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Teaching tool or a site run by tools?
March 18, 2007 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Students are now using the internet to criticise their teachers behind their backs by using a popular new site called Rate My Teachers. While some 'feedback' left at the site is relatively tame, many teachers are not spared from a flood of insults (which isn't surprising when a group of venting teenagers are involved). The owners of the site are calling it a useful teaching critique tool, but teachers groups are labelling it "a vengeful smear campaign." The site is available in a host of international flavours, such as the UK and Australia, to name but two. Hmmph. Back in my day, we used to just write our 'critiques' on the blackboard while the teacher wasn't in the room...
posted by Effigy2000 (67 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
They should just follow the same rules as Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons.
posted by stbalbach at 6:34 PM on March 18, 2007


There's also ratemyprofessors.com, which is aimed at the college set. I find the information larely useless, however. Still a bunch of kids venting about mean instructors, little commentary on how interesting the classes actually are.
posted by piratebowling at 6:34 PM on March 18, 2007


I actually used this site while I was in college to avoid some shitty less-than-great econ professors. Good for them!
posted by datacenter refugee at 6:35 PM on March 18, 2007


Yikes. Meant to strike the expletive. Sorry :(.
posted by datacenter refugee at 6:36 PM on March 18, 2007


www.ratemyprofessors.com is another site along similar lines. I can't get over the dedicated category for "hotness" (chili peppers). Are twenty somethings really that attracted to 60 year old academics?
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:43 PM on March 18, 2007


Sites like that and Rate My Professor have really gotten to me since I've been TAing for the past four years. While some of the students who post critiques have justified beliefs and opinions, many of them are baseless tirades against professors or teachers from whom they've gotten a poor grade or for whom they've had to work harder than expected. You'll see quotes like "Don't take this professor if you want an easy A." And though there are probably teachers who need to be criticized in various ways, the personal attacks can be fairly harsh and unwarranted. I've visited some of these sites and read what's been written about the professors and TA's in my department and have been genuinely disgusted at times. I've even flagged and replied to some particularly unjustified comments which has resulted in their deletion.

If only there were an analogous site for teachers and professors to anonymously rant about what they really think of their students.
posted by inconsequentialist at 6:44 PM on March 18, 2007


I found ratemyprofessor to be fairly useful in Universities, most helpful to me in picking elective courses. The ratings for the most part are usually reasonably accurate, and far from only a smear campaign.

I cant speek for rate my teachers, however, I could see high school students being less honest in ranking.
posted by ace857 at 6:45 PM on March 18, 2007


If professors actually had the time to do so they should start a "Rate my students" website. Hell if a bunch of freshmen can pretend to understand what it takes to honestly rate a professor and possible impact them negatively professionally a little turn about is fair play.

Ok, well a little more seriously. I'd hope that such sites would disallow anonymity.
posted by edgeways at 6:49 PM on March 18, 2007


Nothing raises the ire more than the sound of wooden legs scraping along the floor as the table turns. Dear Teachers, "I hope you know ... that this will go down ... on your permanent record."
posted by adipocere at 6:52 PM on March 18, 2007 [6 favorites]


I teach at the university level, so I've been aware of ratemyprofessor.com for a while. You'd be surprised how hard some faculty take bad ratings. My feeling is that self-report sites like these aren't terribly useful since students aren't moved to make a report unless someone was particularly liked or disliked, something that's only loosely related to teaching quality. If I were a student today, I might pay attention to a large number of very negative reports as perhaps indicating something wrong, but that's about it.
posted by sfred at 6:56 PM on March 18, 2007


Generally speaking, I've found ratemyprofessors.com to be pretty useful. I haven't made any decisions based solely on the site's reviews, but it has made me think twice about a class that looked interesting in the catalog, or vice versa.

On the other hand, I'm noticing that one of the professors I have right now was reviewed as "So brilliant and so hot, it should not be fair." Uh...
posted by danb at 6:56 PM on March 18, 2007


ace, you expect students fresh out of high school to magically mature the summer before they enter college?

