History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY4011 - Writing Place: Land, Memory and Place in History (2004)
Unit Coordinator: Dr Maggie Mackellar
This course was offered for the first time in Semester One 2004. The level of student engagement, enthusiasm and participation was of an exceptionally high level. As a general seminar this course aims to accommodate honours students from different historical backgrounds. Another focus of the course was a writing workshop where students were encouraged to submit a small piece of writing for a master class. We also discussed what constituted good historical writing and how students could improve their argument through attention to structure and expression.
Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive. On the statement ‘Overall I was satisfied with the quality of this course’ 80% strongly agreed and 13.7% agreed and 6.7% were neutral. Scores on most questions were above satisfactory. In particular 94% felt that the course had improved their skills in written communication. There were a lot of positive comments about the discussions and readings: class discussion ‘clarified ideas, brought out a lot of new ideas and ways of understanding’; ‘introduced huge variety of new concepts and literature that otherwise I would be completely unaware of.’ Other students commented on the way seminars were run: the seminar leader ‘was very good at both directing us toward important questions and allowing us to feel comfortable to explore our own ideas with others’. Students also found the course useful in preparing to write their thesis. ‘helps me in my own research and thesis writing, it also challenged my understandings’ … ‘it helped me write better essays and reduce the confusion in my writing.’
There were areas that students felt could be improved. One student suggested that an assessment could be introduced much earlier in the semester. This is something that I would like to do. At the moment students are required to hand in 500 words on their seminar presentation, this disadvantages those who present later in the semester. I will consider changing this to a compulsory exercise early in the semester in order to give students some feedback on their writing. Another student suggested there be fewer essential readings. I will be reducing the essential reading this will allow students to delve into the further reading in greater depth. Another student requested clearer direction on the essay topic, which is purposely a general question. This direction will be built into the course outline next semester. Finally several students expressed frustration at the actual evaluation process. By 4th year they were sick of filling out evaluation forms that they felt had little to do with the course. One student wrote: ‘Education and teaching is much more than can ever be expressed on these frustrating and useless forms.’ Next semester I will be working with the Institute for Teaching and Learning in providing students a feedback form that reflects the specificity of this course in their education. I enjoyed teaching a course that brought together such highly motivated and diverse students.