Professors and the Students Who Grade Them – Room for Debate –

Do you use Rate My Professors?  How effective are student evaluations?  (Talk amongst yourselves….)

At the end of each academic term on many U.S. campuses, students complete evaluations of their course instructors. It is a process that has been criticized for years, and yet it shows a very common desire: to find an effective way to weed out the bad apples. High-stakes evaluations are in vogue not only in higher education but also in elementary and high school.

Are college students’ evaluations of their instructors a useful way to assess professors? What might be more effective?

via Professors and the Students Who Grade Them – Room for Debate –


15 thoughts on “Professors and the Students Who Grade Them – Room for Debate –”

  1. I feel that such evaluations are very beneficial in improving the quality of teachers and educations overall. By using these types of surveys with the use of incentives, whether they be good or bad and consequences the teachers are more prone to provide quality work. While their actual style of teaching may be lacking in some areas, they may not be aware of these faults and continue on with them. Through the use of evaluations and surveys they become aware of areas they need to work on the students’ perception of them. Critique has always been an effective way to increase not only quality within a workplace, but a more dedicated and focused staff. By creating competition through incentives such as raises or bonuses, the teachers are more willing to abandon bad habits or teaching styles and work to improve in those areas.

  2. Rate my proffesor is an extremly useful tool. As a college freshman, this was a website I consulted frequently. It’s five specialized areas helped me match what they were best at with what I care about the most. So far, rate my proffesor has been accurate. I have been pleased with the results I have gotten from it. The following link also gives an opinion on how effective people find rate my proffesor.

  3. I think that student evaluation of college professors is an effective way to assess professors because students really trust what their peers say, and they are more likely to listen to a critique of a professor from someone who is in their same situation than from say information found on a college website that only quotes the professor’s achievements.

    On the other hand, every student is different and appeal to different teaching styles, and will have a different perspective of a certain professor. When I look on sites like Rate My Professor, I have found it difficult to find the truth looking through the many positive and negative critiques of a professor, and sometimes I get confused.

    In the end however, I think that students should have the right to critique their professors. They just need to be careful when they try and find the truth from their very different peers.

  4. The voices of those upset with things always ring louder than the voices happy, even if the latter are in a very large majority. What does a happy student gain for posting on ratemyprofessor? Nothing. Students who were upset though have the opportunity to vent and share their personal frusterating, even if it was a unique circumstance.I usually disregard the opinions shared on ratemyprofessor and instead try to find accounts of people I know personally.
    Similar thoughts have been shared here, in addition to suggestions to improve:

  5. It depends upon the student. As a freshman, earlier this year I didn’t know any poeple at BYU and didn’t know any professors. Because of websites such as ratemyprofessor were very useful to me. I recognized when people were completely biased and extreme in describing their professors.
    Yes it can be a waste, but I think that it reflects what you put into it. When you are diligently searching for honest reviews, then you find them. You gain greater understanding over them. But when you just go on to find what people are saying, then that is what you find. You find every extreme and irrelevant comment made.

  6. I feel that while yes, independent student evaluations of teachers can prove helpful in determining teacher quality; on the other hand, these evaluations can be overly biased for a number of reasons. (1) Some students who get low grades may judge teachers too harshly. (2) Different students have different interpretations of what is a ‘difficult’ class. Some students may judge extra ‘difficult’ teachers too harshly based on that student’s interpretation of what is too difficult. (3) There are a number of other factors that may sway a student to judge a teacher perhaps incorrectly.

    I feel that organized evaluations put on by the school may at least help guide the students to better express their concerns other than by just saying that the teacher was extremely ‘bad’ or ‘hard.’ Questions may be posed in the evaluation that help the students think past their own biases or preferences. I feel that all schools should have really well put-together teacher evaluations for their students to take.

  7. I love Rate my Professor, and I use it before signing up for every one of my classes. I feel like if you sort through all of the answers you can usually find a pretty clear indication of how you should set your expectations. When commenting on a teachers profile, the website asks a number of questions including what grade you got in the class. I feel like the website would be more helpful if you could compare someone’s comments to the grade that they received in the class. Unfortunately the grade is not recorded alongside the reviews.

  8. As a current University Student, I would have to agree with Rojstaczer’s claims. More often than not students choose to reflect their grade on how well their professor taught, not necessarily how much effort they put into the course. I personally feel that for students to evaluate a professor’s, they should be help accountable for their comments by not making it anonymous. Through this, it would be easier to weed out bias comments versus genuine ones.

  9. I agree with whats been said above. If a student gets a good grade, then usually they consider the teacher to be great, or at least good, but a student who does bad thinks the teacher was bad and didn’t teach the material well enough. It is useful to look at teachers reviews, however, because they do give you a good general idea of what the class/teacher will be like. There’s usually some underlying trend or theme that hints as to how it will be. Also, even if it’s not super effective, it is a small way of holding teachers accountable for how they teach. Noone likes to recieve bad reviews and schools don’t want to have teachers who are receiving bad reviews on a regular basis. So at the least, a teacher might keep that in the back of their mind and try to make improvements to get better.

