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August 23, 2007

Comments

Karina Tregub

Being a PEIS major, I had heard a lot about this course, and was expecting Professor Zahedi's version of it, not professor DeLong's! That being said, I thought lectures were very fascinating and I was amazed at the amount of different information that was presented each week. As many students have already stated, it would have been very helpful to have some kind of outline or guideline for the lectures. We are used to having lecture outlines or guidelines, and our minds have already adapted to this format. When no guideline is provided, it is very difficult to focus in on the relevant material, or the points that should be taken away from each lecture. Another improvement for lecture would be to relate the readings more with each lecture, as Hye Jin Lee and others have states. I feel this would definitely bring more cohesion to the course, and give a clear idea as to why we were reading each book or article, and how it contributed to the issues discussed in lecture.I also agree with Yelena and others that the reading material for the course was so overwhelming that I did not get as much out of it as I would have if the readings were shorter but more precise. I think Aditya has a great point about having a course reader for this class: this would definitely provide a better framework for the material we needed to know and understand, and I am sure more people would actually read the material and try to understand more of it.

I agree with Andrew that this class would have been much more beneficial had we focused on underlying themes and concepts, but constructing themes takes a lot of time, and given the logistical and administrative situation at the beginning of the course, it is understandable that the class was not as structured into themes and stories as other classes are. Therefore, the web assignments were helpful because they provided a way to concentrate on a specific theme or theory each week. The problem was that not every reading for that week always connected to the topic of the web assignment, but it was still better to discuss the same concept with everyone, rather than having people concentrate on completely different things.

I also wanted to commend the GSI's (Ben) for working with the students and trying to grasp some underlying concepts or themes that would tie in readings or compare/contrast different thinkers. This was very beneficial, and I felt that discussion sections were a good way to see what other people thought was important about the readings. That being said, if there were less readings and they were more specific, I feel that people would be better prepared to discuss and analyze them in section, rather than reading them afterwards or not at all. It was also helpful to have the web assignments divided up by section because then it felt like a section discussion online, rather than one involving the entire class. I think that the GSI's for the class had different ways of teaching their individual sections, so maybe guidelines would have made the sections more similar, so that everyone in class was focusing on the same points and analyses. Given the limitations of this course and some unexpected situations, I thank the professor and GSI's for doing the best that they could, and still managing to make this class very informative and interesting.

elisabeth miller

I must say that unlike most of the previous posters I have not enjoyed this class very much. The material was very interesting and Delong did a great job with all things considered, but I personally did not like being a "guinea pig". The biggest problem was the lack of feedback, as has been mentioned. I only recieved feedback from one web assignment, and we got our first papers back only a few days before the second one was due. I'm sure I was not the only person who started writing the essay early, and not being able to have constructive feedback made me feel very unsure as to whether or not I was doing it right. Also the prompts were very vague, and for my GSI, who was unfamiliar with PEIS, he seemed to have a hard time grading them, and understandably so. So what I am saying is that if the GSI's can't provide timely feedback, they are obviously being given too much to grade, and the number and frequency of assignments needs to be cut back. The assignments are useless unless they facilitate your learning, and without feedback it is hard to develop. This class has also been hard for me to follow in lectures so I agree there should be some sort of outline. I am sure this class will be great in the future, I just wish I would have been able to take it when all of the kinks were worked out, because I am currently confused, frustrated and worried in regards to the final, hopefully some of those doubts will be cleared tomorrow

Wei Shao

Despite prof. Delong's speech in response to our complaints regarding the length of the reading assignments, I still personally find the assigned reading quite overwhelming, given the magnitude and the contents that we must absorb in the short period of time (in addition to our many other classes). I would greatly appreciate it if the readings were narrowed down to selected sections focusing on the main themes. However, I do find the lectures very useful in understanding many of the readings, though I do find the organizational structure of the lectures difficult to follow at times. All in all, I think it'd benefit the students more if the lectures didn't allocate so much time to the background and would rather go straight to the main ideas and themes.

