ENGL30771 READING POPULAR NARRATIVES 2010-11
COURSE UNIT DIRECTOR PROF JACKIE PEARSON
This year’s questionnaires were gratifyingly positive. Students ‘really enjoyed the course – my favourite so far’, ‘the most entertaining module I have taken’. They thought it was well structured, and that the ‘content was varied and fun’ and ‘the books were fantastic’. Despite the large group sizes, many students remarked that ‘class discussion was excellent’, ‘very engaging and illuminating – very well led and prompted’, and the ‘atmosphere encouraged [them] to contribute’. They commented that the course had ‘changed my way of reading popular texts’, ‘made me think about why’, ‘reminded me of the pleasures of reading’, ‘challenged my pre-conceived notions’.
The teaching on the course was generally highly rated (‘one of the best teachers’), and the tutor was considered ‘helpful and approachable’, prompt in responding to e-mails, and ‘the most welcoming door in the English corridor!’ (One student, asked to comment on what particularly helped learning and development, said ‘Probably Jackie’!) This year, partly as a response to continuing large class sizes, I tried to introduce more personal elements – one to one meetings to discuss the planning of the coursework essay, and to discuss and return the marked essay – and so many students appreciated this that I shall try to continue with this and extend it to other courses. I also introduced optional writing exercises, which a few students took advantage of and also appreciated.
Most students commented specifically on how useful they had found the Blackboard material – ‘brilliant’, ‘amazing use of Blackboard’. This encourages me to keep posting summaries of class discussions on Blackboard and extend this to other classes, and perhaps to expand what is available (maybe, as one student suggested, to include model essays).
Almost everyone commented appreciatively on the promptness, quantity and quality of the feedback (even when they had been disappointed with individual marks): ‘very constructive’, ‘excellent’, ‘exceptionally detailed and very helpful’, ‘very detailed and very prompt’, ‘the most extensive I have had so far ... detailed, personal and constructive’. I also, this year, gave written feedback on presentations, and that too was appreciated.
The usual criticisms – of large class sizes, and the shortage of copies of books in the library – were repeated by one or two students, but much less than in previous years; possibly the availability of Blackboard and other e-resources, and strategies like one to one meetings, have helped. One or two suggestions were made, but only by one or two students, so I will think about them but not necessarily consider them a clear mandate for change – that the 2-hour block be broken up with a coffee break; that a lecture should be added to the seminar; that the presentations should be assessed; that more theory be added. In terms of syllabus, most students were happy, though a couple hated Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (though I still think this raises interesting issues!), and one wanted a return to The Da Vinci Code (which last year’s students hated). I will give these full consideration before running the course again.