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Student Feedback on the Module

Response to end of module feedback

May 2019

Dear all,

Many thanks for taking the time to complete the end of module feedback exercise; your thoughts are vital for ensuring the module is the best it can be going forward.

It is gratifying to see that your responses have been, for the most part, very positive. Many of you commented that you found your seminars informative and engaging and that you enjoyed the variety of activities undertaken in class. There was also a lot of enthusiasm for the lectures, and particularly having a roster of different lecturers from several different departments, each of whom brings their own perspective and approach to the subject.

In terms of module content, there were some very positive remarks about the quantity and variety of primary sources that this module engages with, though one student did note that they would like more focus on secondary literature. There is clearly a balance to be struck between primary and secondary readings, and it’s true that almost all the ‘core’ seminar readings are primary texts. We will review readings for next year and discuss whether there should be some weeks that focus on debates in secondary literature, rather than having different primary texts each week.

There were several students who noted that they would have liked more geographic diversity – both eastern Europe and the impact of Enlightenment thought on the development of imperialism were mentioned. While there were two weeks of content that explicitly engaged with the world beyond Europe (‘the east’ and ‘empire’) it's true that the content is, for the most part, very Euro-centric. While the Enlightenment was, predominantly, a European intellectual movement I entirely agree that the module would benefit from a wider geographic scope and more active engagement with the problematic legacies of Enlightenment around the world. I hope that we can build this into next year’s course; I will certainly flag it with the new module convenor.

There were a few comments about assessment, and the desire for more frequent, but smaller, assessments. The department has just approved new assessment criteria for next year which will introduce 10% of module marks from oral assessment/classroom participation. This will (hopefully!) also help address the comments about the need for more emphasis on seminar attendance.

It has been a real pleasure working with you all this year. Our class discussions have prompted me to look at some familiar topics in new ways – one of the real joys of teaching is to be reminded that to be a historian is also to be an eternal student! I wish you all the best of luck with the rest of your studies here at Warwick.

All very best wishes,


Response to mid-module feedback

January 2019

Dear all,

Thank you all for completing mid-module feedback for The Enlightenment. I am delighted to hear that you are finding the course intellectually stimulating and enjoyable. Many of you commented that you have found the seminars productive and engaging spaces to explore ideas and that you appreciated the opportunity to develop and clarify your understanding of the more challenging texts. I have very much enjoyed participating in these discussions, too! Some students noted that they would like more group projects – I will make sure that we do at least one this term.

There was also a lot of enthusiasm for the lectures, which many of you said helped to put the reading in its wider historical context. There were a few comments about the speed at which lectures are delivered and the need for more details on the texts that lecturers refer to. To help address this I have sent all lecturers on this module a note asking them to provide a bibliography slide for their lecture detailing the main sources that they have discussed. I also noted your request for slow delivery, though this is partially a matter of personal delivery style! All the lectures are available on lecture capture via Moodle, so if you feel that you missed something you can always go back and listen again.

Several of you commented that you thought the quantity of set reading was realistic and that you liked being able to make connections between the various topics. One student noted that there was some overlap with the Making of the Modern World module and that this could feel repetitive. I would encourage you to see such repetition as an opportunity: how might what you learn in one module inform or nuance your understanding of the other? Do different tutors read the same text differently? I will, however, check that there are not more than one or two overlapping texts for the reminder of the module – but when modules are on similar periods and themes they will inevitably contain some overlap.

There was disagreement on the essay plan as a method of assessment. Some students noted that they liked having opportunity to sketch out their ideas, while others would have preferred to write a full essay. I will feed this into discussions over the structure of next year’s course. I hope that, having now received your plans back, you are happy with the quality and quantity of the feedback. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss your written work, please do go and see your seminar tutor in their office hours. We are always happy to help! There will be an extra lecture this term on the long essay, so I hope that this will give you sufficient guidance on what is expected for this assessment.

