Brain Evolution Seminar - W3470 - Evaluations



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I have taught this seminar class in six different seminars since 2010 and am continuing to teach it. It has been very enjoyable for me to teach. I've been interested in this topic a long time. In high school I wrote an essay on brain evolution as an entrance exam to Oxford University. Doing this class is a great reminder of how much fun science can be. One note - in Fall 2010 this class had midterm and final exam papers, but ever since then it has not included these.


Comments on Instructor Effectiveness

- The format of the class is really engaging, a great balance between presentation of material and discussions. (Fall 2012)

- I loved Professor Curley's class. The structure of the class with us doing readings and posts before class was a great way to learn about the material and then have the chance to discuss in class the topics that interest us. Professor Curley was also very flexible in that most of what he talked about was catered to our interests. (Fall 2012)

- Dr. Curley is vastly knowledgable in his area - and many others - and his eclectic musings were pertinent and informative. Great Prof! (Fall 2012)

- I was a great seminar with tons of information for each class, however, I found it hard to follow sometimes when bouncing around slides. Although at times it was necessary because the topic had come up, I think it would be better if there was a sense of progression. (Fall 2012)

- This class was amazing. Professor Curley is brilliant. He assigned relavent and interesting readings every week. He had interesting classes planned out, but was happy to and capable of going off on tangents around class questions and interests. Dr. Curley covered so many subjects and philosophies and has such a broad foundation of knowledge. I must have falling in love with 12 different ideas and bought 16 new books over the course of taking this class. I couldn't have liked a class more! (Spring 2012)

- Sometimes the classes were a bit hard to follow, but overall it was a very interesting semester! (Spring 2012)

- One of the best classes I've ever taken. Complex, unexpected and difficult material synthesized into units that just whet my appetite. The prepared powerpoints were exceptional, and now I don't understand why all my teachers dont prepare to this level. Makes it so easy to re-access the topics we covered. Just an awesome class. (Spring 2012)

- I like Professor Curley, but it is in effective to give us the readings beforehand and then say the same exact thing on the slides in class. And then the answers are on the slides...so that doesn't exactly encourage participation. (Spring 2012)

- This was a great course! I was exposed to many different ways of studying human brain evolution that I would otherwise have been unlikely to have explored. It was a lot of fun! (Spring 2012)

- Prof. Curley is a very engaging teacher and his selection of reading materials was excellent (Spring 2012)

- Professor Curley was an impeccable presenter who was really able to engage with the students on a level as to encourage a lot of participation. He was so open to answering our many questions about the (often confusing) subject matter as he guided us through the evolution of the brain. My only suggestion is that he responds to his emails more often. (Spring 2012)

- Great sense of humor, very helpful during journal presentation (Fall 2011)

- The instructor presented a well-organized, and well-thought out course that was inter-disciplinary in its approach. He knows the material well and was interested in our ideas. He could extract the essence of a topic, making complicated ideas accessible without over-simplifying. This is a talent that cannot be underestimated. He made learning fun. In addition, when there was a talk being given on campus that related to our subject matter, he let us know. (Fall 2011)

- Great! (Fall 2011)

- Made the class really interesting! (Fall 2011)

- Professor Curley was very down to earth and easy to talk with. Very knowledgable about the subject matter and was able to clarify questions/criticisms of the readings. Did a great job generating student interest in the course. (Spring 2011)

- Brilliant professor and very interesting subject matter! Seems very dedicated to helping his students. He is also very approachable. (Spring 2011)

- Dr. Curley is a wonderful professor. He presented the material well, always with a type of intellectual curiosity that he encouraged in others. He is a professor who makes time to meet with students to further discuss course material and raise new questions. Unlike other professors I've had in the psych department, Dr. Curley honestly listens to his students and was helpful in provoking new ideas related to the course material. (Spring 2011)

- I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to take this class with Dr. Curley--he is one of the best teachers I've ever had. He presented the material coherently and passionately, and I enjoyed the occasional jokes he would make as they tended to have a relaxing effect on everyone in the class. I think Dr. Curley is the only professor I know that can lecture for two hours straight without losing my attention or interest once. His lecture style is different than many other professors', and it is one of the qualities I most appreciated about him. In addition to having well prepared and presented lectures, he was always very open and responsive to our questions. I felt comfortable voicing any confusion I had because I knew that he would give my question due consideration, and unlike some other teachers I've had, he was never put off by interruptions and only welcomed our opinions. He would also stay behind after class to discuss the topics further if we wanted to clarify anything. Finally, I think Dr. Curley is a great professor because his concern for his students and what they take away from the class is evident. He is so approachable and when I met with him to discuss my final paper, we ended up talking about the laboratory work I was planning to do over the summer. I realized then that he had a genuine interest in his students and was not teaching simply because he is required to. Dr. Curley perfectly illustrates the kind of professor I would eventually like to become--one who can convey information efficiently, who can spark intellectual curiosity, and most of all, who gladly becomes a mentor to students. (Spring 2011)

