Ask the Grumpies: Rate My Professor

MutantSupermodel asks:

What are your thoughts on Rate My Professor?

#1:

EVIL

and not the fun kind
alternate answer:  ew ew ew ew ew ew ew.
the end.
#2:  In my experience it says more about the students than it does about the professor.  I found it very useful when deciding on where to apply as a professor– students with bad grammar and spelling who complained about having to actually do work did not look like fun students to teach. Places where students could actually spell in which they praised professors who made them think (and panned easy A professors who always canceled class) were much more attractive.
Also for a while I was having fun going around and rating my friends as “Tough but fair and you will learn a lot” and giving them chili peppers.  I think I gave my mom a chili pepper too.
It’s a bit easier for me than for #1 because students at my school don’t seem to have discovered the website.  They may have their own school-run one that I don’t have access to or something, but I don’t really want to know if they do.  Poor #1.  Her RMP evaluations say things like, “She actually expects you to learn the things she teaches,” or “She doesn’t give you credit for homework assignments if you don’t do them.”  (Only, of course, not spelled anywhere near so well.)  They make me want to bang my head against the wall and I’m not even teaching her students!
Academic readers:  What are your thoughts on Rate My Prof?

25 Responses to “Ask the Grumpies: Rate My Professor”

  1. Anandi Raman Creath (@anandi) Says:

    I like the *idea* of it, but it’s too easy to leave crap on an open site like that. I’d prefer some kind of university-internal site that’s moderated (but still anonymous). We had something similar at Caltech, though IIRC it was in paper form (early 90s) – but it was by course + professor, and super-helpful. Then again, my classmates could (mostly) spell and were there to learn :) It was really helpful in picking which classes to take – it was a small school so it’s not like you could “shop around” and choose a different prof – most courses were taught only once a year, and some of the more specialized ones weren’t offered regularly. So it was handy to have a backlog of “reviews” for something that no one in recent years had taken.

  2. Pamela Says:

    I don’t like the idea of using consumerist/marketing ideals for education. I can see how it would be useful to know certain things–such as if a professor yelled or screamed (I had one of those once, and dropped the class–he never screamed at me but I didn’t want to spend several hours a week in that environment). But I think a lot of this is turning education into a product, and that doesn’t sit quite right with me.

    BTW, I have given you a Liebster blog award over at my place. :)

    • Anandi Raman Creath (@anandi) Says:

      How is a college education *not* a product, when we are paying $40K – $120K for it? I definitely want to know if I’m getting a decent ROI if I’m spending that much money (and effort and tears). Not saying that RMP is the way to ensure a good education, but I don’t understand how education is NOT a product.

      • Rumpus Says:

        I definitely think that a college/university education is a product. It’s marketed like a product, it’s discussed like a product, etc. The problem is that what you want to know is generally not what you get in terms of Rate My Professor. What you want to know is the long-term usefulness of buying this product, versus this other product, versus not buying any of them. When you’re buying luggage or a book, you can go read reviews and get a good idea…but to my knowledge there isn’t anything similar for college/university. Instead, what you get are course evals, or random anecdotes from students, or you get to know how big the endowment is…none of which are what you want to know. Particularly the course evals and random anecdotes…those are primarily popularity contests and if anything are negatively correlated with whether or not the professor taught you how to think. US News and World Reports is similarly flawed (in not giving you the info you want), but is a good way to quickly see how other people will view the quality of the education you received…and to sort by criteria like small or liberal arts.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Good point. It’s like I tell my students in stats class to illustrate a concept. They are “uninformed respondents.” They won’t know whether the stuff I’m teaching them is actually useful to their future careers until they’ve graduated and started on their future careers. Our alumni say they wish they’d taken *more* stats classes. Our undergrads say they wish they could take fewer!

      • Pamela Says:

        I agree that it’s something you pay a lot for and that you should get something out of it (although I wish we had a grant system here because tuition is way too expensive these days). I regard it more as a basic right than a product. I think the “it’s a product you pay for” gives rise to the idea that the more expensive schools are always better and that some schools (smaller state colleges, community colleges, etc.) that aren’t expensive aren’t “good” and that we shouldn’t expect them to be. I’d rather education be a resource we all invest in for the good of society. I’d also like a pet unicorn, so pay no mind to me.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Thanks for the award! One note: One of us is happily child-free. :)

  3. jim Says:

    I thought it had become inactive: that new entries weren’t being made, but the old ones were still there. Is it still going? I haven’t looked at it in ages, though.

  4. Kellen Says:

    As a student, I used it the same way you did – looked for professors where other students said they were tough, but great at teaching and made the subejct really interesting. And certainly we had plenty of misspelled comments about how the professor was a bad bad person for giving you homework assignments, but you learn to read through the lines on those, the same way you would with real estate ads (i.e. “Loads of charm!” = “needs renovation”), and make your decision on the information that the illiterate students are *actually* conveying (i.e. this is a class where the prof will encourage everyone to participate, and cares enough about teaching to not just hand out easy As).

  5. sciliz Says:

    Looked it up just now. My uni has an entry for Albus Dumbledore (he has a chili pepper). I think that says everything.

  6. Perpetua Says:

    Evil! It brings out the worst impulses in students (for the most part – I mean some do use it in useful way, but not most), because of the intersection of anonymity, which we know makes people on the internet behave very badly and say terrible things, and the immaturity of the students (what I mean by that is that most don’t really understand what professors are supposed to do as professionals, and they react to their professors through a complicate web of their own baggage). This is also why I’m very skeptical and critical of the overuse of student evaluations as a method of judging teaching quality/effectiveness.