As a teacher I've checked out ratemyprofessor fairly regularly. Some of the comments are fair and informative... and some are simply a form of Internet revenge. I know one personal comment was left after I busted a student for plagiarism, another after finding personal comments left on a student's blog.

I think that the feedback does have a purpose (even though we have an internal structure (SIR surveys, student town halls) to accomplish the same goals internally). But the motivation behind the comments is often vindictive and extremely personal.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 6:58 PM on March 18, 2007


Thank you, inconsequentialist, that's exactly what I was trying to say about these sites. There's just much more information posted about how easy of a grader the instructor is than anything else.
posted by piratebowling at 6:58 PM on March 18, 2007


My daughter was delighted with ratemyteachers. She thought that those of her middle school teachers that were there had been rated accurately. I liked ratemyprofessors and have found it helpful in picking my own professors now that I am back in school. However, ratemyprofessors is useful because college students typically have a choice of professors for a given class -- K-12 students do not. So I am wondering what the point is. Is the goal just to let kids blow off steam?
posted by Methylviolet at 6:59 PM on March 18, 2007


I can't get over the dedicated category for "hotness" (chili peppers). Are twenty somethings really that attracted to 60 year old academics?

You'd be surprised. At my school (McGill) there was an incident a couple of years ago where a girl got in serious trouble for submitting a column to the student newspaper's annual Sex issue in which she not only broadcast to the entire study body and faculty the name of the professor after whom she openly lusted, but outlined in graphic detail exactly what she fantasized about doing to said prof. I'm not sure who was stupider, the girl for submitting the article or the editors for not changing the names of those involved (or printing it in the first place).

Also, Rolling Stone had that cover story on the "highly charged erotic life of the Wellesley girl," where randy co-eds, who were tired of lesbian relationships (or of riding what they dubbed the "Fuck Truck" to Harvard to pick up men), would "target" their male professors – men who had that "professor sex appeal".
posted by Sullenshady at 7:00 PM on March 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I strongly suggest you don't look up your mother on ratemyteachers, you'll want to kill the little bastards.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:00 PM on March 18, 2007


I found ratemyprofessors.com quite useful. It's just the internet enhancing old methods of communication.

Email : Snail Mail :: Ratemyprofessors : Asking friends about a professor

Simple as that. Sure, there are lots of idiots out there who will write a bad review for a teacher because they don't like him/her or got a grade they feel was unwarranted, but in my experience if there is a trend across many reviews, it's usually right.
posted by jckll at 7:00 PM on March 18, 2007


If only there were an analogous site for teachers and professors to anonymously rant about what they really think of their students.

Ratey Your Students dot com. Much more interesting and thought-provoking than the originally linked site.
posted by gleuschk at 7:01 PM on March 18, 2007


Also, we're not all 60.
posted by gleuschk at 7:01 PM on March 18, 2007


If only there were an analogous site for teachers and professors to anonymously rant about what they really think of their students.

I have a *great* idea for a web site, but I don't know how to set it up. I know it'd be popular.
posted by Listener at 7:03 PM on March 18, 2007


I checked out my old high school, and there were more "smileys" than "frownies", with a cool chemistry teacher/drama coach getting rave reviews from all (He was just starting out when I graduated, more than 15 years ago...) Oddly, all the shop teachers were rated, and their students seem to like them.

Limited sample, but it seems the service tosses bouquets as well as brickbats. Seems fair to me.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:03 PM on March 18, 2007


Are twenty somethings really that attracted to 60 year old academics?

Many of us are in our 30s, or late 20s.
posted by dmd at 7:09 PM on March 18, 2007


Oops, didn't see gleuschk's.
posted by dmd at 7:10 PM on March 18, 2007


When I was teaching at a community college, I found that, in general, the students who bothered to post on rate my professor were the ones with complaints, and that, not surprisingly, the ones who posted were the lazy ones who were overly concerned about grades and not so concerned about learning.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:11 PM on March 18, 2007


While I understand the cathartic benefits of speaking out against a poor teacher, I also wish that students, especially at the university level, would take more advantage of the evaluations that they have to fill out at the end of each term of their classes and professors. Ideally, good professors are interested in improving their teaching methods and styles and should and in some cases do encourage students to write comments on class surveys and evaluations that would promote this end. Just as students are expected to improve based on the comments given them by professors and teachers, those in a pedagogical role should have the same goal based on the comments given them by students.

