Analysis of results below. The survey continues with similar efforts in the last two semesters (analysis here), which led to a number of changes to the module, including some that were implemented this semester. One important thing that happened this semester is that N has grown much larger–now with 2% set aside for doing surveys, some 359 students completed the Module Design surveys, a huge boost over previous semesters. This makes the results a lot more robust. This post is not just for you, but also a way for me to organize my own thinking. I’m also meeting the tutors for a general debrief later. Feel free to send me further comments by email or come talk to me directly.
(Note: The analysis of the qualitative comments still on going.)
- About Yourself
|What motivated you to enroll in this module?||Number of Responses|
|I am interested in or curious about philosophy (though not necessarily as a major or minor).||277|
|Needed it to clear Humanities basket, GE or UE requirements.||189|
|I heard good things about it from friends or read good reviews of it somewhere.||169|
|I intend to major in Philosophy so I need to take this module.||18|
|I couldn’t get something else that I would have preferred.||11|
|I have no idea. In fact, I thought it was a science module.||6|
There are overlaps as some students indicated more than one reason. Some of “others” include: “taking together with friends” (5), “interesting looking course content” (4), “MCQ assessments” (2), “thinking of minoring” (1), “need it for courseload” (1), “to develop critical thinking” (2), and, “I think i shouldn’t have taken this module in hindsight” (1) (sorry to hear that).
The top three reasons–interest (though not necessarily to major or minor), clearing modular requirements, and good reviews–are consistent from previous semesters.
|AY2016-17, Sem 2 Score||AY2017-18, Sem 1 Score|
|Prior to taking this module, I already have had some background exposure to philosophy as a subject of study, whether formally, or through my own reading.||2.318||2.564|
|Prior to taking this module, I already thought that I should try out philosophy as a subject of study in the university, at least as a small elective component of my time in NUS.||3.314||3.340|
Keep in mind that Likert Scores have 3.0 as “Neutral”, 5.0 as “Strongly Agree” and 1.0 as “Strongly Disagree”. The overall impression is also generally consistent with the previous semester.
- The Topics
|“I was able to understand the topic”||AY2016-17, Sem 1 Score||AY2016-17, Sem 2 Score||AY2017-18, Sem 1 Score|
|T01: Right and Wrong||3.512||4.211||4.222|
|T02: Eating Factory-Farmed Meat||3.650||4.192||4.161|
|T03: Rich and Poor||3.812||4.184||4.133|
|T04: Political Authority||3.532||3.921||3.940|
|T05: Free Will and Moral Responsibility||3.181||3.750||3.496|
|T06: The Cosmological Argument||3.197||3.733||3.682|
|T07: The Problem of Evil||3.292||3.824||3.719|
|T08: Knowledge and its Discontents||2.952||3.473||3.519|
|T10: The Simulation Argument||3.545||3.405||3.434|
The bigger jump is between AY2016-17, Semester 1 and AY2016-17, Semester 2, as opposed to between AY2016-17, Semester 2 and this current semester. From the last semester to this, the numbers have barely moved (with one exception). So I guess the good news is that we have mostly figured out how best to present the material–mostly. The striking exception is Topic 5 (Free Will and Moral Responsibility)–your cohort found it significantly harder than the previous one. I expect to review the material for that topic to see if I can streamline it.
|“I enjoyed the topic”||AY2016-17, Sem 1 Score||AY2016-17, Sem 2 Score||AY2017-18, Sem 1 Score|
|T01: Right and Wrong||3.777||4.229||4.175|
|T02: Eating Factory-Farmed Meat||3.883||4.273||4.175|
|T03: Rich and Poor||4.069||4.227||4.149|
|T04: Political Authority||3.764||3.787||3.847|
|T05: Free Will and Moral Responsibility||3.380||3.973||3.809|
|T06: The Cosmological Argument||3.556||3.851||3.851|
|T07: The Problem of Evil||3.843||3.944||3.912|
|T08: Knowledge and its Discontents||3.186||3.676||3.609|
|T10: The Simulation Argument||3.604||3.521||3.772|
Again, the bigger jump is between AY2016-17, Semester 1 and AY2016-17, Semester 2, as opposed to between AY2016-17, Semester 2 and this current semester. For this question, Topic 5 is stable from last semester to this (strongly suggesting that interest in the topic is still strong). The more striking change is for Topic 10, which got a bigger jump over the semesters.
