Got a bad rating? Don’t worry, it’s probably not all it’s cracked up to be.
In 1999, software engineer John Swapceinski launched the website teacherratings.com. The site, later renamed RateMyProfessors, allows college students in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to, well, give ratings of their professors.
RateMyProfessors allows anyone to give a rating for a professor. All you have to do is find the professor you want to review and then click on the “rate this professor” button and fill out the short survey.
The survey will ask you to rate the professor, using a scale of 1-5, on easiness, helpfulness, clarity, interest level prior to attending class and textbook use. Students can also choose to rate if their teacher is hot or not.
While many students find RateMyProfessor to be a useful site, others find it to be problematic. The biggest issue that critics have with the website is the validity of the ratings.
In general, in order for a survey to be an accurate tool, there must be a large number of responses. That is not the case with RateMyProfessors.
Some professors have as many as twenty students writing ratings for them, but others have only two or three ratings. Also, the surveys are meant to be taken once in order to maintain accuracy. RateMyProfessors has no system in place to prevent students from rating a professor multiple times.
There is also no way to know that the person writing the review has actually taken a class with that professor.
While this is troubling, an even greater problem is the possibility of the professor actually rating herself or himself. An that appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education perfectly illustrates this problem. Matthew L. Julius, a professor at St. Cloud State University, admitted that he and some of his colleagues have written fake reviews of each other as a form of entertainment.
Recently, the site has added functionality that allows professors to respond to comments.
The categories used by RateMyProfessor are vague and fail to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of things that are important.
Other methods are far more useful in helping to determine whether or not to enroll in the class of a particular professor.
By talking directly with someone who has had the professor you can find out exactly what you want to know. Even better, try to sit in on one of their classes.
So, the next time you decide not to take a class because of a professor’s low rating on a website, you might want to think twice.
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