Krista Ellis

I must agree with most of my classmates that the lectures needed more structure and focus. While I really did find some of the tangents that Prof. DeLong went on very interesting, I found that he often ran out of time to talk about the readings for the week. Historical context is useful and I appreciate the faith that the Professor has in our skills as students, but I think that discussing the readings should take priority. We are digesting so much material in such a short period of time that I was not able to get as much from the readings as I would have liked, as many were very interesting, and so if they were discussed in lecture I think I would have learned a lot more about modern Political Economy. I would also have to agree with my classmates who said that economic theories were not much discussed at all, which I found disappointing because I think understanding alternative models of economy is important. However, I will say that I enjoyed that Professor DeLong did not teach ‘to the test’ or ‘to the final’; I appreciated that the point of the class was to make us more knowledgeable and not to be able to write a good final and then forget about it later.

Vera Bersudskaya

I think in a class like this, it is important to be open-minded not only with respect to the readings but also vis-à-vis the organization and the way it is taught. From what I understand most of the complaints stem from the inability of students to accept the original way the lectures are given and the unusual amount of reading. I would refuse to believe that Berkeley students are unable to read 500 (sometimes less) pages per week; I also refuse to believe that a Berkeley student cannot figure out what to write down in lecture without an outline. So if that is not undoable, then why are there all these complaints? I think it is important to stress, from the very beginning, that this is a challenging course because it includes a lot of reading and more importantly a lot of thinking on the part of the students. The fact that the lectures were more focused on providing the historical context helped us understand better where the thinkers were coming from. But if one comes to lecture expecting to get the reading summarized and explained, of course he/she will be disappointed. If you are still thinking (after all those other suggestions) of keeping the lectures about the same, I would suggest announcing the goal of the lectures clearly from the beginning, so students don’t get mad for no reason. This is a completely legitimate way to teach, it may even be more beneficial because it stimulates thinking and analyzing. When the lecture is held in this format, then the role of section becomes very important. I said it on my evaluation from in PE 100 and I’ll say it again, I think for a class like this 50 minutes of discussion per week is not enough to summarize, discuss, connect, and think together about the reading. I really feel that 2 sections would have benefited both the students and GSIs because they wouldn’t have to cram the discussion. This is why, even though I am not a computer person, I really liked the postings. I would argue against moving the deadline for postings to Thursday because then you would get a bunch of people summarizing professor Delong. It was interesting to see other people’s ‘first take’ on the readings. I have to admit that the lack feedback has been a little frustrating. This can be improved through better communication and coordination between GSIs and the professor.


Evan Fleming

Coming into this class I truly wasn't sure what to expect. After taking PEIS 100 a year before I had an image of my mind that the course what somewhat mirror the structure and material that we covered in that course but address some more contemporary political and economic issues. However, this course took a somewhat different direction in that it allowed for more freedom in terms of how to interpret the material and applying some of these ideas to real world issues and topics. Looking back, I can say that I did enjoy the course because it was challenging in nature and it really required us to think.

However, there were a few things that I think could be improved on. I really like the idea of having the two assigned papers because it allows us to put in some time for research and write about something that really interests us. However, I think that both the prompts were much to vague, and I think a prompt that had more specificity would be a little bit more easier to respond to. I really liked the idea of having the paper though, and think that it should be kept in the syllabus in future semesters.

One other thing as well that I think could be added or included in the course is incorporating current events and current issues throughout the readings and lecture. I know that Delong did some of this, and some topics were brushed over in section, but I think that by emphasizing the political and economic implications of some current topics we can better understand the big picture of things.

Lastly, I agree too that the weekly writing responses were helpful but should be due later in the week. Just because it is sometimes difficult to finish all the readings that early in the week. Good class overall though.

