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If you don't like competing with your classmates for your grades, don't take classes with Prof. Potter. After giving explicit directions on how to answer test questions -- essentially, produce as thorough answers as possible by regurgitating as much of the material as possible from your notes (allowed in exam) -- Prof. Potter made it crystal clear that he grades comparatively: the best answers are selected across the class, and all others are judged against them. This does not, however, necessarily mean that the best answers are guaranteed full points. The result at exam time was an exercise in seeing how much of the book you could copy into your notes, and then how much of that material you had time to copy onto your paper in the allotted time. Class time was also spent scribbling as much as possible -- so much so that it was impossible to think about the material as it went by.
I feel I deserved a better grade than I got (B+), and, judging by the responses here, I am not alone. I was really looking forward to this class -- it covers great material and the Littlejohn text is a wonderful intro reference -- but Prof. Potter really pulled it down by focusing on test-taking/book-reading skills and on how to justify your arguments rather than focusing on the material we need to learn and retain for later.
Not only was this the worst class I have ever taken at UCLA it is the only class I have ever taken where I left feeling cheated. I do not make this statement lightly so I will attempt to explain it.
1. Prof. Potter rarely, if ever, teaches communication. Instead he often confines his lectures to explaining the graphic interface of the book itself. I watched once as he showed how the main points are often in a bigger and bolder font than the minor points. This left me feeling cheated because I felt that attending lectures should give me a better understanding of the topic, this was not the case.
2. The class itself is little more than midterm and final prep. While I understand the tests that one takes are an important part of the course, Prof Potter dedicates his lecture time to trying to show what counts as a proper answer on the tests (when not describing the font that is). However, while the format to be used was made explicit little was said about what an answer should contain. I felt cheated here because I felt that oftentimes answers took the form he claimed to want only to be marked wrong with no apparent justification given.
I could go on but given the other reviews I would just be repeating myself. I do however disagree that Potter is a nice man. My opinion is that he is lazy. It looks as though he has taught this course so many times that he does it in his sleep now, he appears apathetic to students and self-rightous when questioned about his method of testing. He makes broad statements about not bothering to talk to him about a grade that has been given. Also he did not give out comment sheets at the end of the quarter. I think that this was done intentionally and I believe that it is a serious disservice to his students. I think Prof. Potter knew that there was a lot of dissatisfaction in the class with his teaching and it was for this reason that we weren't allowed to review him. Finally I want to end by saying that it is a prof's job to evade questions or obscure their own shortcomings with smoke and mirrors, this is to be accepted and expected. However, one would hope that they perform this unpleasent aspect of thier job with some skill. Prof Potter was so inept at disguising his ignorance of some of the book that it produced guffaws from his freshmen students (presumably the easist to confuse). It's also rather sad to watch him furiously flick through the text and then read verbatim from it in answer to every student's question.