History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY 2047 Renaissance Italy: The Renaissance in Florence (2005)
Unit Coordinator: Dr Kathlen Olive
As in previous years, this Unit of Study received an overwhelmingly positive response from students: 98% agreed that the quality of the unit was satisfactory.
Given that this course is being run again in Semester 1 2006 as HSTY 2647, I have had the opportunity to address some of the concerns raised by students in their feedback. One student summed up a general concern when s/he wrote “The list of extended readings was sometimes dauntingly long.” The Italian Renaissance has been studied in great detail over a wide range of time and there is thus a wealth of secondary information available on the subject…but it is acknowledged that long reading lists can sometimes work against their principle of giving students a precise point to start their own inquiries. Accordingly, Further Reading lists were streamlined this year: students have been given broader directions to relevant materials, in addition to focussed suggestions for research on particular aspects of ideas or themes.
One aspect of the Unit of Study that was particularly appreciated by students was the opportunity to ask questions at the end of each lecture; one student commented that “people’s queries were treated as important to all students.” Given the intense nature of delivery (one block of two one-hour lectures + one tutorial weekly), I have incorporated a 10-15 minute “question time” at the end of each lecture, in order to give students the opportunity to raise any concerns, ask any questions, or offer any comments or feedback. I found this kind of interaction stimulating myself last semester – two hours is a long time to be talking at students with no feedback from them!
A number of students expressed some concerns about their ability to work with primary sources of all kinds (visual sources from the period naturally being central to a study of this period). My lectures incorporate a large range of examples of artworks, buildings and other “visual” evidence from the Italian Renaissance, and while students appreciated this (one commenting that they “were very well thought out and enhanced the value of lectures”), they noted that they were not confident in doing so themselves. As a result of this feedback, I have worked two hour-long workshops into the lecture series for this Unit of Study. One lecture will be a discussion of contemporary written documents; the following workshop will be a discussion of visual sources. Students will be provided with accessible examples of these sources (in addition to those included in the course reader!) and we will discuss how to approach them in order to gain maximum insight. In addition, a contemporary visual source has been included with each primary document in the course reader, in order to encourage students to try out such analyses in their tutorial presentations.
Finally, the teaching in both lectures and tutorials elicited overwhelmingly positive feedback: 94% of students found it to be effective. Many commented that their teachers seemed genuinely interested in their progress and in helping them to produce quality work. This feedback is thus also testimony to the efforts of Nick Gordon, who tutored in this Unit of Study.