  10. Student rating for professors more often than not reflect the grade the student received from the teacher. Grading for a professor is much less subjective than students evaluation of professors. I’ve had classes where I’ve love the subject material and had horrible professors who were nice and graded fairly leniently – I gave them great ratings at the end of the year. I’ve had other classes taught by brilliant professors who did an excellent job at clearly presenting material, but didn’t get the grade I wanted to, so I gave them poor ratings. (My sister had the same professor and gave him good ratings.) I think the system has to be tweaked if we want to more useful teacher evaluations.

    As we’ve seen from the recent strikes in Chicago, standardize tests don’t seem to be a viable answer:

  11. Why do we, as students and parents of students, obsessively seek out those teachers who have “great ratings?” We all want the best quality of education that is available to us; we doggedly seek the return on investment in our education. In Korea and Japan, parents asphyxiate children in after-school tutor sessions and “prepare” children to get into ridiculously over-priced private schools that are somehow viewed as a prerequisite for success in life. I am, by all means, a strong advocate for education but why do we jade our children in cages by sheltering them from life? Children are still receiving an education if they’re at a public school; we are still receiving a quality university education whoever we take that Biology class from.

    In a book I once read, the author (Tina Seelig) quoted a professor at the University of Chile, who “provocatively suggests that students take classes from the worst teachers in their school because this will prepare them for life, where they won’t have talented educators leading the way.” Seelig brings up an astute point — we, as university students, have a myriad of choices presented to us when we are deciding on which classes to take from who. But, at the end of the day, it does not matter who we had x-class with; what matters is how we approached our education. Were we proactive or passive in capitalizing on our education? Perhaps Seelig has a point — we may be better prepared for society and the “real world” if we seek out the not-so-desired professors. We will challenge ourselves and push our limits.

  12. I feel that Ratemyprofessor is a very helpful tool to use when selecting classes, but its accuracy can sometimes be off. Everyone has there own style of learning. Someone could be a visual learner and learn better by looking at power points or someone could be an auditory learner. So a teacher could only use power points and picture and the auditory learning will not like the class but the visual learner could. I think peoples descriptions on Ratemyprofessor should be formatted differently. I think more explanation of the teacher and the way they teach should be discussed and a more detailed account of the class from the student should be required. On this website people say things such as; I hate this professor, so hard and the test were long and I did not learn anything. And these comments are not helpful to anyway and in that way, Ratemypprofessor is not useful

  13. I admit I use rate my professor every semester. I do not, however, drop a class solely based on the professor’s ratings. I prefer to go to the class, read through the syllabus and meet the professor myself. I will take into consideration what has been said as I evaluate the class. I believe that teachers losing their jobs over ratings (the official ones) can be harsh. I think that sometimes teachers get a bad rap for making a class hard, sometimes more than it should be. I am not sure of an effective way to discover who should be replaced but I often feel that students can be unnecessarily harsh- especially if they do not do well in the class even at their own fault. Perhaps, reviewing the students grades after the semester ends to see if it is a potential reason why they gave a bad review could help. I suppose, however, that if everyone who has ever taken the course has given bad reviews then the situation should be evaluated. I am posting a review here that I found using ratemyprofessor.

    “She is a crazy teacher. She want you to work you butt off but she does net spend a single minute to help students. She never has office hours, even she has keeps one, she wont be there. She enjoys in making students lives miserable. Never take any class from her, seriously, she will ruin your life.”

    This review is terrible! Imagine if it was the only one you read of this professor. To put this in context, I REALLY enjoy this English class and teacher (which I am currently taking) and all the other reviews are excellent. I guess my point is that some reviews really do not reflect the class at all. So using these review needs to be subjective, especially when it could affect somebody’s life so dramatically.

  14. Ratemyprofessor is a very helpful resource in evaluating teachers, but like many have said, I think you can miss out on a great class if you judge a teacher solely by a few online reviews.

    For example, earlier this semester, I was looking for a good Calculus teacher who made lectures fun, engaging, and helpful. But there were like 15 calculus teachers to choose from, and I didn’t have time to go to all 15 classes to try them. So I looked up 3-4 professors that had the highest ratings on Ratemyprofessor, and then went to teach of those classes the first few days to try them out. I ended up finding who I thought was the best teacher for me. So the online reviews helped me to narrow the choices down. I think online reviews are helpful in situations like this. But I have taken several classes from professors who had mediocre ratings on Ratemyprofessor, and they turned out to be some of the best classes I’ve taken at BYU. But I’ve also found that generally, consistent horrible online reviews = a bad teacher.

    Another Washington Post article discusses that teachers should be evaluated by changes in students scores over time, even years later. ( I think this mechanism should be taken into account, but should not be everything.

    Even years later, I think that students can remember who their best teachers were. They remember how much they learned, and how much the teacher inspired them. I think that each department at BYU should have annual surveys where they ask their students who the best teacher in the department is. So if you’re a Political Science Major, you would vote on who your favorite teacher is in that department. I think this would help to show who the best teachers are in each major.

  15. Rate my professor is a great tool, but only if you take note of who is rating the professor. It’s not uncommon to find ratings riddled with bad grammar explaining why an English teacher was unreasonable, or some student with absurd expectations. I even saw one once (in all caps) that said, “HE WANTS YOU TO ACCEPT THE NEW YORK TIMES AS TRUTH! AVOID!” Generally the mentality of the reviewer is evident, and you should take the numeric ratings with a grain of salt.

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