However, this option is not utilized (as much as it could be) by the vast majority of students. I think that encouraging more of those sorts of comments would or at least could yield very positive results. So, yes, I think students should be able to get things off their chests but they should also make moves that facilitate improvement and professors and teachers should be willing and able to make improvements.
posted by inconsequentialist at 7:17 PM on March 18, 2007


If only there were an analogous site for teachers and professors to anonymously rant about what they really think of their students.

Well, it's not anonymous, but there is a way for teachers and professors to rate their students. It's called grading. What's wrong with a little feedback in the system? The reason a website like this exists is because students have something to say. Let them say it.

This website isn't nearly as popular as it once was. When it was in its heyday, I encouraged my students to go to it and rate me. I also give out an anonymous survey at the end of the year to find out how students feel about me, my curriculum, and my teaching. I want to become a better teacher, and if that means finding better ways to connect with and reach students, then I'm happy to hear about it. Students who sound off about how easy or hard my class is are not as interesting to me as the ones who say I am fair or unfair, that my class is relevant or not. They're kids. I'm an adult. Let them say what they want. I'll evaluate whether it's relevant or not.

People who are scared of a website like this are scared of finding out that they are shitty teachers.
posted by etc. at 7:26 PM on March 18, 2007 [4 favorites]


University of Virginia English Professor Mark Edmundson on the subject of course evaluations.
posted by Bizurke at 7:31 PM on March 18, 2007


I didn't realize that there was a RateMy site for high school teachers. I just registered, found the memorable and inspiring teachers I had over ten years ago who are still teaching, and left reviews saying that I appreciate them and that they've affected me. I hope they see those comments, and I hope that the comments counterbalance some the acidic and spiteful remarks left by others.

I'm not on ratemyprofessors, but I'm sure I will be at some point. I'd better get a damn chili pepper.
posted by painquale at 7:33 PM on March 18, 2007


At my school, students are required to fill out teacher evaluations at the end of a course. The teacher leaves the room, and a student is designated to collect, seal, and submit the evaluations to the department office. However, most students -- myself included -- would not write anything negative on an evaluation form, no matter what the teacher was like. The possibility of your remarks affecting your grade, however remote, is a definite drawback for the student. The possibility of those remarks helping your teacher improve (however remote!) is without any potential benefit to the student. Unless anonymity is perfect -- and at my school it is not -- why make the effort at an honest evaluation?

... Unless you had an axe to grind, or were unusually civic-minded, in which case you could post your thoughts at ratemyprofessors.com, where anonymity is prefect, and student opinions are just as available to professors who want to improve their teaching.
posted by Methylviolet at 7:36 PM on March 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


My school has the same policy as Methylviolet's, but as far as I know we don't have any reservations about negative feedback. In fact, I know of one professor who was recently fired because of universally abysmal reviews.
posted by danb at 7:42 PM on March 18, 2007


Unless anonymity is perfect -- and at my school it is not -- why make the effort at an honest evaluation?

Unless the policy is different at your university, the professors and TA's at mine can't even touch the evaluations until well into the next semester, well after grades have been distributed.
posted by inconsequentialist at 7:45 PM on March 18, 2007


I just looked up one of my writing professors. The guy carved a niche in journalism and earned a couple Pulitzers, with over thirty years of experience and a very enviable address book, but students are actually complaining that he tells too many stories in class. When I took that class, every session was a fascinating conversation. But it seems that most students are clueless about how to treat their teachers like human beings. True, this won't miraculously improve every situation, but isn't it odd how my academic experience was always tenfold better than most of my peers'?
posted by zennie at 7:53 PM on March 18, 2007


The possibility of your remarks affecting your grade, however remote, is a definite drawback for the student.

