Response to Student Feedback
HSTY2651 - Spanish Civil War (2009)
Unit Coordinator: Associate Professor Judith Keene
Tutors: Micaela Pattison and David Earl.
This course draws on students who are History majors, Spanish language majors as well as individuals with an interest in one or other of the political and social movements, left and right, that were so powerfully present in the Spanish civil war and its aftermath. Most students knew little about Spanish history. A number noted that they had found it very satisfying to study a single period of history in depth because such a close focus enabled a “more profound understanding of the past”. Overall, the response to the course was very positive with 93% of the students surveyed indicating that they agreed or strongly agreed that they were satisfied with the quality of this unit of study. Again, 89% surveyed indicated that the course had encouraged their thinking and enhanced a diversity of their ideas within and beyond the subject matter. Of those surveyed, 81% found the teaching in the unit effective while 85% could see the relevance of this unit of study in their degree. There were a number of students, however, who noted that they were “surveyed out” and exhausted with the levels of surveying in their courses. Several commentators as well bemoaned the size of the tutorial groups.
The engagement of the tutors and the liveliness of tutorial discussion in general were remarked upon. Micaela and Dave were at pains to encourage all students to participate and their commitment to their tutorial teaching responsibilities was appreciated. Students enjoyed the lectures and were enthusiastic about the use of contemporary visual material, photography, documentary and propaganda films made by participants in the civil war. One student commented “the acknowledgement of imagery and the visual as important to history was good”. Students were also appreciative of power point overheads and lectures being made available promptly on WEB CT. There was also applause for the promptness with which the course teachers dealt with emails and questions.
There were criticisms of the timetabling of the submission of written work. Because the mid-semester break came almost at the end of the semester, scheduling staggered assignment submission dates that would allow students the time to work on their assignment during the mid semester break was not useful though one commentator congratulated the teachers on the “one and a half week turnaround for both tute paper and research essay”. The criticism of the split assignment dates is perfectly valid and I will not attempt again staggered submissions in second semester courses, though it is effective in the first semester calendar. Some students also were unhappy with the lack of a tutorial participation mark because they felt there was less incentive to prepare for tutorial discussions. Several other students, however, commented that it had made them feel freer in tutorial discussion when there was not the sense of being graded on every remark they had made. The dropping the participation mark was prompted by the inevitability of large tutorial groups, which often preclude less self-confident students intervening in discussions. I take seriously these comments about the pros and cons of participation marks and will think carefully about how best to encourage full participation by students in large tutorial groups.