January 25, 2012

Rakitin, Brian
[PSYC W1610] Statistics for Behavioral Scientists and [PSYC W1001] Science of Psychology

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Um, why does this man have a silver nugget? I took both Professor Rakitin's Science of Psych and his Statistics for Behavioral Scientists class and I have two words for this man: dry and arrogant.

I remember sitting through his first lecture and thinking "Maybe I'm only bored because this is the introductory stuff. Maybe it will get better." It doesn't. Like me, 2/3 of our class realized this and the room went from being overfilled on the first day to having maybe 1/3 of the chairs filled during lectures. For the portion of the lectures I did attend, I believe I fell asleep for around half of them. The most interesting day was when the TA taught in Rakitin's place.

Rakitin is also terrible at explaining things. When he attempted to explain to us how the eye worked, he managed to confuse the class even more --he messed up on the first try, corrected himself on the second time explaining (a separate day), and again corrected something he said on the second day during a third time of explaining (yet another day). Do not ask this man a question unless you want to get throughly confused and/or talked down at. He feels the need to go through every little detail when answering questions and ends up answering in such a winding fashion that you forget what you initially asked.

The only good thing about this class was the textbook, which was fantastic and probably the only reason Rakitin has a silver nugget. If you carefully read the textbook and skim the slides for the final, you're in good shape for the exams.

It was a sad, sad day when I realized that Professor Rakitin was the only professor for that semester who was teaching this required class for Psychology majors.

In all fairness, this was his first semester of teaching this course, and he told us himself that he thought the textbook was horrible and had a hard time following it. With that said, his droning lectures got even worse when one inserted Statistics into the equation because of his insistence on going through the proofs for most equations. While helpful, Rakitin didn't seem to understand that he was talking to an audience of Psychology/Neuroscience majors who couldn't care less what the proofs were. What's worse is that he would often mess up on those proofs and confuse students even more. Confused professor + non-math*confused students = disaster!

Homeworks and exams (probably because the problems were so easy) were graded pretty harshly, and often points were taken off for seemingly arbitrary reasons. For example, if you did a summation and divided it, and did this: (1+2+3+4+5)/5=3, you would get points off because they would want you to list ALL steps (1+2+3+4+5)/5=15/5=3. You should still be able to scrap an A-range grade in this course if you study a decent amount, but this course with this professor is honestly just not worth your time.

If you have taken any real math/statistics course at Columbia, you should probably avoid this course at all costs in case you (1) get bored out of your mind or (2) get destroyed for showing the amount of work you are used to showing or (3) both. If you haven't taken a real math/statistics course at Columbia, then you should go take one because you certainly aren't learning any math in this one.


- 3 exams - relatively easy if you study moderately
- 3 papers on random psych articles, semi-arbitrarily graded (compensates for easy exams...)
*Note: 3rd exam non-cumulative and takes place of final
- 6 points of experimental participation

- Weekly assignment, not terribly bad but graded somewhat harshly unless you meticulously show every little step of work (i.e. if you have taken Calculus and use similar steps such as adding & multiplying all numbers together at once you will get points off)
- Midterm & final (cheat sheet allowed) - reasonably difficult but OK if you study a moderate amount
- Lab sections - these were pretty torturous... everyone was scrambling to figure out how to use SPSS and often the TAs were even confused about why SPSS was having problems on a certain computer