Friday 21 January 2011

Responses to Student Feedback - Cities of Dreadful Delight (Natalie Zacek)

On the whole, responses to this module were very positive. Students found the lectures stimulating, informative, and well-organised, and benefitted from the use of handouts for each lecture. Several students mentioned that they had enjoyed looking at overlapping concepts (race; class; ethnicity; poverty) and juxtaposing diverse case studies with one another, although a couple of students would have liked a more interactive style in the lectures. The readings were universally popular, seen as varied, interesting, and easily available. The majority of students also felt that the seminars were worthwhile, that challenging material was explained in a helpful manner, and the group discussions were engaging, although a few expressed concern about the non-participation of some classmates, and thought that this problem could be addressed by the distribution ahead of time of questions for discussion, an idea that I’m quite happy to consider for next year.
Feedback was viewed quite positively; most students saw it as substantive and constructive in relation to written work, though some stated that it could have been somewhat clearer or more concise. A number of respondents expressed that they were pleased with how rapidly they gained a response to e-mail queries. Nearly all of the students seemed satisfied with the module’s learning resources, including Blackboard, JSTOR, Google Scholar, and other online databases, as well as various hard-copy resources in the JRUL.
The only element of the course with which there was some dissatisfaction was the assessed essay. Although I didn’t disaggregate the returns from the AMER and HIST codes, my sense on reading the comments was that, while the AMER students really enjoyed the less traditional nature of the assignment (an annotated discography of music related to themes in urban history) and found it an interesting and innovative project which encouraged them to use different types of sources in historical analysis, some of the HIST students felt that the project was too different from the sorts of questions to which they were accustomed on HIST modules, and were concerned that they would receive a Level 3 mark for an assignment structured in an unfamiliar way. While I understand their concerns, I intend to retain this assignment for the future: the majority of students, year on year, perform well on it, many students have told me that they really enjoyed it, and the external examiner has specifically praised it. However, I will continue to emphasise to students, as I did in this and the previous year, that, if they really feel uncomfortable with this assignment, they are welcome to select a previously unused question from the list of non-assessed essay questions, and use that instead for the assessed essay.

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