History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY2652 - Genocide in Historical Perspective (2007)
Unit Coordinator: Dr Dirk Moses
This unit was a great success, with 94% of students being ‘very satisfied’ (or simply ‘satisfied’).
Some students comments on the evaluation form questions are reproduced below. I comment briefly afterwards.
1. Learning outcomes and expected standards were clear
(98% Agree/Strongly Agree [A/SA] and 2% Strongly Disagree/Disagree [SD/D])
- The course outline made these very clear.
- Everything set out in the course outline really clearly including footnote/essay/tute presentation tips.
- Very clear UoS outline. Dirk was clear from the beginning.
- COMPREHENSIVE! UoS very helpful.
- Dirk was very clear on what was expected in each of the assessment topics.
2. Teaching of this unit helped to learn effectively
(A/SA 87%, N 7%, SD/D 5%)
- Helped develop essay skills further
- Lectures were really interesting and tutes were relevant
- Fantastic. My most interesting UoS thus far.
- Case studies were well chosen and genocide debate was stimulating.
- I really liked the combination of lecture, video and articles/discussion for each case. Also I appreciated the overview of each case before the scholarly debate about causes, etc., especially because I had no background knowledge of most cases.
- I found the teaching to be extremely effective, engaging and useful.
- Great lectures – well structured and good information.
- The lectures were interesting and well delivered. Tutorial discussions were encouraged by tutor.
- It got me to research and understand more.
- It’s refreshing to see a lecturer who actually cares about the topic.
- Dirk is brilliant!! Lectures were very clear and methodical, but tutes were fantastic. I really felt like we got to the crux of each article and Dirk was great at facilitating discussion and questions.
- I really liked the combination of lecture, video and articles/discussion for each case. Also I appreciated the overview of each case before the scholarly debate about causes, etc. especially because I had no background knowledge of most cases.
- It felt a like a bit of a writing course … which I think we all need. I didn’t know how to reference properly prior to this course (thank you).
- A good balance of guest lecturers added to the usual teaching.
- Dirk and Sandra [Kostner, the tutor, DM] were always willing to help. Sandra was fantastic in tutes.
- I loved the videos and how they were incorporated into lectures – not as substitutes but rather to make a point about the construction of history. Such a methodology is more relevant in understanding the philosophy of history than a unit like Writing History.
3. Helped me develop graduate attributes
- Essay writing skills developed
- Loved the global rather than Eurocentric focus (which prevails in the history faculty). The History faculty should have more courses like this.
- This unit encouraged me to question everything even more than I have before.
A high standard of work, participation and engagement with the course content was encouraged.
- As every history class does, yes. Better research skills, etc.
- I had to develop my own views on historical and political issues of the past and present. The unit made me aware of these and capable of discussing these issues.
Really reinforced for me how important it is to critically evaluate and question sources, not necessarily just to accept them as fact.
- I certainly ensured my sources were of a scholarly standard.
- The feedback provided about the essays was helpful because it went beyond subject matter. It covered generic essay writing and research skills.
- Research essay/first essay certainly enhanced critical analysis skills.
- This course was very useful in developing research skills, esp. since Dirk did not set reading lists, so you were expected to find your own material. I also felt my critical skills were developed in the constant questioning of different writers.
- I was forced to push my opinion out and be truly critical. I need this as I am a budding honours student.
- The writing of two essays rather than exam is definitely better and makes us engage in an argument more thoroughly.
- Enjoyed complex, difficult first essay, first lecturer who really questioned quality of writing.
I am more analytical now as a result of having undertaking this unit – plus I am taking more of an active role in keeping up to date with political issues. Terrified of the international community letting another Rwanda happen.
4. Workload too high?
(57 SD/D, 32% N, 11% A/SA)
- Gave extensions for reasonable reasons. Essays can be written at a comfortable pace.
- It was just right.
- Really good that there wasn’t an exam. Essay workload perfect.
- The tutorial material was not too heavy.
- In the end, not really. The (continually) adjusted due dates were fair, while the printed ones were a bit overwhelming. I hate 50% essays but adequate time was given.
- Two essays are enough and the readings were not too long.
- I think it was nicely balanced and I liked that the essays were structured differently and had to be approached differently.
- The reading for each tute was fairly minimal compared to other courses. Dirk also took into account busy weeks and was accommodating when we had problems with the textbook.
- The readings were variable but not excessive and it was good we had one essay due early in the semester.
5. Assessment allowed demonstration of what was understood
(N 15%, A/SA 85%)
- The [first] essay required you to demonstrate what you had understood about the book.
- I loved the 2 essay structures (1st everybody doing the same, 2nd extensive choice)- Very well done.
- About the concept of genocide, yes, but you didn’t really need to come to lectures for assessment. I came because I was interested in subject matter but you see that hardly anyone comes now.
- You could pick from a wide range of essay questions for the major essay which allowed for a maximum relaying of what you had learnt, as well as what you had an interest in.
- The essays allowed me to show that I was aware of the issues and to present my opinions on these issues. I enjoyed this immensely.
- Able to refer to abstract concepts and debates in essays. Although the number of case studies and concepts we addressed were too many to cover completely in the assessments.