- I had my doubts due to his youthful face brain evolution, neuroscience I now embrace (Spring 2011)

- Professor Curley was very engaging and made the material come to life. I would definitely take another class with him. I thought reading recently published papers was excellent because I knew I was learning the most updated material. Professor Curley knows this material and he imparts his interest to his students. Excellent, highly recommended class. (Fall 2010)

- Prof Curley was very effective in making material interesting. (Fall 2010)

- Clear, intelligent, funny. (Fall 2010)

- He presented material with enough background information to make new info clear without dwelling. If there was a particular topic of interest he encouraged conversation. Wasn't shy about voicing his opinions while still providing all other arguments in a way that allowed you to form your own opinion. (Fall 2010)

- really well presented and discussed class. (Fall 2010)


What were the best aspects of this course

- Prof Curley's willingness to engage any and ALL questions, hypotheticals and tangents (Fall 2012)

- The material was novel and the instructor presents it in a way that encourages questions. The most effective seminar I've seen that strikes a balance between teaching material and critical thinking. (Fall 2012)

- The freedom for discussion and range of topics were excellent! (Fall 2012)

- The broadness it covered. I learned about paleontology, anthropology, evolutionary biology, and much more! It was a different way of approaching science that I have never thought of before. Very cool. (Fall 2012)

- I love the essay assignment at the end of the course rather than a final (Fall 2012)

- powerpoints, oddly enough. Everything was great, but the powerpoints were such a valuable take away now that the class is over that they stand out. (Spring 2012)

- Professor Curley is awesome. (Spring 2012)

- Professor Curley's attitude and sense of humor. (Spring 2012)

- Good article selection, and interesting discussion. (Spring 2012)

- Course subject matter and Prof. Curley's outstanding knowledge of the field. (Spring 2012)

- Professor Curley and his expertise and willingness to answer questions (Spring 2012)

- The topics, the depth of analysis, and the instructor's expertise and guidance. The instructor's open, easy-going style helped, too. No idea or question was too far-fetched or silly. All received due deliberation. (Fall 2011)

- Lectures. (Fall 2011)

- Dr. Curley was incredibly knowledgeable about the subject matter and lectures were very well organized (Fall 2011)

- Class time was extremely productive and enjoyable. By completing the reading, which gave us a sufficient background for that class's subject, we were able to cover a lot of material and raise some questions. (Fall 2011)

- I liked the last few lectures. (Fall 2011)

- When the class was able to discuss we had good discussions. The paper presentations were interesting and offered a nice variety to the class. (Fall 2011)

- definitely the journal presentations were the highlight of the course, different from your usual class presentation experience. (Fall 2011)

- The material, the small class size, the humor and and lightheartedness of the instructor. (Fall 2011)

- Appreciated the mix of instructor powerpoints and student presentations. Topics were easy to follow and generated interest in evolutionary biology, genetics, and human/animal psychology. (Spring 2011)

- I think the best thing about this class is the kind of practical skills that you take away from it. Not only did we cover a great breadth of topics, but we gained valuable experience discussing current theories and writing about them in our research papers. I also thought that the topics we covered were extremely interesting, and I now frequently find myself bringing them up in conversation and in my other classes. (Spring 2011)

- The material itself was very engaging. (Spring 2011)

- The best aspect of the course was the discussion of emotion and language. As well as the discussion of class members' paper presentation. (Spring 2011)

- i thought it was a good choice of weeks to do the journal presentations-- early in the semester, after break, and the last class. (Spring 2011)

- Material learned and class interaction. It was the hightlight class of my week. (Fall 2010)

- the format -- seminar style with some 'lecture' aspect but in a way that prof curley seemed to talk 'with' us, not at us. it was very easy to give comments, raise pts in class (Fall 2010)

- The lectures were really enjoyable and informative. (Fall 2010)

- Lectures (Fall 2010)

- Very good instruction, open discussion forum at all times (Fall 2010)