As inconsequentialist correctly notes, standard procedure at just about every university I know of specifically prevents this from happening. I hand out the evals, leave the room, and don't set eyes on them again until at least two or three weeks after the grades are in.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:54 PM on March 18, 2007


My own ratemyprofessors evals, incidentally, are pretty vicious (at least the last time I checked, which was a couple of years ago). Mostly of the "if you ever want to get an A, don't take this person" variety. No doubt the students getting As from me this semester are fairly shocked :)
posted by thomas j wise at 7:56 PM on March 18, 2007



There was a comment that RMP was just like asking your friends what they thought of a course. Its hugely different! For one, you have no sense of the reliability of the advice, whereas you know how to interpret what your friends tell you. Secondly, what amounts to gossip has the potential to be hugely harmful if it is broadcast publicaly. I'm now involved in five faculty hiring committees. Looking them up on RateMyProfessor could run them out of a job. This is not tables turning: getting a C because you did minimal work is very different than someone's tenure or job prospects being influenced by comments left on a web site.

But wait a minute, why shouldn't we pay attention to who is doing a good job as an educator and who is not. Well, we should, but does RateMyProfessor really give us reliable information about this?

There is an enormous difference between RMP and class evaluations and that the latter is generally required of everyone, so even if they're not perfect (and they certainly aren't) at least you have a representative sample. Can you honestly guarantee me that students with an axe to grind aren't over-represented at RMP? I've seen the comments left about some of my colleagues (many of whom I know to be extremely good and conscientious, and who have had very good reviews on normal class evaluations).

There have been a few comments to the effect of "I have used Ratemyprofessor.com and I've found it useful because I avoided a course". That doesn't sound like a good argument to me! How do you know it was good advice? If you really thought about the obvious sampling biases at RMP, would you really want to base this decision on RMP?
posted by bumpkin at 7:57 PM on March 18, 2007


When I was teaching at a community college, I found that, in general, the students who bothered to post on rate my professor were the ones with complaints

Once per class per semester, the university I attended required instructors to hand out a standardized review form to the entire class and leave the room for 10 minutes or so while the class completed these forms.

The information went back to the instructor and the department , but nowhere else, as far as I know. Which is a shame, I think, because if universities themselves (and perhaps even secondary schools) were inclined to publish aggregated data like this as well as collect it, it could probably go a long way to addressing the real problem that only complainers are likely to post on general ratings sites. But they generally don't, which is why these sites exist, though they're almost invariably poorer tools for picking instructors.

On the other hand, to some extent any tool like this seems a bit like a compensation for an inadequate personal social network. If you know enough people at your school and in your major, by and large, they'll just *tell* you what you need to know in order to pick your instructors wisely. So it might be better to set freshmen and incoming majors up with upperclass mentors (as well as faculty mentors), rather than to trying to solve the problem with a web-faced database. A little more detailed knowledge of the relative instructional strengths and weaknesses among the faculty definitely could almost certainly have saved me from failing some classes, and so for a long time, I really resented the fact that there wasn't more published information about the faculty. In retrospect, it occurs to me that if I'd been wiser I might have taken it as a sign that my social network was too weak, partially because I wasn't investing enough in actually being part of my university community.

But then again, some universities and colleges are better at fostering this kind of thing among students than others, just like some are better about publishing information or insisting faculty value instruction as well as research, and so you're ultimately back to the problem of how committed to/skilled at student education a given organization is in general.
posted by weston at 8:08 PM on March 18, 2007


This is not tables turning: getting a C because you did minimal work is very different than someone's tenure or job prospects being influenced by comments left on a web sit

I call shenanigans. You've framed this dichotomy to support your argument. I could just as easily say "Having your academic and job prospects shattered because the professor was too unprepared and inarticulate to convey the subject material is not the same as some professor getting insulted by comments left on a website". Students' careers are far more vulnerable to their professors appraisal than vice versa.

Teaching is a public job. If you (or your employer) can't stomach people making public comments about your performance (justified or otherwise), then you don't belong in the profession. Besides, I should hope that your students & superiors have learned the critical skills to sort out reasonable commentary from internet noise.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:26 PM on March 18, 2007


Also sorry to characterize all university profs as 60 year old fogies. I just didn't think "hotness" was usually associated with the job.