- The range of choices for the second essay was good.
- Encouragement for students to include all their knowledge/skills was certainly evident.
- It’s great to be able to write our own questions and Dirk made sure we had a large variety of source material.
- Take homes, ‘diaries’ and other new-age nonsense hurts. Essays are the best.
Loved the first essay – it was so challenging! I know lots of people who hated it, but please keep it in.
6. Relevance to degree
(SD/D 2%, 8%, N, 91% A/SA)
- Looking at honours in history, so yes; it is relevant in that.
- I kept saying ‘what would Levene/Lemkin etc say about that’ in my other subjects.
- It was not really about relevance to my degree but about interest.
- I am a history major and this has been the best course so far.
- It was a great course which allowed me to see different perspectives and analyse like a historian.
- A BA … everything is relevant … but also the habit of questioning research and pulling ideas from different areas together to focus on one issue was helpful.
- It has given me good stuff to say @ dinner.
- Journos need to be well informed about such important topics.
- I am an Arts/Law student, being able to look at the genocide definition in international law and being able to research the ICTR was fantastic.
- I want to do honours on a genocide related topic. I feel that I am more critical now while reading.
- It’s really given me a deep interest in the international context of genocide and the important role we have in showing that.
- I’m converted wholeheartedly to the relevance of studying a concept comparatively.
- Not so much in terms of content but the course developed my research and communication skills.
- I’m doing a science degree, but offer [sic.] taking some of your history subjects – I wish I had done an arts degree (so I could do more of them).
7. Staff response to student feedback
(N 7%, 93% A/SA)
- Extremely critical feedback. But helped push development.
- The detailed feedback after the first essay was very helpful.
- Email responses quick and helpful.
- Dirk was good at monitoring an asking students their opinion of assessments and readings.
- He talks about it a lot, and extended the essays which I desperately needed.
- Staff were very responsive and student-oriented – which was pleasing.
- While not personally involved, I thought Dirk responded very well to student concerns about the lectures, assessments, etc.
- Emails were excellent – constantly felt up to date – good feedback. Thank you!
- Dirk was very helpful and very quick in responding to feedback. He was interested in the students’ issues and problems and was extremely helpful in solving them.
- Evident in the number of essay extensions and discussions about essays, etc. very helpful. Very much needed the extension!
- Dirk was hugely responsive to emails, etc.
- Dirk responded quickly to emails and appears to change the course in response to student feedback.
- Dirk always asked how we were going, whether it was about the amount reading required, the impact of standardization of credit points, how our essays were going and what he could do to make the course better.
8. Group work/discussions added to understanding
(SD/D 11%, 24%, 65% A/SA)
- Tute discussions were always really interesting and helped make the readings clearer.
- Very helpful to get other peoples’ perspectives.
- Tutorials were invaluable. I really feel I learnt a lot in them – but not enough people contributed.
- Discussing the issues with others brought up opposing views and was very thought provoking. These were helped along by Dirk.
- They were very helpful.
- Tutorials were good. Not overwhelmed by lengthy and one-sided tute presentations, but just enough to get discussion started.
- Tutorials were also informed and engaging.
- Very good class discussions.
- Tutes were especially useful in this regard.
9. Timely and constructive feedback
(2% SD/D, 6% N, 93% A/SA)
- Marked essays fairly quickly
- The in-depth essay feedback was very useful.
- Good, detailed feedback by lecturer.
- The essay feedback was very helpful.
- Emails answered promptly and essays returned quickly with extensive comments, thanks!
- Exceptional, timely communication. Thanks Dirk.
- Detailed feedback about the first essay was provided.
- It was a little critical … but totally valid. Constructive is definitely the term to use.
10. Learning materials helped in understanding
(11% SD/D, 9% N, 79% A/SA)
- The readings were mostly great – combination of conceptual issues and case studies kept them interesting and it was easy to relate them to each other.
- Generally, the readings were great.
- A good mix of articles.
- Placing the relevant readings in reserve was a good idea. They were convenient and easy to find online. Also it was cheaper than buying the course reader.
- All our readings were online .. so yes.
11. Encouraged/stimulated thinking
(2% SD/D, 6% N, 94% A/SA)
- Content was very thought-provoking and we always questioned rather than simply learning ‘facts’.
- Really opened my eyes to the broader issues covered with genocide.
- I found genocide in Australia particularly interesting and challenging to nation-building.
- My general knowledge about international structures, law, etc. about individual countries dramatically increased.
- Was very thought-provoking and interesting.
- As it core, this unit helped me re-think and evaluate my conception of genocide.
Absolutely. Very well rounded course – I learnt a fair bit.
- Good range of case studies – I now feel I have a much broader knowledge of genocide in the 20th century.
- Through analysis of different historical events and issues, I learnt more about the present world and the issues which are at hand today.
- Gave me a new appreciation of scholarly practices/attitudes.
- Material was brought in from other academic disciplines, such as philosophy, anthropology and law.
- I liked that we were able to examine the concept of genocide in so many different contexts and could see was such critiquing skills very useful to contemporary life.