Finally, one of you commented that you thought the module needed to be more diverse. I entirely accept that, as a module on a European intellectual movement, there are more wealthy dead white men than average on this course! We have made an effort to introduce diversity where possible: women writers, interactions with non-European cultures, and aspects of social history all feature. However, curriculum diversity is an important issue, and one we are working hard, as a department, to tackle. If you have any specific ideas on ways you think we could address this (or some specifics on the groups that you feel are particularly under-represented on this module) please do get in touch: I would really appreciate the opportunity to discuss the challenge, and possible solutions, with you all.

I hope that these changes will help to enhance your learning experience going forward. As always, if you’d like to discuss anything relating to the module further please do get in touch, either via email or in my office hours.

All very best wishes,

Summary of student feedback for HI174, The Enlightenment
17 January 2018

Module Director Mark Philp; Seminar Leaders Michael Bycroft and Elisabeth Wallman

1. Student feedback
Most students said they were satisfied with the module
On the less positive side:
a) some lectures were better than others. Particular comments have been passed on to the lecturers concerned
b) some thought the lectures were sometimes overly factual; more analysis and less detail would have been appreciated – but that’s clearly not so for everyone, but it’s a balance we will encourage lecturers to reconsider.
d) And there were some comments about mixing up things in the seminars, using a variety of non-textual resources, doing more group work etc., - and we’ll take that on board.
e) some students wanted more advice about assignments prior to submission and felt that the criteria could be clearer in advance – and we’ll work on that. The essay plan in particular is a curious beast – but people do need to make sure they read what there is to read on the web-pages about exactly what is expected.
The most common positive comments were about:
a) the amount of debate that went on in seminars, eg. ‘inclusive and free-flowing debate,’ ‘we are made to think independently whilst also receiving guidance from my tutor in order to develop new ideas’, ‘I have found it both easy and enjoyable to engage in discussion in seminars to a greater degree than any other module’
b) the broad structure of the lectures: ‘The module builds on the knowledge gained each week’, ‘flows well’, ‘A good introduction to the enlightenment for anybody who hasn’t studied it’, ‘Lectures are the best I have, striking a good balance of in-depth detail and analysis whilst maintaining a pace that can be followed’
Students overall satisfied/very satisfied with the course: said they felt it was easy to participate in seminars, that their tutor was helpful and engaging, nice atmosphere, students enjoyed going into depth with the texts and generally feel that the seminars clarify the readings; generally students like the groupwork and feel that tutor encourages and stimulates debate
Students like the variety of topics and it is very encouraging that some students are pressing for more depth – the course covers a lot – but we hope to provide opportunities to doig deeper.

Opinion was divided on the following topics:
a) thematic breadth of the lectures – some praised this, saying that it gave them different perspectives on the Enlightenment and that there were clear links between the lectures; others wrote that the large number of themes meant that none could be developed in much detail
b) the amount of seminar reading – several thought the module got the balance right (‘Always a good amount of reading’, ‘Reading is a good amount; useful but not too much’) but not everyone agreed with this (‘The seminars require a great deal of reading and understanding’)
c) the level of difficulty of the lectures – several wrote that the module was ‘challenging’ or ‘complex’, but some considered this a strength whereas others considered it a weakness.
d) the inclusiveness of seminar discussions – some found the discussions more open than in other modules (see above). Others felt it was not open enough, being dominated by a handful of vocal students. Others had reservations about the tutor’s efforts to make it more open—efforts such as asking individual students for their opinion or eschewing judgements about the truth of falsity of what individual students say.

Responses to miscellaneous suggestions:
make the questions on seminar webpages less vague – we will look at this in the course review at the end of the year
do something about the acoustics in the lecture room, which mean that some lecturers are hard to hear – this sounds as if we need to encourage the use of the microphone
include more historiography in the lectures – there’s quite a bit touched on in the lectures – but we could add pointers in the readings to follow this up
include more on Russia and Eastern Europe – This is interesting, and there is some variation in different years in terms of how far (and when) it is covered – just as there is variation in how far the USA is covered. There is literature, but that means one thing students can do is address one of their essays to this.
And we’ll look at ensuring systematic lecture capture.

