History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY 2066 - American Revolutions (2005)
Unit Coordinator: Dr Michael McDonnell
This was the third unit of study I taught at Sydney to introduce students to the new and exciting field of historical studies that falls under the heading of “Atlantic History”. Here we focused much more intently on the American Revolution itself, but we also explored the series of uprisings, rebellions, and wars that rocked the Atlantic World and helped bring about the American Revolution. We also looked at the influence of the American Revolution on other Atlantic Revolutions of the period, including the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, the Latin American Independence movements, and slave and native rebellions throughout the Americas.
The number of students who completed the feedback forms was 27 of 40 students in total, for a 68% response rate. This is, of course, a statistically small sample, so the statistics below must be read in that light. The overall satisfaction rate for the unit of study, wherein students agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that they were satisfied with the quality of the unit of study, was 96.2%, with 3.8% (or 1 student) neutral. Students seemed quite happy with the clarity of learning outcomes and expected standards in the unit, with over 93% agreeing or strongly agreeing.
Learning and Teaching Issues
Over 92% of students thought the teaching in the unit of study helped them to learn effectively, with one student uncertain.
Most students seemed to enjoy the lectures a great deal, and appreciated the fact that we put them online via WebCT in case they missed anything. A few students commented that they would like to have learned a bit more about other Atlantic Revolutions, especially those in Spanish America. I had hoped to do more than we did on the connections between the different Revolutions, but didn’t quite manage to fit it in this year. I’ll try and bring in more material in future years.
Most students also seemed to enjoy the tutorials a great deal. I also did. We were fortunate to have a small class and so tutorial groups were also small. I also handed out separate tutorial feedback forms, and overall satisfaction with the tutorials was as high as 95% and 100% in the tutorials. We had some fun recreating the ratification debates, and we had an “online” WebCT discussion of Thomas Paine’s inflammatory pamphlet, Common Sense which generated much heated and informed discussion. Most students seemed to really enjoy the tutorials, and most students were very happy to do smaller group work before making the discussion more general. They enjoyed the interaction with each other and learning what other people thought about the readings. Over 80% of students thought that interaction with other learners was an important component of the work done in the unit, with 2 students uncertain and three students disagreeing, and just over 82% of students thought that they felt part of a group of students committed to learning.
Essays: Most students enjoyed defining their own essay question, and delving into independent research on issues that were relevant to the course and interesting to them. Many students felt that they developed their research skills in the course and were introduced to many new online and electronic resources.
Workload: In terms of workloads, 23% of students thought it was too high, but 46% of students disagreed, and another 31% remaining neutral. This would suggest the workload was about right, and maybe even a little light!
Feedback: Because of student feedback from my course in the previous year I ensured that there was a tutorial paper half-way through the semester, to give students more feedback on their progress. The tutorial paper consisted of a research statement and essay plan that was designed to help students construct their own essay question. This gave me a chance to give them individual feedback on their progress with their essays, which most students seemed to appreciate. Some students did think that the tute papers should have been due later in the semester, so that they could put a bit more work into them. Part of the problem this year was that the Easter Break fell too early in the semester. I also wanted to try and push students to get an early start on their essays. I might consider having a slightly later due date next time I teach this unit. Over 96% of students thought the staff were responsive to student feedback, with only one student uncertain. About 82% of students thought feedback on assessment effectively supported their learning, with 4 students uncertain, and one student disagreeing.
- The course was also really organised, which made a big difference
Material well researched and delivered with panache
The outlines used in the lectures were good.
The fact that we can listen to lectures online is awesome
This was a really well taught unit of study.
- Debates in tutes an excellent learning tool
The tutorials were fun and challenging
People seemed interested in the topics raised in discussion
Tutes run well and gave all a good opportunity to speak
There was a lot of interaction between staff and students especially via WebCT
WebCT was a good addition that should be encouraged throughout the history faculty
- It was good to be able to choose your own question, and having the example questions allowed for a bit of scope but gave direction
Good research skills developed
Stronger emphasis on research than usual in HSTY units.
It allowed me to learn to use resources I’ve never used before (eg. ECCO, Jstor)
- Mike displayed superb response time in giving feedback
Really good feedback provided in responding to queries, really helpful in meetings
Best feedback I’ve ever gotten! (not kidding!)
- Interesting material, taught with enthusiasm
Mike was a brilliant teacher
I like McDonnell’s attitude and teaching style. His passion came across in his lectures and enthusiasm
Mike’s style and obvious engagement with the topic encouraged others to get excited about it.
A seal of approval from a grumpy old man(!)
“It was like Jaws, only the shark was bigger!” (?! Please explain!)