Social Problems and Social Change

Description: Lecture, three hours; discussion, one hour. Introduction to social scientific approaches to study of social problems and their solutions. Using selected contemporary social problems as cases, and drawing on variety of sources (such as scholarly readings, video clips, and guest speakers), exploration of how social problems and their solutions come to be defined, roles that economic, political, educational, and cultural institutions play in perpetuating or solving social problems, and how individuals, social advocates, and communities can lead or impede social change. Letter grading.

Units: 5.0
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Overall Rating 3.6
Easiness 3.6/ 5
Clarity 3.3/ 5
Workload 3.5/ 5
Helpfulness 3.3/ 5
Most Helpful Review
Fall 2019 - Overall, this class was enjoyable and provided a great introduction to public affairs. Professor Stoll was very passionate about the subject matter and tried his very best to make the class interesting and engaging. Grading Breakdown: The class is broken down into 2 policy memos (45% of grade), 2 midterms (40% of grade), one op-ed assignment (10% of grade), and discussion section attendance/participation (5%). This is a pretty fair breakdown and offers pretty good distribution across assignments. Lectures: This class was very lecture based with lectures focusing on public policy basics and sub-topic breakdowns (i.e. lectures on heath policy, economic policy, crime policy, etc). This provided a great introduction to future studies in public affairs. I will say, however, Prof. Stoll did get sidetracked often and sometimes only got through 3 slides in one lecture period, focusing instead on a class discussion or going over class logistics. We would try to play catch up but never fully covered all lectures. He also sometimes failed to show up for lecture and his slides were not the easiest to follow. Exams: The class consists of two midterms (no dedicated final exam although midterm #2 is week 10) that include true/false, m/c, short- and long-answer sections. In my opinion, the exams were fair and covered key concepts and gave case studies/scenarios that needed to be resolved. Exam grading was on the slower side but fair. Prof. Stoll was clear on what would be covered and the TA's held review sessions in discussion. Essays: The class consists of three total essays of relatively short length (500 words (op ed), 4 pages (each memo)) that were interesting to write in my opinion. He does change up the essay prompts so ymmv, but the first two essays we got to choose our topics while the last one was on Social Security. We had a long time to write each one and the deadlines were spaced out, but this is one of the main weaknesses of the class. Prof. Stoll failed to release assignment specifics (i.e. rubrics) until like 3-4 days before the due date and communication between the TAs and professor was weak. They often didn't know the specifics and failed to provide examples or even specifics on formatting. Also, your specific TA does not grade your papers, making it hard to know what is expected of the assignment. I definitely recommend working with classmates for peer review as the TAs are not helpful in that regard. Discussion Sections: Personally, I found the discussion sections to be the worst part of the entire course. Instead of focusing on diving deeper into the subject matter explained in lecture, we would review writing tips for the writing assignments, repeating the same key points each week. Even though my TA was very helpful and knowledgeable, he (and others) seemed to not communicate well with the professor, unaware of class logistics (i.e. due dates, assignment specifics, etc). Use caution with this and make sure to listen to everything the professor has to say. Conclusion: Despite these negative marks, this class still was wonderful. I enjoyed learning about the subject material and finding the policy areas I am most interested in. A good grade is doable if you take the time on the essays and review the lectures before the exams. If you are on the fence about pub aff, take this class! You will learn a lot about the field.
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