Over-all my sense is that there are some things we can work on – but that students feel they are getting a good deal from the course, and its gratifying to see them demanding more of us – at least some of which we should be able to deliver! It would be good to have a couple of volunteers in the summer term to work with us on reviewing the course content. If you are interested do get in touch.


Feedback, December 2016

Module Director Mark Philp; class teachers, Elisabeth Wallman and Francesco Buschemi:

Interestingly, there are very few consistent themes in people’s responses – people like and dislike various things, but there are not large groups of people disliking the same things, and in general there is a very positive reaction to the course.

According to the feedback, what went well was that people found it easy to participate, most students felt they did participate, they felt there was a good variety of activities, and they enjoyed debates

There was a suggestion for more classroom discussion rather than small group work; for the seminar tutor to summarise key arguments herself rather than get students to do it (although we think pedagogically that you just don’t learn the material and appreciate in the same way if that’s done – one person’s take is always just that); and some students found the seminar questions confusing at times (so we will look at them again at the end of the year).

Reactions to lectures varied – several people said that the lectures are interesting but sometimes hard to keep up with (too much information/too much information on powerpoint); some felt that particular lecturers stuck too closely to the powerpoint, and that the lecture was dull because of that; some felt there was too much in them, others liked a lot of content.

There was a general sense that people enjoyed the course and found it engaging and stimulating – although there was some sense of initial disorientation as few had any relevant background - and we should think about that in the opening weeks. It was also heartening that people did not want things simplified, and could appreciate that both the period, and how to think about the period, raise complicated issues about periodizing and generalising.

My sense over the last few years has been that, from this point on, people begin to feel more confident and feel they have enough background to contribute more.

Feedback 2015/16

Module Director Mark Philp

Response this year has been very positive. Partly because of the way I've structured the seminars this year my sense is that there's more participation and people are happier about their contributions. The course seems to have generated a good deal of interest and I was especially impressed with people's commitment to the BM and RA trip - where they really did make the most of the day.

PS1.28 is not liked - either its noisy because of the air conditioning, or too hot. We will see if we can find something better, but lecture rooms are in short supply.

I will also try and make sure PP presentations are up immediately after the lecture - I can see the value in that.

And we will look again at what we say about assessment criteria - this is the first year for essay plans and it was clear to me that people took this in many different ways.

But, in general, people seem enthusiastic, interested and responsive - and the groups have been a pleasure to teach.


Update following feedback at the end of the course:

Generally people seem to have got more confident and found the challenges more engaging, and are generally very happy with the way in which the course went. Which is pretty much how I feel about it. It is a challenging course - and people really did rise to the challenge!


Feedback 2014/15

Modiule Director Mark Philp

Thanks for filling in the forms. It is very useful to have your responses and they do make a difference to how we develop the course.Our sense of the bulk of the comments is as follows:There is a great deal of enthusiasm for the course which is very gratifying. We know it is demanding in lots of different ways, but people do genuinely seems to find it (or a great deal of it) interesting and engaging.T here is some concern amongst a minority that criteria for marking were not clear in advance – and we will make sure that these are on the course web-site, although they are also available on the first year website. For the long essay there will be a special lecture – to which you are encouraged to bring questions and issues you want to clarify.For marking scheme see: assessment in general see: people found some topics less interesting than others – and that was sometimes associated with the lecture on the topic (but not always). We’ll take that into consideration and talk to the lecturers concerned and will revise the list of topics for next year.There’s some criticism about ease of participation – which is always an issue when a lot of material is being covered. Group work was liked; student presentations were a bit less so – although lots of people found having to do them rewarding.There is some sense that there’s a lot to cover and that it is hard to participate confidently when that is the case., and we are sympathetic to that – but remember that you can participate by asking questions, about the readings, about how topics hang together etc. It is not always easy to know what you are finding puzzling – and it is helpful to us, and to you fellow students to try to articulate those things.

