professor
Alma Steingart

Apr 2021

I took CC with Alma in the Fall 2020 semester. For context, I ended up with an A- overall for the semester. I've gotten As in all my other core classes so far prior to this. The Good: Alma is friendly and nice. The Bad: - Boring: Alma is not a great instructor and an unfair grader. Her class was INCREDIBLY boring (I was falling asleep during most of it) and have a hard time remembering the texts we read last semester or engaging with them at a deep level. After taking CC in the Spring with a MUCH better professor, I can say with confidence that Alma lacks an understanding of how to guide an effective in-class discussion based seminar. This also wasn't because we had a bad group of students – as previous posters have said, we had the BEST and most engaged group of seminar students I've ever had at Columbia. It was Alma's fault that classes were boring. – No breaks: Alma said she was going to give us a ten minute break, but never did. This makes staying engaged with a seminar, ESPECIALLY a two-hour seminar held online, difficult. – Grading: Alma is the worst essay grader I've had at Columbia. I've never gotten below an A in any other core class with essays, yet I got a B on my first paper with Alma. I'm a strong writer and know the grade on my first essay wasn't justified. She is VERY unclear with her standards and what she actually expects a CC paper to look like. It was only till the second paper that I realized that she basically wants a historical explanation for *why* the philosophers wrote what they wrote. Not a commentary or personal reflection, but historical analyses. This isn't a history class...it's philosophy. Total BS. – Organization: Alma said we would do in-class presentations, but those never happened. She's really disorganized. – Feedback: Didn't give us feedback on our writing till we submitted our first drafts. Her feedback is VERY unclear, make sure you go to her in office hours and question her till she gives you a very concrete explanation of what she expects. Overall: Would NOT recommend this class with Alma. It was way to much work for a CC class, and stressed me out too much for someone who's naturally talented at the humanities and gets As in all their core/humanities classes at Columbia.

Apr 2021

I've never had a problem getting an A at Columbia until I took this course -- she's a harsh grader, and it doesn't really make sense given her unclear feedback. Class is less engaging than most others I've taken at Columbia. Avoid if you can.

Dec 2020

Keep in mind we're not fully done with the semester, but with course registration coming up I feel the need to write this review since she doesn't have any yet. Our class this semester is a really great mix of students. Nobody talks over each other, people participate in discussion with intellectual thoughts, are fun and make jokes from time to time, etc. I have no doubt that if we were on campus, I would've become really great friends with some of the people in this class. Alma does a lot of things well. She starts out each work with context and background and sets us up to talk about the text, and she facilitates discussion really well. She's nice and open to new thoughts and incredibly knowledgeable. She has some breakout room discussions and a Google Drive folder with the materials we use. There are things that Alma does not do well, mostly stemming from her setting up very high expectations but not following through on her end. The syllabus outlines a 10-minute presentation to be done in pairs (each pair is assigned to one work) and presented at the end of each class, with the pair needing to upload a one-page discussion Google Doc into the class drive the day before class. These 10-minute presentations never happen, there is no clear guideline given for the Google Doc, and we don't even use them sometimes. We finished these presentations about halfway through the semester and she asked if we'd like to do them again for the second half, we said yes since they make nice review sheets, and she has not assigned pairs to new works (we have three works left in the semester). She also expects us to submit a 300-500 word discussion post on Courseworks at 8:00pm the day before each class and said she'd give us a check plus, check, or check minus on each post. Sometimes, she posts these discussion boards just a few hours before the posts are due, and the only feedback we've gotten on them are a few sentences for our first post. We have yet to receive any check pluses, checks, or check minuses. She also went on a small lecture during the first class about Zoom fatigue and how we'd do a five-minute break in the middle of each class, but we didn't do them until a student asked if we could do them a few weeks in. After that, we did them maybe two more times. This isn't too big of a deal but goes to show how even with these small promises, they seem like empty words. All this is to say that by the time our first essay rolled around, the only amount of feedback we'd received from Alma was a few sentences on our first discussion post. When we went to office hours and asked how we were doing or how to work on the essay, she'd be very vague about our previous work and say that if something was wrong with our discussion post she would've contacted us directly. She gave two A's on the first essay, which was a slap in the face after this extreme lack of feedback. I'll admit, she gave us a good amount of feedback on the essays, but we could've done so much better on the essays if she'd been following through with giving us feedback on discussion posts and helping us become better writers. She's barely helped us improve in writing since the beginning of the semester. She's acknowledged that she hasn't been giving us enough direct feedback, but we still haven't received any since the first essay and she just assigned us our second essays. It's really a shame - the class is so wonderful and she's so wonderful, but I can't believe a single word she says anymore and she hasn't taken the actual promised steps to help us improve, and I have no idea how I'm doing in the class.