course
Colloquium on Theory and Method

Apr 2007

This class was a major disappointment. In fact, after 3 semesters at Columbia this fell very far below the baseline of my minimal expectations of a course. On paper it seemed intriguing-a variety of readings and different guest speakers from various departments speaking on the readings (of which they were frequently the authors). This was coupled with trips to the NY Historical Society and Butler to learn how to do research. The problem was Prof. Adams. Her direction was unfocused and muddy and as a result it was very difficult to understand exactly what the assignments were about. She admitted as much, even referring to us (the students) as "guinea pigs" since we were the first class taking the course since its inception. Some of the guest speakers were interesting but for the most part I found them unexciting (to be fair, probably because they were out of the context of their usual metier). Prof. Adams' comments on my papers lacked insight and did little to help me understand what I could have done better. After a semester of pure drudgery, the final assignment was to turn in all of the work we had done over the course of the semester in a "final portfolio" together with a written self-assessment. I was eager to get it back and read Prof. Adams' comments. I was dismayed to find that all she had done was jot some monosyllables in the margins,("yes!", "great"). Beyond that she had made absolutely no comments whatsoever. I thought there must have been a mistake and emailed her. She then emailed me a glowing cookie-cutter assessment that while praising me was utterly empty and unhelpful. I was shocked at the lack of effort to give constructive feedback. I spoke with a couple of my fellow students and they had both had exactly the same experience and were also very disappointed in both Prof. Adams and the class. To be avoided.