  7. ohiofam Says:

    As a student, I’ve found that it’s pretty accurate for my school, if translated into English. I wouldn’t take it at face value, but it’s got some good information. I would have totally discounted the things said on there about one of my professors if I’d read them before the semester started, but I didn’t look her up until after I am really struggling with her teaching style (and I get along with my professors as a rule; I respect their knowledge and position of authority. Having an issue with a professor is unusual for me). And then I found listed there, although in unkind language, every frustration I’ve been experiencing.

    I’m still trying to figure out how to give her an honest but compassionate evaluation at the end of the course.

  8. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    More importantly, how sadde is itte that Rate Your Students shutte down? I thought thatte place was f*cken hilarious!

    http://rateyourstudents.blogspot.com/

  9. Spanish Prof Says:

    As long as nobody bases tenure decisions on them, I like RMP. If you know how to read between the lines, I’ve found them pretty accurate. And yes, it says a lot about the students, that’s why I said read between the lines. But the examples you quote about #1 also say a lot (in a positive way) about her as a professor. And every time I’ve read about a professor i know being disorganized, unclear, they are spot on.

  10. Cloud Says:

    She expects her students to learn?!?!? The horror!

    We didn’t have an online version of this back in my day, but we had a paper version. I remember looking at it, but in my major, most of my courses were predetermined, so I don’t remember using it much.

  11. Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

    Do colleges take student evaluations much into account when making tenure decisions (not RMP but internal ones)? Do they look at them at all?

  12. Leigh Says:

    As a student, I never really looked at it. Most terms, I had only one option of a prof and very few options on the courses that I wanted to take, so I just took what I wanted regardless of the prof.

    Haha, going around and rating your friends :)

    I think my faculty might have collected the internal ratings we did in each course, but I don’t remember if they displayed them back to the students at all.

  13. femmefrugality Says:

    I’m sorry, guys, but I LOVE rate my professor! When I see that idiots didn’t want to work so they gave the professor a bad score, I give it no heed. When I see everyone saying the professor is easy, I stay away. Because I actually want to learn something. But if a professor is unwilling to help struggling students or doesn’t spend lecture time lecturing about what we’ll be tested on, I stay far away. I can see how you would hate it as a professor….there are a lot of idiotic students out there. But for me it’s been an amazing tool that’s helped me learn more and stress less.

  14. Donna Freedman Says:

    I’m thinking about student versions of Internet trolls, and shuddering. So if you have a bunch of lazy-ass scholars who get mad because you critiqued their shoddily-researched papers, they can go in and post away their ire?
    It’s like Yelp: a loose cannon can cause a real problem. A relative of mine works for a dentist. A patient of the dentist who used to own the practice came in for an appointment. She’d been told on the phone that the rules were different, i.e., you had to pay your co-pay at the time of the visit vs. being billed for it.
    The first thing she did was refuse to pay the co-pay. “Dr. C never made me do that.” When the desk clerk politely but firmly explained that without the co-pay the appointment would not happen, the woman reluctantly pulled out a credit card.
    Next she picked a fight with the hygienist and the dentist, critiquing both their skills. Then she went on Yelp and wrote a dramatic version of the appointment that bore no relation to reality, according to my relative. She also made a couple of references to the dentist’s accent (she was born in another country but went to dental school here) that were borderline racist.
    Fortunately, the dentist has other Yelp reviews that are positive and fair. But if someone zeroed in on that one, she looks like a money-mad woman who doesn’t speak English very well and who knows, really, WHERE she got her training? In her third-world country?
    I’m just picturing a professor trying to explain to the department chair: “I expect them to do the assigned reading and to participate in class discussions and turn in work on time. That’s probably why they called me ‘mean,’ ‘obsessive’ and ‘demanding.'”
    I got my degree two years ago, and heard students whine and complain about having to do ALL THAT READING, and then even to…dear god….TALK ABOUT IT!

  15. MutantSupermodel Says:

    Thanks for answering my question :) So far, I’ve been using it the way most adults do– reading between the lines. In other words, the score itself means nothing– the comments do.
    When I was in school the first time, they were doing the internal version and it was interesting.
    So far, I haven’t been able to really use it the way a lot of people do because I haven’t had very many options in which class to choose, much less which professor to take it with thanks to the gazillion constraints on my schedule. But, it has put me at ease in certain cases. Like with Chemistry, the class I have to take is a with a professor with an average score. Looking at the reviews though it seems her teaching style is A LOT like my Pre-Calculus professor (everything comes from notes, so forget the textbook) and it turns out that style suits me. So even though I am nervous about taking Chemistry, I’m more at ease as to how the class will apparently be taught.

  16. Mark Peifer Says:

    “Also for a while I was having fun going around and rating my friends as “Tough but fair and you will learn a lot” and giving them chili peppers. I think I gave my mom a chili pepper too.”

    I love this–I have done this for a number of colleagues and even for myself–its great fun.

    PS take the comments with a huge grain of salt but I have to admit that after looking at these for a long while (I’m in year 21 as a Professor), if someone consistently gets lots of ratings and they are either quite good or quite bad (and in a consistent way), they mean something.

  17. Picking Instructors to Save Tuition | Femme Frugality Says:

    […] A great post from the viewpoint of professors. […]


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