We were forced to be critical looking at different cases.
- I forged opinions on topics that I didn’t realise I felt so strongly about.
- Especially in revising my own (perhaps naïve) views on certain events, notably Australian history.
- The course really opened my eyes to issues in the world that I had little or no idea about, despite their importance.
- This unit has really provoked a high level of intellectual curiosity into this area of study and I hope to use it potentially for an honours thesis.
(94% A/SA, 6% neutral)
- Looked interesting when I enrolled and was really satisfied by the course.
- The course was extremely interesting and Dirk gave very useful advice on essay writing. It was a shame numbers dwindled towards the end of the semester in lectures – perhaps they should be compulsory. The first essay was a very useful exercise in understanding the definition of genocide and writing in an academic manner.
- Overall, a very interesting and engaging course. I appreciated the breadth of content which goes beyond the traditional Eurocentric subjects offered in history.
- Fantastic OoS. Dirk and Sandra are to be highly commended. I really hope that they conduct more history courses in 2008. Please!!
- This unit has been my favourite of all the ones I’ve done at uni. I appreciated the combination of empathy and critical thinking in approaching the issue. Lectures were really good (i.e., I actually wanted to go to them) and I think I have a much better understanding of the world after doing this unit.
- The UoS was well organised and very engaging. It was thought provoking and covered a good range of topics.
- I really enjoyed the course and couldn’t suggest any major changes.
- I enjoyed myself. It was well-designed.
- Very interesting topics. Excellent lectures – well delivered and neutral; interesting to listen to. Tutorials: good discussions helped along by tutor.
- It was a great course in general and I enjoyed it every week. Thank you.
- Definitely my favourite subject of the semester. Really interesting and informative.
- I really liked the lectures, they kept me entertained and interested. A fascinating area of study.
- This was a really strong, informative and interesting unit. I think other units that allowed for closer analysis of certain genocide case studies that are raised would be great.
- The best course I’ve done at uni. Made me think critically. Thought essays were a good way to test knowledge.
- Best course I’ve undertaken.
- Despite the harrowing subject matter, this was a fantastic and always interesting course. A lot of the content was eye opening (eg. Armenian case) and genocide is a concept so relevant to current society (eg. Sudan). Thanks you so much Dirk for a great semester of lectures and tutes (see, I’m at the final lecture!).
- I really liked it. Dirk seemed to always be organised and composed and knew what he was going on about. His ‘student orientated nature’ made him very approachable. It was good to watch videos. The two hours lectures weren’t a drag.
- He was ‘cool’ and ‘strict’ which made us love and hate him. Thanks for all
- Perhaps my favourite course this year, stimulating and there was leeway to pursue my interests along with the rigidity of the first essay enabled me to learn new material.
- This unit has greatly broadened my perception of many historical and current events. It ties in very nicely with the other half of my degree – government and international relations. It’s a very well rounded and informed unit, not to mention very interesting.
- Fantastic unit. Thoroughly rewarding. The perfect example of where effort (to read, attend lectures etc.) was rewarded with satisfaction and knowledge. This is my last semester, and after five years, I can say that his unit has been my favourite. I cannot applaud you enough for this engaging, interesting, RELEVANT unit!!!!. THANK YOU.
- Best subject I have had so far, and this is my forth year . Sometimes you (Dr. Moses) come across as obnoxious, but to be fair, so do your students.
- Thanks for having such interesting lectures. They were all handled with great sensitivity too.
I noted the following trends in the comments:
Delivery of Tutorial Reading – Reading Pack or Online?: There is a consensus there that it should be a reading pack, but it is difficult to meet the deadline to provide a hard-master copy of the readings months before the unit is offered when one is abroad on research, as I often am. In future, I shall return from research trips a few months earlier so I can prepare the reading brick. The paramount priority is student-centeredness not research.
Lectures: Numbers did dwindle, and students commented that they will only attend lectures to the bitter end if the material is covered in an exam. And yet the consensus is not to have an exam. I conclude, therefore, that the majority would rather not attend lectures if they do not have to. I am happy to lecture to those students who are intrinsically interested in the subject matter. Here are a few comments on this matter:
- “The assessments were both very specific, making lectures a bit pointless (at least in terms of getting better marks).”
- “Nice to sit and absorb lectures rather than scribbling notes in the hope you may want them in an exam – much more effective for understanding.”
- “Most students in my opinion don’t attend the majority of lectures unless there is an exam!”
First Essay: Many students felt that reading an entire book was excessive for an essay. Reading a book from beginning to end is an important skill for BA students in particular, so I shall not change this requirement, although I will explain it better in the outline next time.
Second, Long Essay: A number of students said they were intimidated by a 50% essay, but then many students also opposed exams, which could reduce the weight and length of the essay. One could have alternative assessments, but they would all detract from the long essay, which is the focus of the unit.
I am grateful to my esteemed colleagues Shino Konishi, Wendy Lambourne, and Adrian Vickers for giving expert guest lectures, which were greatly appreciated by the students as well. As usual, the library staff, especially Karen Chilcott, were exemplary in expediting the availability of research resources for the unit. They have my thanks, too.