|“The quiz was challenging but not unreasonably so”||AY2016-17, Sem 2 Score||AY2017-18, Sem 1 Score|
|T01: Right and Wrong||3.733||3.679|
|T02: Eating Factory-Farmed Meat||3.730||3.651|
|T03: Rich and Poor||3.649||3.662|
|T04: Political Authority||3.608||3.605|
|T05: Free Will and Moral Responsibility||3.603||3.401|
|T06: The Cosmological Argument||3.479||3.433|
|T07: The Problem of Evil||3.616||3.488|
|T08: Knowledge and its Discontents||3.589||3.333|
|T10: The Simulation Argument||3.493||3.407|
Last semester was the first time I asked this question so that’s the only point of comparison. In general, the perceived difficulty of the quiz has gone up a little, which is consistent with anecdotal observations as well. But all are still within the 3.3 to 3.7 range. I’m happy with this outcome–over the course of the semesters, the quizzes have taken on a pedagogical importance that I didn’t fully realize at the beginning (more about this elsewhere). And for the quizzes to serve their purpose(s), I need them to feel somewhat challenging.
- The Special Project
|AY2016-17, Sem 2 Score||AY2017-18, Sem 1 Score|
|The special project was a good component to include in the module||3.718||3.710|
|I enjoyed doing the special project||3.746||3.771|
|The instructions for the special project were adequate||4.125||3.989|
|The assessment system for the special project was fair||3.746||3.856|
|My team-mates put in their fair share of the work||3.915||4.063|
Last semester was the first time I asked this question so that’s the only point of comparison. Overall, the numbers look healthy, and the general impression is also reinforced by the results of the Peer Review.
- What do you like best about the module? (Updated)
There were 331 distinct (non “nil”) responses, many of which make more than one point. After tagging the responses, these themes stand out as the recurrent ones (note that most students have more than one thing to say):
- The topics, their content, coverage, just the right amount of depth, and readings (118 responses; 35%).
- Good introduction to the discipline of philosophy (30 responses; 9%)
- Interesting, engaging, enjoyable, fun (87 responses; 26%)
- Lecturer/lectures/slides (75 responses; 23%)
- The blog in particular (7 responses; 4%)
- Mindblown, gained new perspective on life, challenged to rethink beliefs (68 responses; 21%)
- Training for critical thinking (15 responses; 5%)
- Module design, assessment structure, no mid-terms, no essays, manageble workload (44 responses; 13%)
- The quizzes in particular (20 responses; 6%)
- Availability of webcast (12 responses; 4%)
- Special Project (24 responses; 7%)
- Tutor/tutorials (33 responses; 10%)
- Everything, favorite module (7 responses; 2%)
The returns are broadly consistent with previous semesters, with a good boost to the number of students highlighting the special project as something they liked best about the module. The results this semester are also more robust given the much higher sample size (five times that of the last semester). They suggests that we are broadly on the right track as far as the overall design of the module is concerned. To do its job of exposing students with little prior background to what academic philosophy is like, the module has to showcase a series of topics that engage the students’ interest and challenge them to think in new ways, and we seem to have successfully done that.
- What things about the module could be done better, or maybe even replaced? (Not completed)
There were 240 distinct (non “nil”) responses, but including a bunch saying “nothing to change” or the like. So it will take a while to sort through. Overall impressions, my sense of where the main points are going to be (to be confirmed) are as follows:
- Knowledge and its Discontents (too abstract, the Chinese context, etc.)
- Bostrom (too abstract, the math, etc.)
- Consciousness (too abstract)
- Free Will and Moral Responsibility
In other words–one or another of the topics in the second half. And:
- Special project (to remove it)
- Quizzes are too hard