on the web. As this is a lecture course, however, we have no plans to offer detailed lecture notes.|
|Requests to put all readings in the unit reader (11 students)
||Unfortunately, copyright restrictions make it impossible for us to grant these requests. It is University policy to scan journal articles and provide them electronically (which we did). All other sources we placed in the unit reader.|
|Requests to place more books on special reserve (3 students)
||This will be done in 2007.|
|Too much weight was placed on the major essay. Request for smaller and more numerous tasks (2 students)
||This unit required students to complete a brief tutorial paper, a major research essay and a final exam. This allows for a mix of assessment tasks. The objective in setting a lengthy essay is to help students develop their research skills and their ability to sustain an argument at length. More and smaller tasks would defeat this crucial goal so we don’t intend to change this aspect of the unit.|
|Provide more questions for the major essay (1 student)
||We provided 10 broad questions, but we also spent a great deal of time consulting with students in order to develop individual topics - another highlight of the unit for many students. We will revisit our list of essay questions in 2007, but we would like to retain our emphasis on helping students come up with their own original projects.|
|Requests to change date of first assignment (2 students)
||We will revisit the date set for the tutorial paper in 2007.|
|More emphasis on modern scandals (3 students) or requests to reduce our time period and number of comparisons (2 students)
||When we come to revise the syllabus again in 2007 we will take another look at the particular scandals that we cover. But we don’t intend to go too far into the 20th century. As most students discovered, focusing on scandals in the past not only provided fascinating instances when social norms and rules were flouted, contested and constituted, they also enabled us to look at this process in particular historical settings. Often, this enabled students to think about modern scandals in new ways, and to draw on these insights in tutorial discussions.|