professor
Sarah Woolley

Apr 2021

Definitely A LOT of memorization. I don't think she's as bad as some of the previous reviews mentioned, but she can go way too into depth about some topics and then rush through the rest of her PowerPoint. Thankfully she posts the slides and her tests are pretty straightforward, only consisting of concepts and definitions she taught during lectures. One thing I appreciate about Prof. Wooley is her passion for what she teaches; it makes the lectures a lot more interesting to listen to. That being said, only take this class if you're genuinely interested in animal behavior. Otherwise, it's just painful memorization.

Apr 2021

Okay... I took this class thinking the reviews must be outdated or something. Certainly, she can't be *that* bad... but now I know I would not have taken this class if I knew what I knew now. It is not hard, per se, but my only goal is to pass so whatever. Anyway, Dr. Woolley is very passionate about the material, but I do not actually learn much from lectures. They are interesting, but you have to read the relevant scientific studies if you want good grades on exams. I only attend lectures because she produces verbal sound effects for every animal and my girlfriend thinks it's hilarious. She is very strict about deadlines and extensions.

Dec 2018

After a year of waiting to write this review, I have gone back to my notes which I have kept regarding my interactions with Sarah Woolley, solely for the sake of moral justice. This is a cautionary tale for those who are considering taking her class, highlighting reactions of Professor Woolley to the unexpected situation of one of her students having a concussion a few days before the first exam of the semester. Throughout my experience she has proven to lacks basic communication and social skills, actively go against the values of the profession of teaching, and shown more empathy towards the birds she researches than her actual human students. I have never had such a bad experience with not only a teacher but any other human being that I inhabit this planet with until taking Professor Woolley's class. If you are reading this review, I would suggest do not take her class, and also do anything in your power to not have to interact with this lady until you graduate. All of this started when she refused to write me a make up exam after I was abruptly hospitalized for a concussion the weekend before the actual date, and with the doctors medical suggestion found out that I should not take the official make up but instead be administered an exam a week later. She did not reply to my emails regarding the matter, and was extremely pissed off that she had to write another make up. When my advisor interfered and she actually had to write it, she omitted information like points appointed for each question that every other student had on their exam. She was unresponsive to all of my emails throughout the whole recovery process of 10 weeks, except when she asked for my advisors email because she believed my frustration with not being able to get access to slides for the lectures I missed with a doctors suggestion was a violation of conduct due to its not so friendly tone. She literally refused to open her door during office hours before my make up while I knocked and emailed outside her door, and instead followed through with an email cancelling her office hours 15 minutes in while she was literally inside of her office and I was at the door. I managed to schedule another office hour with the interference of my advisor once again, which she cancelled the last minute (and her TA straight up did not show up to) and therefore managed to not see me before administering this make up exam. When I took the exam two weeks after my concussion without information about the three lectures I missed and got a 45, I did manage to get into an office hour with her to go over my mistakes in which she had the decency to make comments like "I do not have to see you" and call me out for my pronunciation of certain words. When I questioned her motives in correcting my pronunciation she responded with "I thought you wanted me to help you and that is why you are here", insinuating that I was trying to get points off of her I did not deserve with this office hour and not actually learn. Not only that, but she took it upon herself to correct my English as a second language pronunciation when a week prior she was literally refusing to open her door to go over questions I had about the lecture material during her office hours. This professor will treat you like dirt under her shoe until she makes you cry and not bat an eye, smirking at your face in victory while you explain to her how she is bullying you and abusing her position of power when she is correcting your pronunciation and calling that "helping you". She refuses to see, recognize or appreciate effort of any kind and is a literal adult bully that will go out of her way to make you feel insecure, incapable and inferior. I have never ever expected to interact with such an immoral professor, and am honestly still disappointed to this day that Columbia would hold such a despicable professor in their psychology department for the sake of her research. Do not take her class if you do not want to get bullied and triple the huge stress you are already experiencing in this institution.

Mar 2014

Don't take this class, I did because it sounded really interesting, but for me it was a really bad experience. the review below this one is from our TA, not a student. She doesn't care and won't help you if you're struggling. I was mislead by older reviews, no reason to take this, do another 2000 level psych class and don't waste your valuable time. When it comes to these reviews pay attention to the agree/disagree, I didn't and had a bad experience because of it.

