Tyler is a really awesome professor and person and this was a really great CC class. I had a different professor first semester who I really disliked so I was really pleasantly surprised by Tyler's class and I felt that I got a lot out of second semester which was really nice. Tyler is really knowledgable, is really approachable and is really willing to help you and is just a nice guy who is easy to talk to. In terms of class time, it is sort of split evenly between "lecture" and discussion. Tyler tended to lecture more on the more difficult books (i.e. Kant) and that was really helpful since sometimes it's hard to follow the dense material. On the "easier" books when the author's argument is easier to understand, he let the class discuss more. Unlike my first CC semester, class wasn't dominated by a few people and people really stuck to the books as opposed to going off on personal tangents. I detailed the workload below and it might seem like a lot, and it did to me at first, but it really isn't that bad actually. The hardest part is that there is a lot of reading but you will get that with any CC class. Plus, because you learn so much from Tyler/class time, I felt like the work was really worth it because I was getting a lot out of it. Ultimately I highly recommend this class!!!
Tyler is a chill professor to have for CC. I think in our class (at least in the first semester) reviews were mixed about him; some seemed to like him more than others, but I think the people who didn't love him had more of a problem with his teaching style than with him personally. I will say this: Tyler doesn't really do a lot of lecturing, so if you like class discussion then this section is for you. Tyler runs the class in a very structured way. He requires weekly response journals (an informal couple hundred words on the reading due that day) and has a rotating schedule of groups of a few students to formulate one discussion question each about the reading. At the beginning of the semester he requires everyone to submit their planned absences for that semester in writing, and provides a very thorough syllabus detailing the grading rubric for the class, how papers should be written, etc. However, despite this slightly intimidating structuredness presented at the beginning of the semester, the class is actually very relaxed. For instance, during the spring semester Tyler asked for our opinions on how we felt about having our first paper consist of two drafts instead of the planned one draft, and getting rid of the midterm; we took a vote and he changed the syllabus accordingly. The thing I liked most about CC with Tyler â€” that I understand some other people probably didn't like that much â€”Â was how unstructured class time was. Often he would lecture us for a while about a new text we were reading, but after that it would be totally up to us what we talked about for the rest of the class. This often lead to some very interesting and thought-provoking discussions (on everything from the role of natural selection on humans in the age of technology that enables us to "save" humans who would otherwise die, to discussions about the role of feminism in helping close the gender gap in developing countries) that I really enjoyed and learned a lot from, and often helped me actually appreciate the text because I understood how it could be applied to modern-day and real-world situations. That said, this open discourse could sometimes push discussion of the text itself to the wayside. While I have a solid understanding of many of the texts we read this year, some of them I have only a bare-bones knowledge of their main points because they weren't covered exhaustively in class. But lastly, and most importantly, Tyler actually CARES about his students. He reads and comments on our response journals, chats with us before and after class, and is very approachable and understanding when it comes to things like asking him for permission to miss a day or leave a few minutes early. He's also genuinely helpful when it comes to asking for help with things like planning papers: I once went to him with absolutely no idea about what I should write a paper about, and during our fifteen-minute meeting he helped me brainstorm and was actually useful. So, if you like class discussion and less lecture, Tyler is a great professor to have. He's understanding and approachable, and actually won some award this year for best-grad-student-teacher or some such. I'd recommend him.
When it comes to the core curriculum and CC in particular, there is no doubt that your professor can and likely will make or break the experience. In this case, Tyler Bickford is the most inspiring professor/graduate student teacher/man/whatever I have ever been assigned to at this school and cannot imagine having gone through a more memorable full year of CC with anyone else. What I appreciate most about Tyler is the genuine nature of his personality which is reflected through each and every class discussion. He truly seems to respect and consider the opinions of his students, to the point where it is now almost a full year since I was in his class, yet we have run into each other on countless occasions and have engaged in continued metaphysical discussions as well discussions of absolute stupidity. He also has a great sense of humor and at times it feels like he is sitting in the room as an undergrad taking the course with us. Tyler seems to recognize, unlike other teachers of the core, that there are simply days where the class is not respondent and lacks energy, and he is able to adapt to the circumstances, pacing the class appropriately while taking advantage of the stronger days. I recommend that anyone with the opportunity to take a Tyler Bickford class should do so, as it will shape and epitomize what Columbia ideally would like for you to take away from the core experience. Obviously this review has been considerably generous, but I am confident that the overwhelming majority of students who have enrolled in his class feel the same way.
Tyler Bickford is one of the best instructors at Columbia!!! While not a professor (he is a final year graduate student, though feel free to call him Professor Tyler!!), the discussions that he leads are the most informative and reflective of any that I have had in class at Columbia. He allows for the free expression of opinions during the discussions, and he never makes anyone feel stupid or wrong if they happen to hold an opinion different than his. He really wants everyone to participate so that each student can learn from others with different viewpoints. Tyler Bickford is also not too concerned with grades. He grades relatively easily and is willing to give high scores to any student that puts in the effort. He is more concerned that students actually read the books and that they participate in class discussions, hence the reason participation and reading is worth 60% of your final grade. Besides the awesome discussion that we have in class, Tyler is a very cool guy. He really enjoys getting to know the students in class and enjoys talking with the class about pop culture and current events (though this can lead to very humorous rants by Tyler that take the class discussion off topic for about 15 minutes). I really recommend taking this class!!!! You won't regret it!!!