Next month, don't miss the hot new television drama: History of Canadian Social Policy deep voice ONE.OH.ONE.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:35 PM on March 18, 2007


I can't wait for rate my boss or rate my company, frankly, it's long overdue.

It would save me the time applying to work for some psycho in the corner office or narcissist or...wherever they leave a trail of dead.
posted by alicesshoe at 8:41 PM on March 18, 2007


I might be a bit leery of RMT.COM but I've used RMP quite a bit and found it very useful in class selection. It doesn't take much effort to filter out the snark - lazy whiny students write lazy whiny reviews.
Selection committees (I'm now involved in five faculty hiring committees. Looking them up on RateMyProfessor could run them out of a job.) and students would have to be thick as a brick to take RMP comments at face value.
Is it discouraging to good profs to get bad reviews? Yes - but IMHO not nearly as discouraging as unheated classrooms, overpriced text-books, total absence of supplies, students who do 'D' work and expect an 'A' and all the other joys of teaching in the 21st Century...
posted by speug at 8:43 PM on March 18, 2007


Are twenty somethings really that attracted to 60 year old academics?

This was a comment about a former boss of mine:

"Probably a senior citizen, but still likely the Sexiest Man at UBC! Very Witty!"

He is a senior citizen (Prof. Emeritus) and extremely witty and one of the greatest people on this planet and a brilliant mind and age hasn't slowed him down.

He also looks and acts like a 12 year. Well, at least looks like a 12 year old that looks like a 80 year old George Burns.

I also looked up a few profs in neighbouring labs (very few teach undergrad) and most of the comments reflect the fact that lots of undergrads (ie., Psych 101, &c) don't realize that even teaching professors, much less research professors, are being kind to them and not telling them outright to their face that they have delusions of competence.
posted by porpoise at 8:48 PM on March 18, 2007


Popular Ethics: Perhaps I haven't made myself very clear. I have nothing against making well-designed assessments of teaching competence public. My contention is that RateMyProfessor is no such thing. This argument is independent of whether or how a negative rating on RMP affects an individual's career.

The "well-deserved C versus getting slandered on a website" was in response to the comment about "tables getting turned". I find it hard to imagine the person who thinks that by giving someone a bad review on RMP is delivering some kind of justice. ("All my life these assholes have been giving me bad grades, now I'll show them! Except for Prof. Goreman, though, I'll give him a chili pepper 'coz he's hawt").


This, on the other hand, is patent rubbish (or are you just trying to get a rise out of me?):

If you (or your employer) can't stomach people making public comments about your performance (justified or otherwise), then you don't belong in the profession.

Again: I strongly support serious assessment of faculty teaching (as well as institutional resources put into education). Whether or not it needs to be public is a worthwhile question. I actually think that might be a good idea, but I can see arguments both ways (should we make the student's grades public?).

and:

I should hope that your students & superiors have learned the critical skills to sort out reasonable commentary from internet noise.

Well, for one thing, I know how to recognize a survey tainted by selection bias. That's them mad critical thinking skillz.
posted by bumpkin at 8:49 PM on March 18, 2007


At UW-Madison, classes rate you!

For serious though, a class and professor evaluation/ rating system is financed by the university and student government (associated students of Madison course evaluations)
Their webmaster looks to be slipping however, and they only have a few semesters up right now. But the service was very helpful when I was there, and lacked the mean-spirited venting that similar services set themselves up for.
posted by conch soup at 8:51 PM on March 18, 2007


Selection committees (I'm now involved in five faculty hiring committees. Looking them up on RateMyProfessor could run them out of a job.) and students would have to be thick as a brick to take RMP comments at face value.

It sounds silly, but once you participate in one faculty hiring process....

