History Department Response to Student Feedback
HSTY6996 - Literary London (2008)
Unit Coordinator: Dr Chris Hilliard
This unit received a 100% satisfaction rating in the student evaluation surveys (eight of the ten enrolled students competed the questionnaire). I found this unit tremendously stimulating (and a lot of fun), and I was very pleased that the students enjoyed it too. Some sample comments:
- ‘gave me a rich comprehension of a subject I was not previously aware of’’
- ‘triggered broader-based thinking around the subject’
- ‘Really wonderful unit - probably the best and most enjoyable of my uni career so far ... Students had a great deal of freedom. There was a strong sense of us all being in it together, rather than a top-down approach. Class discussions interesting and varied. Loved it! Would almost like to form a reading group...’
The distinctive feature of this class was the way we handled reading. Each week students read one piece of reading in common, and an additional reading, chosen from a list of possibilities in the syllabus, which each student was expected to ‘broker’ to the class as a whole. Six times during the semester each student posted a reflection on their individual reading for that week on the course’s WebCT site, to give the other students more to go on and so facilitate discussion.
My thinking was that this system would give students the opportunity to explore questions that especially interested them, and that (as I put it in the unit outline) ‘the combination of common and additional readings will enable the sort of stimulating exchange that becomes possible when we strike a good balance between shared background and diverse perspectives.’ It worked better than I could have hoped. One student wrote that the combination of individual readings and WebCT posts (‘very helpful and a great idea’) ‘really added to breadth of discussion’. Another commented: ‘Posts helped facilitate discussions - and gave students access to broader reading.’ One student wrote that these arrangements fostered group work: ‘This was a particular strength of the subject, with the weekly online posts of readings informing discussions in the seminar.’
A number of students appreciated receiving feedback and a provisional mark on their WebCT posts half-way through the semester. However, one commented: ‘feedback on posts needs to be done after 3 have been completed by students so we can react accordingly earlier.’ I agree and will do this when I teach this class again in 2009. Students made two other suggestions that I’ll adopt: first, that I give guidance about the major essay earlier in the semester; secondly, that the additional readings be allocated further in advance of the relevant class.