- the topics covered were very interesting and the evidence to support/refute topics were also extensive--forced us to critically examine whether or not we should accept the conclusions made by scientists or not (Fall 2010)

- As you see from scores, all aspects were very useful, enjoyable, and helped define areas for future studies. Prof. Curley has obvious interest in what he is teaching, has complete understanding of all of the topics covered as well as the background topics that make it easier to understand. (i.e. his ability to explain the anthropology side of things in a way that is easy to understand and translated to this course. (Fall 2010)


Comments on readings, materials, assignments, and examinations

- I really enjoyed the readings and discussions! (Fall 2012)

- In most classes and seminars I feel that at least 25% of the readings are tedious and/or pedantic but I immensely enjoyed all the assigned readings for this seminar and found them accessible and on point for the ensuing lecture (Fall 2012)

- Readings were absolutely fascinating (Spring 2012)

- Top notch. (Spring 2012)

- I think some type of rubric and/or sample(s) would be helpful in showing students how those assignments are done (Spring 2012)

- Readings were great and not too much work! (Spring 2012)

- Should provide more feedback to the discussion posts. I think we did that in one class, where Dr. Curley spent some time to go through the posts and answer the questions asked in them. It would have been nice if this had been done every class. (Fall 2011)

- Great articles. (Fall 2011)

- I do wish that we discussed the reading more in detail in class. (Fall 2011)

- I often felt that I did not have the background to fully be able to examine the articles assigned or ask questions based on the readings. (Fall 2011)

- I liked the structure of the course. There was a nice integration of the lecture with the readings and the assignments. The readings were research papers. They were topical and, for the most part, engaging (dependent on the writer's writing style, apart from the information being conveyed). Our weekly assignment was to comment on the readings on a discussion board and these discussions were incorporated into the lecture. In lieu of formal examinations, we are being graded on our presentation of one of the readings and an essay paper. This approach is more in keeping with what I'd expect from a course that is sharpening our critical thinking skills as much as it is in introducing new material and the debates that take central stage in the fields we are studying. I cannot comment on grading -- I do not yet know how I did on my journal presentation. (Fall 2011)

- Sometimes it was difficult to think of things to say or question in response to the articles assigned for that week, but I appreciated that we had to post to Courseworks because it ensured I stayed on top of the readings. (Fall 2011)

- Never knew how I did on the presentation... (Fall 2011)

- I really appreciated that we have a final paper rather than a final. (Fall 2011)

- This was the first class I've even taken in which we were required to read a few dense articles each week. This was a great chance for me to acquire experience reading these kinds of articles, and I appreciated the fact that we would get a chance to figure them out before the lecture. If anything was still unclear, Dr. Curley would go over it in class. I thought this method was particularly effective, because I never felt overwhelmed by the assignments, nor did the material ever become stale. As a result, I was able to take away a lot from this class, both in factual information and in techniques for analyzing scientific articles/methodology. (Spring 2011)

- as much as i hate it, if we didn't have to post, i wouldn't do the readings at all. so keep that. (Spring 2011)

- The readings were interesting and writing about them was engaging. The only thing that I missed was having instructor's feedback on our short response papers. (Spring 2011)

- Interesting culmination of a wide range of topics! (Spring 2011)

- All reading material presented was relevant and discussed in class. If we were unclear he made himself available for conversation. (Fall 2010)

- Reading actual scientific papers was excellent. I learned how to better analyze material I was unfamiliar with. Also, giving a presentation on a paper was great practice for future classes and feedback was excellent. (Fall 2010)

- Exams were not easy, but the questions felt very fair. (Fall 2010)

- Good feedback--answers questions when needed (Fall 2010)


Please comment on ways to improve the course

- maybe more discussion based on post responses of students (Fall 2012)

- It seems like there were always too many slides to present, so it might be helpful just to take out certain slides that aren't as critical and really hammer down the ones that are important. (Fall 2012)

- I really enjoyed the structure of this course and think it functioned very well. (Fall 2012)

- A little more structure would be nice (Spring 2012)

- really none. Curley spoke most of the time, but it was good. I often feel like my time is wasted when there is too much class participation, but Curley got a read on us via the comments and engaged our questions. He just kept the focus and momentum going. Also, never felt afraid to interject with a question. (Spring 2012)

- I think it' taught very well already. (Spring 2012)

- Either don't read the readings before the power points, or don't have the power points reiterate what the readings say. (Spring 2012)

- Better location!! (Fall 2011)

