History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY2052 - Genocide in Historical Perspective (2005)
Unit Coordinator: Dr Dirk Moses
This is the second time I have taught this unit, which was offered for the first time in 2002. Since then, I have dropped the exam for a longer research essay, moved to powerpoint presentation, and shown more documentaries.
Great enthusiasm was shown my students: 94% expressed satisfaction, 6% were neutral. No student who completed the survey was dissatisfied. Here are some of the comments:
- 'Really enjoyed studying this unit. Genocide is something so relevant in society, yet remains highly misunderstood. It was very useful being able to do core studies which were relevant and practical in the world'
- 'I found this unit fascinating and believe it should be a compulsory part of every degree… This unit was amazing. I learnt a lot and broadened my knowledge and interest. It also insighted me to consider these themes for further study'
- 'Typical of the high standard of this uni’s Department of History, this unit has been both intellectually challenging, stimulating, and fulfilling. It has profoundly transformed my personal views of the world and has led me to consider a totally different career path to the one I had envisaged. Thank you Dirk and Gordon. Keep the Dream alive'
Students seemed happy with the feedback from myself and the tutor, Gordon Cooper.
- 'Excellent feedback provided by lecturer in short essay feedback – extremely helpful.'
82% said the feedback supported their learning, 12% were neutral.
Students were divided about the assessment schedule of a long and short essay. Some preferred it to an exam, while others felt the lecture material should be tested in an exam.
Eg. 'The question [for the essays] allowed me to argue my case. Plus because there weren’t exams, it was deeper learning.'
79% said the assessment allowed them to demonstrate what they had learned, 9% were neutral.
I am inclined to retain the current schedule, as it means that a major research essay is the centrepiece on the unit. Most students appreciated my aspiration for them to engage in independent research on a specific topic. Where I will make a change is in short essay. Many students felt its due date in Week Four was too early (the early due dates is designed to allow feedback very early in the semester). I will make it due a week later. They also felt that 1,500 words was insufficient to do the topic justice. Consequently, I will make it 2,000 words (at least) as well as assign it a greater proportion of the total unit mark. A number of students commented that they appreciated that they were forced to read a book on genocide in Australia for their first essay.
A number of students thought the reading load for tutorials was too high (two articles per week), while others felt it was fine for a senior unit. This division was reflected in the survey: 21% thought the workload too high, while 41% disagreed with that proposition. 38% were neutral. I shall be retaining the current load.
Students like the combination of powerpoint presentation and videos, so I shall be retaining this approach, especially in view of the ever increasing amount of good quality documentaries appearing on the subject. A typical comment: 'Dirk was clear, methodical, and extremely interesting. Vast amounts of information were given in a way that was easy to follow and very engaging.'
Some students said they would have preferred a thematic approach (perpetrator motivation, gender, rescue, post-genocide reconciliation) to the subject rather than the case study approach (eg. Rwanda, Armenia, etc.). In fact, the unit is a combination of the two approaches, gender and perpetrator motivation covered in a tutorial and lecture, for instance. My intention is for the students to be exposed to as many cases and approaches to genocide as possible, and for them to deepen their knowledge in one of them in their research essays.