Jun 2013

I really enjoyed this class but was quite annoyed at the other students in the class. Sarah was painfully patient answering irrelevant questions and listening to personal stories that students felt to share with the entire class in order to get recognition or just hear themselves talk. There seems to be some complaining from people that they couldn’t copy the notes down fast enough but she didn’t leave a ton of information off from the sides on CourseWorks - maybe she has changed it up a bit, but the slides weren’t mostly blank for us. Most definitions were missing but the words to define were there so you could Google it later if you missed something. Go to class, take down the missing notes, memorize the definitions of the terms she spoon feeds you with on the “exam final review,” and read her summaries on the slides about the papers. Do this and then be able to apply some of the concepts to parallel examples and you are good to go. I’m a neuro major so maybe I had more background on some of the concepts than others in the class and thought this would be a fun class for the psych requirement – I don’t know why people were say the class was hard. The majority of topics were covered in intro classes if you put a decent amount of work into the class you can get an A. Sarah is a entertaining lecturer and seems super cool. She is not out to fail you- she wants everyone to do well but she doesn’t want you to just completely regurgitate information back at her on the exams.

May 2013

I really hate writing negative reviews, but I feel obligated to my fellow students to share my experience with the class and professor so that they can made wise decisions when registering. I found the text and a few of the papers to be interesting, and Professor Woolley does seem funny and is excited about the material but overall I would not recommend this class or this professor to another student. The Lecture slides are posted but the important parts are left blank on the slides posted to Courseworks. If she was mad that students didn't show up to lecture, why not just take attendance? It's a horrible tactic because instead of trying to understand the material or enjoying the professor's lecture, everyone is scrambling at break-neck speed to copy the points in red on the slide. She rushes through complicated material and concepts (like Hamilton's Law) without taking the time to help you understand the material. Each lecture is a disorganized knowledge dump and many of the concepts presented are controversial and abstract. We were lucky enough to have a great TA who would take time out to help us with the material, but don't make the mistake of thinking this professor cares if you understand or wants you to succeed in this class.

Feb 2009

Best course ever! The material was very interesting, and Professor Woolley is very approachable. I love the fact that she is very goal-oriented and is a great person to talk to. This will always be my favorite class at Columbia and I suggest anyone interested in animals to take this course. I am sure this is a great way to fulfill the science requirement, and by far the most interesting class I have taken.

Jan 2009

I've taken both Animal Behavior and Auditory Perception with Professor Woolley. She is without a doubt the best, funniest and most interesting Prof I've had at Columbia. If you don't like science and reading about fun science facts you won't like this class, but if you like weird stories and making animal noises then you'll absolutely love it. Studying for the tests did not feel like studying at all, it was like reading a book you'd actually want to read in your free time. Don't be fooled by this- both of her courses were among the hardest I have taken. Auditory perception, in particular, terrified our entire class until we got the midterm back. I hardly understood anything and studied 24/7 for a few weeks for the midterm. But hard work actually pays off in this class and you'll learn a lot, if you are willing to put in the hours. I feel like I actually can converse about electrophysiology now. Everyone, even the students in my class that didn't like the material and were doing badly, loved Prof Woolley speak. She is HILARIOUS and I totally disagree with the previous posts that she puts no effort into being a professor- the fact that she puts up versions of her slides without notes actually must take a lot of extra work, she has to make two copies of everything and she does it for the benefit of her students who SHOULD come to lecture. Professor Wooley is intelligent, sophisticated, composed, and no-nonsense- exactly what any scientist or non-scientist should aspire to be! Lazy people shouldn't take her classes because she is full of energy- every class meeting IS like a marathon, but in a really, really good way. You'll leave exhilarated, smarter and motivated to be just like her!

Jun 2008

I loved this class. Professor Woolley is extremely friendly and personable, as well as being ridiculously knowledgeable in the fields of psychology and biology. The class focuses on some nitty-gritty details of the behavior of somewhat dull animals, like insects, but I found it fascinating. The class is mainly a study of the evolutionary history of behavior. The one complaint I would have is that her use of slides during lecture often slows down the pace and takes ages to write down. The first exam was graded harshly (with an actual average of a C/C-). People were outraged about this, but the averages went up as the course went on. Be prepared to study a lot for the exams, which are open-ended.