- I think the discussion board may be more effective if there was a predetermined set of questions so that if you did not have a specific question you could have a prompt to more closely look at something in the paper and write about it. Also connecting the readings more to class would have helped with understanding of the readings. (Fall 2011)

- Have people present the articles each week, instead of journal presentations. (Fall 2011)

- If there is one thing that could be improved, it is that it would be nice to have the syllabus available before the start of class -- I like to be prepared. This, however, is a minor quibble. Once the course began, it became evident that I was as prepared as I needed to be. Moreover, the entire course -- from readings to lectures -- was posted over the first weekend. It was a big help towards managing my time and staying on track. (Fall 2011)

- Not many ways - I really enjoyed the content of the course and Professor Curley. (Fall 2011)

- too many slides per lecture, if only we had more time; creating a dialogue rather than a lecture could prove to make for an interesting class as well. (Fall 2011)

- One of the ways I feel the course could be improved is by having more discussions within each class. I was really interested in people's analysis of particular research articles. I think more discussion with individuals and their interest would help improve the course. I also think that there could be more guidance for papers and paper presentations. (Spring 2011)

- I liked this course a lot. The only problem is that there is a lot to cover in a short amount of time. I think offering handouts or short notes (like timelines of evolution, basics of genetics, etc.) would be good. However, these are already on the powerpoint, so it's not exactly necessary. (Spring 2011)

- The only thing I can think of that may have been fun to do in this class, given the nature of the material, would be to have regular debates with classmates. We already did to a certain extent this semester, but I could definitely see future students having a great time spending the last 15-30 minutes of class just arguing their ideas. I always seemed to leave this class bubbling with new theories, and I'd often call a friend to spark up a discussion. This is definitely the kind of class that can elicit a heated debate, and it would be a lot of fun to do that with Dr. Curley and fellow classmates. (Spring 2011)

- Not really much. Maybe if we could keep all the lectures as laid back as the first ones. The rush made the later lectures a bit less clear. (Fall 2010)

- summarize the key points of the lecture better. perhaps restate at the end of class what the key points were because that could sometimes get lost in all the detail (Fall 2010)

- perhaps a little more structure in terms of timing but overall, subject matter was very engaging; maybe integrate the reading more directly into lecture and discuss more during class instead of just having us post questions about them (Fall 2010)

- Good lesson plan (Fall 2010)

- This was a very enjoyable course with interesting subject matter presented in a way that was neither intimidating nor elementary. Perhaps having more than one class a week to cover such an expansive amount of information would be beneficial. (Fall 2010)

- More discussion? (Fall 2010)

- Meet twice a week for same amount of time so more material is covered in greater depth. (Fall 2010)


General comments

- This course is definitely not for the evolution, neuroscience or psych novice. It was well-tailored to meet upperclassmen needs and did not bog down on remedial info (Fall 2012)

- Very good. (Spring 2012)

- Great class, great professor. Could get a tad boring at times. I think if there were like a 5 minute break in the middle of the class it would help keep everyone focused. (Spring 2012)

- One of the best classes I've ever taken. (Spring 2012)

- =) (Spring 2012)

- It didn't hurt that Prof. Curley was extremely funny and entertaining. (Spring 2012)

- One of my favorite classes. (Fall 2011)

- This course was a pleasure from start to finish. It is one of my favorite courses so far. I'm sorry to see it end. I've learned a tremendous amount and I'm eager for more. (Fall 2011)

- I would have enjoyed more class discussion. It seemed more of a lecture than a seminar. (Fall 2011)

- More structure or discussion about the paper earlier on would have been helpful. (Fall 2011)

- I learned a lot in this course and found it to be one of the best classes I've taken in the Psych Department. (Spring 2011)

- great course. (Spring 2011)

- Course was very informative and interesting. Prof Curley was very engaging. Loved the relaxed but mentally-stimulating atmosphere. (Fall 2010)

- Prof. Curley is intelligent without being overbearing and gives the impression that you can truly ask any questions without fear. Unlike some professors, he manages to express his excitement for the subject matter without drilling you with irrelevant points yet doesn't make you feel less intelligent for not knowing specifics. Wonderful class--will recommend to anyone with interest in evolution, psychology, neuroscience, or just science in general. (Fall 2010)

- Can't think of a way to improve this, perhaps put up the ppt earlier. (Fall 2010)

- i didn't expect to like the subject matter nearly as much as i did and I credit that to a large extent to prof curley (Fall 2010)

- Excellent class and engaging instructor. (Fall 2010)

- enjoyed this class a lot! (Fall 2010)

- Great course. (Fall 2010)


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