Statistics for the Behavioral Scientist

May 2012

Avoid Professor Graham's class. Go to her for questions about the department, the university, Psych research, etc…—just don't take her class. As most of the reviews for her Science of Psych class explain, Professor Graham is a sweet, considerate woman who cares about her students. Unfortunately, she is disorganized and incapable of explaining concepts in a clear, helpful way. I took Statistics for the Behavioral Scientist with Professor Graham in her first semester teaching it since 1985. The class moves at a reasonable pace and Professor Graham realizes the class has no prerequisites. She holds frequent office hours and is always happy to meet with students. This does not make up for the disorganization, marathon exams, and insane lab assignments though. Disorganization: Professor Graham’s lectures are so disorganized and rambling it’s nearly impossible to understand her point or even to see how the material she teaches matches concepts from the book. Few of the lecture slides have page numbers or anyway of identifying what they cover. Professor Graham writes them by hand on her iPad and they are so illegible you’ll spend at least an hour of exam prep trying to figure out what they say let alone what they mean. Also, there’s no syllabus. For each homework assignment, you have to go back through the “announcement” slides for each lecture to see which textbook problems were assigned. Since the titles of the slides are incomprehensible, you then have to open each PDF on Courseworks individually to find additional assigned problems. Midterm and final: Both tests are moderately difficult but made much harder by the fact that it’s very hard to prepare for them. Few of the questions reflect anything covered in the reading and I constantly felt like I was trying to guess what she or the TA was thinking. Both tests are extremely long. After few students finished the midterm Professor Graham promised to make the final shorter. It ended up being 20+ pages with pages of useless explanations and rambling in parentheses. Lab: A major part of the class is the weekly, two-hour lab in which the TAs teach Stata. We were told we would usually be able to finish the lab assignments in the two-hour period. Instead, students who scored 8+/10 routinely spent 4-6 hours outside of lab working. At the beginning of the semester neither the TAs nor Professor Graham even knew which PCs around Columbia have Stata 12 (go to Lehman computer lab, use the PCs not the Macs) meaning students spent hours looking for a place to do their homework. Some resorted to just buying Stata for their laptops. While lab assignments are a relatively small part of the overall grade, the TAs deduct points over minor details. Bottom Line: Professor Graham would be an ideal thesis advisor or mentor in the Psychology department, but is pretty bad at teaching introductory material. Take advantage of her willingness to meet with students and her insightful advice, but avoid her class.