Stephen Yang

I had a hard time in this class when it first began, mostly because of the large amounts of reading. However, that was taken care of weeks later through a very helpful reduction in reading load. I understand the purpose of assigning whole books, and I respect what Professor Delong was trying to do for us. However, if the purpose is to teach us how to really "read" and skim to find arguments, the answer is not to throw a lot of reading at us. That's like teaching a kid how to swim by throwing him into the pool. And not all of us are fast readers. Furthermore, I feel I would appreciate these methods more if it were the only class (or at least the only heavy reading class) I were taking. Trying to keep up with the reading in this class most of the time meant skipping the reading for other classes, or vice versa.

Reading aside, I really enjoyed the material. It would have been better if the lectures, as mentioned by others, were more focused on the readings.
Let's hope the final doesn't kill us.

Ziwei Hu

PEIS 101 has been an interesting class. I think Prof Delong chose some very good books for us to read- I particularly enjoyed Scott, Reich, and Stiglitz. That said, I think that all of the extra readings are beyond the scope of the class material, and are unnecessary. It would have been nice if the readings had been more focused, and if there were a coherent theme throughout the course. I think the course would be better if we had fewer readings, but we really delved into them.

As for the lectures, it seems that they mostly provided historical context for the readings. And while they weren't necessarily bad and could be interesting, I found myself wondering what the usefulness of this historical context was for myself, as a PEIS student who is trying to learn theories, not history. I do appreciate Prof. Delong's historical background, but the lectures I personally found most helpful were the ones in which Prof. Delong explained theories rather than giving historical context and anecdotes. I think the historical context could be cut down to perhaps 20 minutes, and the remaining 60 minutes could be spent on the theories.

I have to agree with my fellow students on the feedback. It took a really long time for me to get my feedback on bspace and it would have helped to have it sooner.

Overall, I think it was a pretty good class. Thank you.

Sam Iverson

I feel the class offered a very comprehensive historical and theoretical development of political-economic thinking in the 20th century. Following progressively through the century in unison with our semester, I felt as though my understanding of the great interconnectedness of politics and economics evolved and matured through time. Likewise, I enjoyed following the progression of critiques and compliments offered by contemporary thinkers to many of the classical political-economic theories of capitalism and socialism. Notwithstanding, I have a few critiques for the course myself.

First, I feel as though the writing responses could've offered a bit more variability in their topics so that individual responses wouldn't be redundant. Perhaps instead of offering one prompt on one of the readings, there could be a few prompts offered for each of the assigned readings for which each student can select one to write on. Also, I enjoyed topics that aroused debate (Hobson vs. Schumpeter, for example) because they gave us the opportunity to truly discuss the strong and weak sides of each author.

Second, incorporating an in-class midterm into the class could've helped to solidify our understanding of the early thinkers of the century and also give us a better idea of the format for the final and how we should pace our writing on it. It seems as though much of the theoretical development of the class (free-market liberalism vs. social democracy) was established in the first half of the semester and many of the recent authors have contributed contemporary evidence, either through support or criticism, for one of the two sides. Thus, I feel having a test that reinforced our understanding of the early thinkers would have put the second half in a stronger perspective and helped us to prepare for the final.

Helen Louie

I agree with my classmates that PEIS 101 was interesting and definitely different from the IAS 45 and PEIS 100 in structure and in the way it was taught. As like many others, I signed up for this course because I thought that Prof. Zahedi was teaching and from reviews from friends and other classmates, the class was interesting and a great course in general. However, Prof. Delong has done a great job teaching and I’ve learned a lot!

In addition, I think Prof. Delong has done a good job preparing the class with the short amount of time that he had. However, I would have liked more structure. It was extremely confusing, frustrating and stressful when the due dates of the assignments changed without any notice. In addition, it would have been more helpful if the changes were e-mailed out or mentioned on bspace. Moreover, I agree with John that there should have been a wider range in grading on the assignments and responses to these assignments. I also would have liked to have more preparation for the final. The practice final has been extremely helpful, however, there has been a lot of material covered in the course and it is hard to know what we should focus on (besides what has been on the web assignments).

I really enjoyed some of the readings. They were extremely insightful and it is amazing how correct some of the predictions were for the future. Although there were a lot of readings, they were interesting to read. I wish there was more time to focus in on the readings and spend a week on each author.

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