History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY2056: A House Divided: The American Civil War (2004)
Unit Coordinator: Dr Frances Clarke
Only 56% of students responded to the unit of study evaluation for this course, which seems curious given that almost the entire class was assembled when I distributed the evaluations. Nonetheless, out of this number, 93.5% of students either agreed on strongly agreed that they were satisfied overall with the quality of this course, while 6.6% (or 5 students) were neutral.
Lovely comments along the following lines were numerous:
- “A thoroughly enjoyable, inspiring & challenging unit.”
- “This was my favorite course this semester due to the lecturer’s passion and enthusiasm for subject matter.”
- “Give her a cash prize and/or a raise.”
Students also voiced a number of criticisms. The most frequent complaint was that there wasn’t enough books in the library (or enough to go around). This is something I am trying to remedy, in particular by attempting to build up the undergraduate library’s holdings of the key texts that students need for assignments.
There were a few disgruntled comments about the length of the readings, although the vast majority of students either agreed or strongly agreed that the workload was not too high. Given that the weekly readings usually averaged 50 pages or less I’m not intending to change the size of the readings – although I will be taking off a few articles or primary sources that did not generate as much debate or seem as useful as others (following several insightful suggestions made in the evaluations).
Most students agreed that the assignments were adequate and allowed them to demonstrate what they had learned. But a couple of students suggested that there was not enough time to complete the research essay. I’ll change the date next year in light of these comments. I was surprised by the half-dozen complaints I received about the nature of the first assignment – which asked students to review a book in Civil War history written in the past two decades, discussing the author’s methodology, use of sources, narrative strategy, etc. Apparently several students had never encountered this type of assignment before. When I re-write the syllabus next year, I’ll either alter this assignment or spend more time explaining what does or does not constitute a decent book review.
Once again, several students asked for lecture notes. I provide lecture outlines on the class website, but I do not intend to offer detailed lecture notes. This is a lecture course, which means that students should be attending the lectures. On the other hand, there was quite a bit of praise for the website itself – especially for the section that lead students to appropriate material for use in their research papers.