Feedback 2013/14

Module director and seminar leader: Mark Philp
There is a great deal of positive feedback for which we are grateful. But let us start with the other side.
Of the 40 responses, 4 people said that participation in seminars was a problem – but, the comments on the back of the sheet suggested that this is more widely seen as an issue. One reason for that discrepancy is that sometimes people feel it is their fault, and sometimes they think it is my fault. I think more of you should have said that. People are a bit reticent (both in seminars and about seminars), and we need to work on ways to encourage more discussion and overcome people’s reluctance to contribute – especially when they see the issues as complex – and you need to be better at signalling that you do find the material complex (this is not a single scale – people’s views about what they find complex vary a lot – and to get the groups to work effectively you need to be confident that you can raise questions and look for constructive input from others). One good suggestion (easier to achieve in some weeks than in others) is for us to try to find reading that produces very different opinions so that there is more of a debate. Some reading was seen as ‘laborious and confusing’ (we’ll review the course reading material at the end of the year). Some comments suggested that students might only be getting one side – I’m not sure that is true – but we might do more to identify the various ‘sides’ that are in play.
4 people also said that the criteria for assessment were not clear in advance. Although there is guidance on expectations on the web-site I have encouraged people to come and see when planning their work so that they are clear what the expectations are. The Wiki entry did throw some people – but, in fact, the results were very good.

There are also some comments on how much there is to cover and about material being referred to that goes beyond the set reading. I think the former is fair comment – but on the latter, I should say that the aim is to introduce a wider world of reference – you can’t possibly read everything – but you need to have an awareness of other material and approaches and to know that many of the issues we are discussing fit into other debates that have significance for the ways in which we understand the enlightenment and its legacy. You might also want to follow up some of the references if you find them suggestive. As Socrates might have said – the more you know, the more you know about how little you know. In being introduced to the Enlightenment you get to understand how complex and difficult to understand it is – but that is progress! Especially if it helps you think more clearly and carefully about how we should try and understand it.

On overall evaluations 14 were strongly positive and 26 positive.
Other factors – some expressed an interest in an essay skills writing session and I’ve introduced a session on that in preparation for the Long Essay.

For new students looking at this site to see what they are letting themselves in for - I should say that people seem to have come out of the course feeling a real sense of interest and achievement = and they produced some really good work in the course of the year. It is difficult and the ideas and issues are often complex and demanding - but people's reading, thinking and discussion really seem to have paid off in the course of the year.

Feedback 2012/13

Module leader: Mark Knights

Thank you for your feedback on how the module went last term. We are delighted that you have been enjoying the new module so much – we have had lots of very positive comments from you, especially about the engaging and stimulating discussions you have been having. Here are some of the things you put: ‘Very satisfied’; ‘the course itself is brilliant’; ‘thoughtful and engaging discussions’; ‘interesting topics each week’; ‘I liked the enthusiasm of lecturers’; ‘enthusiastic tutor’; ‘most people felt comfortable enough to contribute to discussions regularly’; ‘lecturers and seminar tutor were enthusiastic and very well informed’; ‘good variety of presenters’; ‘I liked the student-led seminars’; ‘the teaching is good’; ‘everyone contributes and I learn a lot from their ideas’; ‘excellent’; ‘I find the seminars really interesting’’ ‘the tutor is always supportive’; ‘makes the Enlightenment interesting’; ‘I like the idea of the Enclyclopedia’; ‘I liked the emphasis on document analysis’

The Encylopedia exercise caused a few of you a few frustrations – some of you would have like a little more explanation of the task, and for the technology to have worked a little more smoothly. Hopefully the glitches with the latter are sorted now – as a new tool it worked well overall and you evidently enjoyed this assignment.

Some of you felt that at times the lectures sought to cover a little too much ground (though some of you also liked the full slides!) – I will tell the team of lecturers about this. One or two of you wanted the recordings of the lectures made available – we have resisted that because it is important that you attend lectures – that is often when we make announcements or where you see people outside your seminar group; but we make recordings available a week later, so that they inform later piece of coursework.

Some of you wanted seminars in weeks 9 and 10. This will happen next year but it is worth noting that the additional time taken by the trip to London in part accounts for what seems like missing time.