Response to Student Feedback
HSTY2670 - New York, New York (2006)
Unit Coordinator: Dr Stephen Robertson
In answer to the question, "Overall I was satisfied with the quality of this unit of study," 95% agreed or strongly agreed, producing an average score of of 4.59 out of 5, while 98% agreed or strongly agreed that "The teaching in this unit of study helped me to learn effectively," an average score of 4.63. These very high scores were extremely pleasing given that this was the first time that this unit was taught (but only a small proportion of the class completed the evaluation; others did respond with comments by e-mail).
Student comments reinforced those numbers:
- "After three years of courses at Sydney university this was the most organized, enjoyable and worthwhile"
- "The most interesting and well taught subject I’ve done"
- "New York, New York, it’s a hell of a course"
Students also appreciated the unit's focus on place, even as many struggled to get their heads around what this meant. One typical comment noted, "The approach taken in this unit was very different to the other history units I have done – made me think about some things in different ways."
Nonetheless, some clear issues did arise. This was an extremely large class, over 350 at its peak, the largest class in the History department this semester, and far more than anyone expected. That large enrollment produced two problems – larger than usual tutorials and heavy demands on library books. With the knowledge that this course draws such numbers, I will order additional books and plan for additional tutorials in future years.
In response to the shift to 6 credit point units of study and the drop in the amount of assessment that can be set for a senior unit from 6000 words to 4500 words, the unit required a major research paper of 3500 words and no exam. Students almost uniformly reported a desire for an exam. The assessment meant that the major essay was worth 65% of the final result, a weighting that many students found worrisome. Many also reported a desire for an exam to allow them to examine the broad themes of the course. The absence of an exam also caused attendance at lectures to drop off, even though students reported that the lectures were some the best they had had at Sydney.
It is clear then that I need to add an exam: the next time the course is taught it will include a take-home examination and a research essay of 2500 words worth only 40% of the total mark.