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Rating Reality: College Rating System — an article on the Smart Living Network
December 16, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Rating Reality: College Rating System

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The last couple weeks have been nothing but caffeine, sugar, books, papers, lack of sleep, and more caffeine. (I seriously considered sticking a needle in my arm and hooking up to a coffee IV). Thus is a student's lifestyle during exams. Besides being stressed and freaked out, the finals week wasn’t completely terrible. I’m still able to hold conversations, play CandyCrush, and blog, so some of my little brain cells must have survived the apocalypse. When that last final left my hands the only thing I had left to worry about was the professor evaluations.

*Sigh*

 As pointless as they may seem, professor evaluations actually are important. Frances Willick, an education reporter for the Herald News wrote that evaluations give professors feedback on qualities like organization, communication skills, enthusiasm, fairness, and teaching effectiveness. Willick also explained evaluations are used “when decisions are made about tenure, promotions, teaching awards, and grants” for professors. The general consensus is students should give a crap about the professor evaluations from their colleges.

The horror. The horror…

Before the semester started, I did what any desperate, terrified freshman would do: I stalked  my professors on RateMyProfessors.com.

Here’s some of the comments I read about Prof. “Smith” before the semester started:  

Poor Quality:

Smith is one of the most condescending professors I have ever taken. He is rude and is not understanding whatsoever. Don't bother going to his office hours for help, he just treats you like a uneducated child and doesn't listen to a word you say. By far one of the worst professors I have ever had.

Average Quality:

Professor Smith is knowledgeable, but very rude. When I asked him to clarify something he replied with "It's not rocket science". You are paying for the classes you choose, so choose carefully. If you like a tough and semi-insensitive professor, he's the one for you!

Good Quality:

He's a great professor. He's hilarious. His sense of humor is a bit dry, and it can sometimes come off as rude, but it's not.He's the most understanding professor I've had thus far. As long as you do the assignments, there's no way to fail. He uses the book a lot, for BB quizes, but they're also pretty hard to fail. Take advantage of office hours!

Guess what? The site didn’t help. If anything, seeing all of the comments from students and rating points only made the anxiety worse, especially when the “Good Quality” commenter can’t even spell the word “quizzes” right. Geesh.

It’s nothing personal? Yeah right.

All grammatical errors aside, RateMyProfessors.com is a common go-to for students before they plan their schedules. But its popularity has drawn attention from more than just the student population. As the largest online destination for professor ratings, higher level educators are fully aware of what students are saying behind their computer monitors.

William B. Harrison III, an English professor, recently responded to Quora’s question: “Do Professors Read Their Reviews on Rate My Professors?” His response highlighted some key concerns he, and I assume many other professionals, has about the site’s “reviews” and their accuracy:

“I remind students that people's careers are often made and broken based in part on their reputations. Although students can say whatever they want, blasting professors unfairly and when they do not really deserve it is a cheap shot, and students should consider that before they fire flaming arrows.”

What really makes a professor “bad”? No two definitions are going to be identical, which is the reasoning behind the evaluations in the first place. Colleges don’t ask your opinion for kicks and giggles, they want to have numbers, statistical data on file about how effective an instructor is for the institution. On RateMyProfessors.com, the responses are anonymous, they're not meant to better the methods of instruction or the course. Just by logging onto a site, students have the opportunity to attack the teaching style, character, appearance, and reputation of professors. Heaven forbid they've got a grudge.

Harrison fears universities might take these ratings from the web and use them in instructor evaluations:

“The thought that tough, knowledgeable, fair teachers might be "dinged" in the promotion and tenure process simply because a number of students have been made unhappy and posted negative comments is simply not right.”

To make it “all better,” RateMyProfessors.com offers professors the chance to “strike back” in video format; responding to the comments that were left on their profile. Most of these videos are of people who are genuinely hurt or offended simply yelling at a camera. I don’t blame them. If some student came online and bashed the way I talked, my age, or my sense of humor, I wouldn’t be very happy either. One of the comments left about Professor Smith that ruffled my feathers was the last sentence of a “Poor Quality” rating, which read: “he a grumpy old man, and it's time to retire.”

Really? How is that necessary in reviewing the performance of a professor?

By all means, go ahead and share your opinions on a class and instructor; I know that they're not all fantastic. Just comment with class, people, this is higher education.

Oh, and I did take a moment afterall to leave a comment on RateMyProfessors.com about Professor Smith. It reads: 

Some students give Smith a bad rap. Newsflash: it's not the professor's fault YOU are lazy. His expectations were high, but attainable, and he was always readily available to help you. His humor is incredibly dry, but witty, and if you are over-sensitive it may come off as "rude." He is a great professor who genuinely cares about his students.

What do you think about RateMyProfessor.com? Should it be taken seriously by students and colleges? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts!

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RateMyProfessors.com#Professor_Rebuttals

http://thechronicleherald.ca/metro/1173114-dal-takes-aim-at-professor-evaluations

http://collegian.csufresno.edu/2013/12/10/faculty-have-mixed-reviews-of-rate-my-professors/

http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2013/12/11/higher_education_a_professor_s_thoughts_on_the_website_rate_my_professors.html?wpisrc=burger_bar

http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/

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