Welcome to another year of History Beyond the Classroom – the second year we have taught it. With the benefit of the pioneering work of the students, lecturers, and community organisations from last year, hopefully we can make it even better than last year.
As mentioned in a previous blog, feedback from last year was overwhelmingly positive. Please see my summary and the results of the feedback at: http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/historymatters/2015/12/reflections_and_feedback_from.html#more
As I mention there, in response to feedback, this year I have set earlier due dates and staged deadlines for choosing and working with community organisations, and Michaela Cameron will come in earlier to speak to students, along with some of the students from last year, and we are also requiring weekly posts of diary entries so we can keep a closer eye on everyone’s progress and development (including some mandatory blogging!).
I will also be sure to include much clearer guidelines on expectations about the community work and the projects in the initial discussions and throughout. I will also provide clearer guidelines to our community partners as well and keep in touch with them from an earlier date. Hopefully, clearer guidelines will also help students navigate the time commitment that a few students felt was onerous.
This year, we now have a number of examples to draw from in terms of engagement, and also more links with organisations who are familiar with what we are doing. These will remain options for students, but students will still be allowed – and encouraged – to choose their own organization.
Some students struggled in their initial dealings with community or local organisations. We will certainly try and smooth the way this time, but it is also worth noting that many students in their reflective diaries and their feedback have said that these initial starts and false starts were one of the most important parts of the learning experience in this class – that it wasn’t always easy to “negotiate” a project, but they felt a tremendous sense of achievement when they pulled it off.
I have also put the readings together in a course reader this year, and we will try and divide our time in tutorials a little more effectively between the lecture readings, and projects.