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The organization of Professor Smoak was kind of difficult to deal with to be honest. He doesn't post the lecture slides online and most of the lecture during class is commentary on the minimal notes put on the slides that he does present, so it was difficult at time trying to figure out what to take notes on and what to ignore. This class is writing-intensive (as it is a Writing II course) including two main papers, weekly reading responses, and an in-class midterm and final.
For the weekly reading responses, they're mostly graded on completion and answering the prompt (I got 10/10 on most of them just writing boring responses). The weekly reading itself is another reason I'd dock the class on being disorganized. I didn't really know how the reading pertained to the class. He assigned weekly reading under the schedule but it wasn't mandatory so no one actually did it.
As for the in-class tests, the midterm was pretty hard and the final was super easy. His midterm had multiple concepts that weren't listed on the study guide (note: he tests on quotes where you need to know specific words to finish sentences/fill-in-the-blank which were pretty hard, so read the passages he puts on the study guide very carefully). I think he realized that the midterm was harder than he had anticipated, so the final was super easy (I got an 88 on the midterm and a 98 on the final, which was much shorter and a lot easier).
For the papers that we had to write, this would probably be my biggest gripe with the class. Professor Smoak and the TA's don't really help that much in writing these papers unless you go out of your way to ask them in office hours to elaborate. During section and lecture, they will tell you what they want to see in the essays, but will hardly give any helpful examples to follow. The prompts for the paper are broad and definitely confused me in the writing process because they had so many facets that I had to narrow down into a single thesis/paper. I eventually went to the TA's office hours to ask for help on this paper and while my writing itself didn't seem that much better/different, I guess it mirrored what HE specifically wanted to see, so I ended up clutching an A.
If I was evaluating this class only based on Dr. Smoak, I would be giving a much nicer review. The material in this course centers on Jerusalem and the biblical mythology and history surrounding it, so having prior religious education is advantageous. While I did not find the material in this course particularly interesting, Dr. Smoak was a clear lecturer and always willing to stay on Zoom after class and clarify anything that did not make sense. He was also very understanding of the unique pandemic circumstances; he extended the due dates of several papers and assignments, made the midterm and final very straightforward, and even instituted a generous curve once all grades were implemented, which is honestly the only reason I received the grade I got.
Now, in terms of workload, this course is ludicrous. On paper, it just looks like a few readings twice a week and one short response as well as two 6-8 page essays, one being a literary analysis. For a 5-unit GE Writing II course, that doesn’t seem too bad, but my TA expected an advanced comprehension of each and every article and chapter and turned every discussion section into 50 minutes of regurgitating facts, which disadvantaged anyone who was reading the stories for the first time. He marked off points without specific justification on reading responses and essays. I’m not sure if he has grasped the concept that highlighting a sentence and saying “not clear” is lazy and insufficient feedback.
Anyway, I digress. This quarter was Dr. Smoak vs. the condescending and infuriatingly aloof TAs, and Dr. Smoak won in the end. Do not listen to reviews that say that this class is easy, because it is only easy if you have a very light schedule and are a naturally good writer. I’d prefer death over taking this class again.
Terrible, terrible class with a boring professor and extremely callous TAs. The workload does not look like much when it’s on the syllabus, but once you’re actually trying to dissect what the hell the essay prompts are, you start to realize how intense this course is. Dr. Smoak wasn’t the most engaging person ever; it didn’t help that on Zoom, his more interactive slides didn’t work too well. However, I will give him credit for extending assignment deadlines, curving the class, and making the midterm and final very manageable. To do well in the class, I would recommend that you come in with significant knowledge of biblical stories (especially Genesis and the Gospels) because if you do you won’t waste time scrolling through the Bible when collecting evidence for your essays. Also, do all the readings because your TA may expect you to have read all of them in discussion. That being said, your TA kinda determines your grade in this course, so if you have a bad one, you’re kinda screwed. Don’t sign up for Aaron’s discussion section(s) because if he doesn’t like your writing, he will not give you an A no matter how hard you try. Smoak saved this class from being complete and utter trash. Know what you’re getting yourself into before you sign up.
I do not recommend taking this class as a GE. The professor is really nice and helpful but he doesn't podcast his lectures and his lecture slides don't give a lot of information so attendance is mandatory. The tests he gives are incredibly hard and focus on the smallest details of the information learned. He even tests the memorization of the Phoenician alphabet. There is a group project with about 5 people to create a writing system, which was really difficult to do and took a lot of time outside of class. There is a final paper that you have to write about 5 pages long with a ton of requirements regarding sources, the layout, etc. The information was interesting but not enough to take it for a GE.
I took this class because it fulfilled a GE and the Writing II requirement. This was one of my favorite classes omg please take this class!! However, if you do not have a strong religious background, this class might be a little bit more difficult. Despite the class being online, Professor Smoak was a super understanding and engaging professor. Would definitely take another class with him!
I thought this class would be an easy elective to take for upper div units alongside my major classes and boy was I wrong! Smoak's lectures cover about 35% of what you need to know, and the textbook is where the real content is found. The problem with that is that he assigns ~80 pages of dense reading per week (that's a lot for me). Would not recommend it as a filler class.
Despite it being widely out of the scope of my major here at UCLA, I think AN N E 12W with Professor Smoak has been my favorite class so far. Smoak gives very engaging lecture that is well-structured, thought-provoking, and pertinent to the course material. I've enjoyed every minute of class.
There is a weekly one-page writing assignment, as well as two papers and two tests to make up your grade. The tests are not overly difficult and are structured around what is covered in lecture + the weekly reading. The two larger papers are about interesting topics and Prof. Smoak goes out of his way to assist students with anything in the class. The course also satisfies a GE, Writing II, and the diversity requirement for at least the school of music.
I adored professor smoak. the lecture material was interesting, and he worked to make it even more engaging. Easy midterm and final, and a fun (surprisingly not terrible) group project. Smoak is very approachable and amiable. I would take any class again with Smoak.
Took 10W. Smoak is good at talking, but THIS IS NOT AN EASY CLASS! YOU HAVE TO DO A LOT OF WORK AND RESEARCH FOR THE ESSAYS! DON'T PLAN ON THIS CLASS BEING AN EASY A. That being said, take him during the spring, NOT FALL quarter. He is more laid back after the Fall quarter.
Best teacher at UCLA, hands down!!! He's a great communicator and teacher! He cares about his students. And makes it clear what he wants from his students! Take a class with Smoak, this ain't no joke!