History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY3651 - Writing Place (2006)
Unit Coordinator: Melissa Bellanta
The overall response to this unit was really positive. 100% of students agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: 'Overall I was satisfied with the quality of this unit of study'. Students loved the amount of detailed and ‘intellectually enriching’ feedback I gave on assessment tasks. They were also stimulated by the focus on place. (‘I hadn’t given “place” much thought before this class and now I can see it profoundly impacting everything I do’).
Almost all students liked the fact that the unit was open-ended: the fact that it presented general ideas and theories about place which allowed them to pursue what interested them in assessment tasks. Given this, I’ve decided to put even more emphasis on students’ personal responses to the issues discussed in the seminars this semester. I have also slightly changed the essay task. Students will now choose a place that is personally important to them. They will write about why this is the case and about how their personal responses relate to the way that the place has been represented over time. Students will also write a post for the class blog I’ve created this semester instead of writing a seminar discussion paper. This will (I hope) encourage an even more direct and personal engagement with the seminar themes.
One or two students did feel more directive ‘teaching’ during seminars would have made them easier to follow. This is admittedly a constant thing to try and balance during a seminar unit. On the one had you want to avoid dominating discussion. On the other, you want to make sure that discussion isn’t incoherent. All I can say is that I will be working hard to strike that balance this semester.
Students’ biggest criticism was that not enough allowance had been in the assessment expectations for the shift to 6 credit point units. The amount of reading expected, and not enough time for the essay, meant that some students felt the quality of the work they submitted was poorer than they would have liked. To deal with this, I’ve reduced the amount of reading expected across the unit, added two reading weeks along with an essay workshop to help students prepare for their essay, and reduced the word limit of the assessments by 250 and 500 words respectively. I hope it helps!