History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY 2666 - American Revolutions (2009)
Unit Coordinator: Dr Michael McDonnell
The unit consisted of two lectures, plus a skills-based tutorial, and assessments that included a 500 word essay proposal early in the semester, a 3000 word essay, and a 1000 word take-home exam (plus tutorial participation). PowerPoints were used to illustrate the lectures; the audio lectures were recorded and placed, along with a brief outline of each lecture, on a Sydney eLearning site.
This is the third time this unit of study has been offered at the University of Sydney, and with a satisfaction rating of 92% (and only one student of the cohort dissatisfied), the course has maintained its popularity among the available early modern options. Student comments indicate that this popularity was due to the high quality of lecturing by Dr. Michael McDonnell, and tutoring by David Cunningham, with particularly mention of the promptness of the marking, copious comments, all conducted in a relaxed and informal learning style. Perhaps most appreciated was the course’s responsiveness and flexibility to student feedback, with 98% of the candidature agreeing with how the course was conducted via an ongoing dialogue over students’ preferences and needs.
The feedback indicates that the tutorials were almost universally enjoyed, though some felt that discussions as an entire tutorial were more successful than small group discussion. Further, the ‘tough love’ of requiring students to come to tutorials prepared with a question arising from the readings with an accompanying paragraph, though it occasioned some grumbles at the start of the course, soon came to be recognized as a very effective method of honing the students’ understanding of each week’s topic. Some students were a little daunted at the length of the readings (which we will trim next time), and some expressed dissatisfaction at the size of some of the tutorials, which of course is beyond the control of the course coordinator and tutor.
Some Sample feedback:
- ‘David and Mike both did a great job. The breadth of the course was at first a bit daunting but from a place of little knowledge re the era I feel as if I have both broad understanding of the important themes and intimate knowledge of some focus areas’
- ‘Both the lecturer and tutor were first class and I could not have asked for better. Both have a great understanding of what students want and need. It was never boring and they are very approachable. This was my favourite class in three years!’
- ‘The unit was interesting and thought-provoking. I enjoyed the focus on deconstructing the myths of the Revolution.’
- ‘Michael is a great lecturer and is really passionate about what he teaches, which makes it easier to learn actively’
- ‘Love Michael McDonnell- took this course because I knew he was lecturing! Excellent lectures.’
- ‘Fantastic course all up. Lectures really great.’
- ‘Tutorials were particularly excellent, as was David as a tutor. By far the best tutor I have had. ‘
- ‘Tutes were great. As much as I hated the hand in question thing at the start, it really helped me engage with the content than I might’ve otherwise’
- ‘The tutorials were fantastic they were by far the most interesting and enjoyable that I have had in my 3 years at uni. The calibre of the teaching was first rate’
Assessment and feedback:
- ‘Wow! Lecturers that actually return assignments before the exams! I love the long comments, detailed info for improvement ‘
- ‘David was very receptive to the mid-semester evaluations. He really tried to incorporate our feedback, and when he didn’t he explained why he didn’t’
- ‘Email response was great, and quick. Also David would take on board our preference for groupwork in tutorials and alter the tutorials accordingly’
- ‘Very quick marking, and feedback helped me to develop my research topic and gave me good ideas for what direction to take’