Apr 2008

This may be a recent teacher tactic, but Woolley leaves her slides mostly blank, for you to attend lecture and write the answers in. I understand why the professor wants us to write so many notes, but I disagree with this method. If we don't have the internal motivation to learn the material, forcing us to write it will be painful. She wanted us to understand the concepts and then take abridged notes on this. But what if you're still trying to understand the concept, and then she changes the slide? You miss the concept, plus have no notes, plus miss the next concept and notes. Woolley is very mentally quick and focused, but for me, class is regularly a marathon race. I don't mind a marathon class, but I would like to have some notes to take home so that I can in my own time take the time to understand the concepts.

Apr 2008

Summary of review: -Positives: Interesting Material, Slides and Lecture are great -Negatives: Prof. doesn't post all the info on the slides, test questions are sometimes unclear -Advice: 1. I would suggest that the whole class convince her to put the information on the slides. I think that if the majority of students said that they would not skip class that she would agree to post more of the information. I also really hope that she reads this review. 2. Concentrate on the slides and especially on the central concepts. Memorize at least one example, usually provided on the slides, of each term. 3. Study with other people-always makes things easier for me. Material: The animal behavior material is very interesting. 1. You learn about evolution, the relationship between instinct and learning, the effect of development on and the neural control of behavior, and also animal communication, reproduction, parental care, and social behavior. 2. You pick up many interesting facts about animals such as: how orb weaver spiders kill themselves after mating, or some moths have evolved ears to be able to either ward off or detect the ultrasounds of bat's echolocation. 3. You get to the see the scientific method at work. It's amazing some of the experiments that scientists have come up with in order to learn more about animal behavior and its causes. Slides: Professor Wooley's slides are great: that is if you can get a copy with all the notes already written in. When I took the class, she took a lot of the material out of the slides to convince people to go to class. This made most of class a frantic struggle to copy down the information on the slides. It would be much better if she continued to give the students the completed slides. Professors concerned about some people not coming to class should not take it out all the students by hurting their learning process. Lectures: Prof. Woolley is clear when she lectures-if you aren't putting all your attention on copying down the slides. Review Session: The review sheet she gives us is great. It has all the things that you definitely need to know. Usually the review session isn't very useful, but that's because most of the students don't ask any questions. Tests: The tests are not really that hard if you've studied the slides and at least skimmed the reading, but admittedly, though she probably won't admit it, sometimes the questions are a little unclear.

Apr 2008

DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS FOR ANY REASON (unless you are a wild animal, been raised by wild animals, or plan on becoming a wild animal!!! This differs from the last review because Woolley was upset that her previous semesters nobody came to class. Therefore she posts minimal information on the slides and you are expected to take the (large amount) of supplemental information on the slides. Then she goes too fast to let you copy the notes and is convinced that it should not take as long because you can paraphrase the notes (she thinks). I don't know if she knows this but is hard to paraphrase scientific terms. And if she says copy the main idea, she tests you on the details. Furthermore, the tests are terribly worded and therefore many, many, many points are taken off because you did not write something that she did not actually ask for. And if you write her an email or go talk to her in any way, she dismisses you as being stupid or unreasonable, without even listening to your misunderstanding or clarification. It is a shame she puts no effort into being a professor because the material is somewhat interesting. However, every day I left class frustrated that I could not get all the notes and that she did not listen to any needs of her students. For a professor of a class not to be there for her students is despicable and she is by far the worst and most careless teacher I have had at Columbia so far.

May 2006

I loved this class -- took it as a science requirement and it made me want to be a psychology major. Woolley is a fabulous prof., she is very clear and thorough in her explanations of all of the topics, and has remarkably organized powerpoints that she posts online in case you can't make a class. These slides are so good that you hardly have to take notes in class, although I don't recommend skipping class all the time because class is actually pretty enjoyable. I actually looked forward to going to this class and was upset when I couldn't go -- which I know is a little weird. The material of the class is fascinating, and Woolley loves to show the humor of animal behavior. She often makes bird sounds and other miscellaneous explicatory gestures that are really funny. Plus, her exams are generally very fair -- she has a "review session" the class before each exam where she has slides with every term you'll need to know in order to succeed on the test. This makes it really easy to study and prep. All in all, this is a great class, and I highly recommend this and any class that Woolley might teach in the future!