History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY3003 - Australian Cultural History (2004)
Unit Coordinators: Mr Richard White, Dr Maggie MacKellar, and Dr Jill Levenberg.
This course had to be taught in four separate seminars, including one just for international students, by three different members of staff. The response across all classes was very positive. On the statement ‘Overall I was satisfied with the quality of this unit’, the international class had a satisfaction rating of 85% (ie adding ‘agree’ and ‘strongly agree’) while all three of the other (Honours) classes had satisfaction ratings of 100%. Indeed one class had 100% of students ‘strongly’ agreeing, a result that is impossible to improve on.
The Honours classes felt the expectations were clearly set out in the course guide, and enjoyed the high level of discussion. In all three classes, the quality of the teaching was remarked on: the comments ‘A joy to learn from’, ‘great teaching got me interested & wanting to learn’ and ‘the best tutor I have had at university’ spanned the three separate classes. They generally thrived on the seminar structure, feeling they became more involved, though some recognised it depended on how much the individual student put into it. Many commented positively on the feedback they received, on the individual guidance on essays and on the approachability of staff. A number also thought the variable assessment structure (giving more weight to the better of the two essays) was ‘really good’. Many were able to identify specific skills the course had honed, and felt there was good balance between the scope to work independently and interaction with the group. One of the pleasures of teaching in these joint 3rd/4th year Honours classes is seeing the camaraderie that develops among the students. One student felt ‘overlooked’ but another said ‘the mix of 3rd year and 4th year students was different and helped me to decide to do 4th year history honours.’
The international students also enjoyed the experience, often finding the seminar structure and the relatively small class novel. ‘This was my favourite class as an exchange student’; ‘I have learned to write “historically”’. Unfortunately the two ‘neutral’ evaluations had no specific criticisms to make. Under the new structure from 2006 this course will not be available to international or 3rd year students.
Several students made the point that the load was more than would be expected in a 4 credit point course, and this is the case, which will be addressed under the new structure where all courses are worth 6 credit points. Nevertheless, most were quite happy with the workload given these were honours courses. A number commented positively on the reading lists which encouraged diversity in reading, but some thought that people’s reading was too diverse for effective discussion, and one suggested one core reading be required each week. Under the new structure, we will adopt that for the new 3rd year ‘Sydney’ course, but will maintain the current structure for the ‘Australian Cultural History’ course, which will now be only available to 4th years and postgraduates; nevertheless we will try to give more guidance on readings as we go.