All Ratings and Reviews for Graeme Blair
Professor Blair and the TA's are on your team in this class- which is an odd and unfamiliar feeling at a school that's so big like UCLA. They were so accessible and I was so appreciative of how supported I was by them. If there are negative reviews of this class, please take them with a grain of salt- it was Prof. Blair's first run of teaching ps 50, but nevertheless, it was a wonderful class. The only things it required of you were your time for an hour and 15 minutes twice a week for the lectures (which aren't really lectures but rather groupwork time) and about an hour/hour and a half outside of class to engage with the readings/podcasts that were assigned online. So, really if you put minimal effort into the class and just try a little to understand what's going on, you will go far. The professor and TA's were super duper helpful!!! Cesar was amazing- I absolutely adored him as a TA and Prof. Blair was always so great, too. I totally recommend going to the discussion sessions even though they were voluntary. Prof. Blair is such an angel and was so flexible and responsive to feedback. I seriously could not sing his praises high enough. I think a lot of people were intimidated initially and were stuck in a headspace thinking that the class was "hard and unfair," but I think that mentality led them to not try and they might have manifested the class to seem unfair or hard, but it really just isn't a hard class.
* Taken virtually due to COVID
This was Prof Blair's first quarter teaching this course, so it could probably change based on what worked well this quarter and what didn't. In this quarter, the course was taught almost fully through coding on RStudio. I came into this class with zero experience and it was rough at first. It got better as we informed the Prof and TAs that we needed more instruction, but I would be hesitant to take this class in this format again. Blair structured this class with 30% going to team assignments (this is what we did in lecture, he would talk for 20-30 mins about a political concept or experiment, and we would then go into breakout rooms in small groups to work on a coding project in R. TAs would circulate to help and we would turn the projects in after class. 15% of the 30% was the actual coding assignment grade, and the other half was via peer evaluation from your group members), 20% Perusall (a platform he uploaded podcasts, experiment papers, and videos onto. This is where we learned the bulk of actual comparative politics, and commenting/engaging/reading/viewing this material was somewhat important), 20% problem sets (more in-depth coding assignments that we worked on outside of class, he drops the lowest one but we only fit in two this quarter), 20% the final project (a mix of code and writing in your section group designing and testing your own experiment), and 10% quizzes (there was a quiz weekly that was 3-5 questions on the Perusall content, he dropped the lowest two). Overall really nice dude and helpful TAs, but the format needed work. Section was optional, but helpful, and my TA gave extra credit for attending.
I think this was Prof Blair's first time teaching this course and it showed- the first 5 weeks were a mess. Nowhere in the course description was it mentioned that the class would be this coding heavy- we were supposed to teach ourselves high level R and do touch coding assignments every week. Apart from, the professor seemed confused very often. He mentioned that we do not need to leave comments on readings and videos, but in week 8 he sent us our participation grades that were heavily dependent on us commenting on the material. For all the class' faults, Blair was very open to suggestions, and the class did get better as the quarter went on. Just know, that if you are enrolling in this class you are effectively enrolling for R and not comparable politics.
This was the first time Professor Blair taught this class, and so if you take this class it won't be. I genuinely enjoyed this class. I had zero experience with any sort of coding before this class and thought I would hate coding but found it fun. However, I believe they are adding a requisite to this class so future classes should be even more prepared. So, as for Professor Blair, he was an extremely flexible and understanding professor. When he realized the coding was challenging for us he reinvented the course to help us. The professor and the TAs were so willing to help with the code which made the class very easy to succeed in. Most of the work was in class and we had problem sets for homework that were pretty easily done by reviewing class work or working with a TA. We also listened to podcasts and read articles, which took maybe 45 minutes but sometimes there were long readings, but it isn't necessary to finish as they get detailed and unnecessary. My only problem with the class was the final project which we worked with our whole section on which made it a little challenging to put input in but overall it worked out. The class is great and I think most of the negatives from people were that it involves coding, but if you already took stats and are aware that this class uses R you will be perfectly fine. I would highly recommend this class it seemed to be an easy GE where you actually learn something new.
For this particular quarter it really helped to know R programming and RStudio. Might change in the future, this class seemed really new. But overall not bad, as long as you have someone that knows R in your group.
If you hear a lot of complaining or neg reviews about this class, don't listen to them. Prof. Blair is one of the most understanding professors I've ever had and this class was my only class that I never had to stress about. Definitely recommend as a GE, even though I took it for my major. Plus, the TAs are absolutely amazing and could not have been more helpful than they were. I think this was Prof. Blair's first time teaching this course, so obviously there were kinks in the syllabus he had not worked out yet. This class's biggest downfall was probably just a lack of clarity and a lot of last minute changes to the syllabus. With that said, the changes were always to relieve workload/stress. Adding on, this class is basically a coding/stats/data analysis class (they should probably include that in the description) and many people complained about having to code. But tbh, I'm very glad this ended up being not what I expected, because an understanding of data analysis and R code are very useful skills to have in any career. The class is formatted in a very unorthodox way, with pre-recorded short lecture videos being posted on Perusall before class. During "class" we had short group discussions about weekly political experiment report readings, and then did a group coding assignment. If I didn't understand the coding assignment, my TA would always go over the code in section (section is not mandatory). We had two long coding problem sets that were not too difficult because they were heavily based on the shorter group assignments and TAs offered extensive office hours for assistance. There were also weekly quizzes on the homework videos/readings, with the lowest two scores being dropped (not hard, I got 100% on 9/10). Finally, there was no final exam, just a final group experiment project, which was honestly really cool. Grading breakdown: 20% problem sets, 10% quizzes, 20% group assignments, 20% final project, 15% asking questions on Perusall, 15% completing peer evaluations.
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