Here's the thing: for a given job, you get about 150 highly qualified applicants. PhDs, publications, awards, honours, seven page cv's, eloquent discussions of teaching philosophy and approach, creative and compelling scholarship and research plans, you name it. And while I try as hard as I can to make the decisions with the greatest of care, the reality is that people on hiring committees eventually are reduced to searching for something, anything really, that will let them toss out the application. Its totally ruthless and inhuman, and I have found it deeply disturbing. Its much, much, much worse than grading (which I don't like either, but at the end of the day, there's a pretty clear basis for assessment, and theoretically, you could give everyone A's).

Maybe all industries are like this, but the stark contrast between the range and depth of qualification of the candidates and the trivialness of what strikes them off of short lists has really shocked me.
posted by bumpkin at 9:05 PM on March 18, 2007


You know, I love even the *idea* of ratemyprofessors.com and sites like it. My school also has a course evaluation process and I don't see results until well into the next term. As it should be. But when I hand out evaluations, I ask students not to pull any punches -- if I suck, let me know. It may not benefit them, but why not have some mercy on their fellow students and help me do a better job?

Having said that, my reviews on ratemyprofessors.com are good. But I'm the kind of guy that likes constructive criticism and takes and negative comments as a challenge to get better.
posted by sharpener at 9:30 PM on March 18, 2007


bumpkin: I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to get a rise. I just feel that discussions about the quality of sites like RMP, or whether they ought to be public, are at best profoundly naive and at worst dangerously authoritarian. The essence of the internet allows anyone to put up a website saying "Professor X Sucks" (or Mathowie Sucks, or Monsanto Sucks). The fact that this particular site has become popular means that students find it valuable - it really doesn't matter what we think.

Honestly I don't think professors have much to fear from the internet whinings of lazy students. If, however, professors do find that the comments are so uniformly negative that they're influencing enrollment, then it likely has more to say about the prof then the students, and the site has done its job.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:34 PM on March 18, 2007


Sorry, bumpkin, but you're just perpetuating the cancers that fester inside academia. It is the ultimate philosophy of high-ups in prominent universities that anything "outside the system" is necessarily harmful to the system itself. It, oddly, reminds me a lot of professional sports in that there is this "old boys club" in MLB/NFL and anyone doing anything involving the "old boys club" who isn't a part of the "old boys club," or who is airing the dirty laundry of the "old boys club" is a pest.

Transparency is a good thing. RateMyProfessor and other sites certainly have their flaws--sampling biases, disgruntled students, etc--but do university rating systems not have even bigger flaws? I can't speak for every university, but at mine the ratings students give are never shown to anyone outside the department. Let students see how students before them have evaluated professors and their classes, and the market for a RMP-type website would dry up. Who's going to go to a website to get biased evaluations from a handful of students if you could see the ratings from the entire class

Or am I, as a student, expected to just trust that professors are taking students' evaluations seriously and making changes as necessary? Puh-lease.
posted by jckll at 9:35 PM on March 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


...Of course, my argument fails if we find that a prof's ratings have been gamed by an unrepresentative sample of students, or manipulated by the site's administrators. In that respect, their policies are very much in question especially as they become the defacto standard review site.
(There is still a regulatory mechanism: If any such maliciousness were exposed, students would abandon the site as no longer useful).
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:48 PM on March 18, 2007


There have been a few comments to the effect of "I have used Ratemyprofessor.com and I've found it useful because I avoided a course". That doesn't sound like a good argument to me!

I know people that use the website in addition to their peers, and find both more helpful than nothing. For one they can't always avoid the teachers that get bad ratings, and they generally find the reoccurring criticisms more accurate than not.

Students, are, frankly, getting a better deal than nothing with this website. It sounds like it is the profs who get the low end of the bargain, both in the public embarrassment, the unreliability and chance of abuse inherent in the system, and the apparent unfairness of the hiring process (sensitive to Internet gossip, blogs and other irrelevancies). But the genie can't be stuffed back in the lamp, and it is the colleges that must respond to the perfectly rational consumer demand of this service in a way that protects their employees.

The ways to respond, such as providing reliable student and/or professional independent reviews of all their teachers and classes, seem obvious. Until then students will and should use websites like RMP, because it is the best option open to them as consumers in a system rife with market inefficiencies.
posted by dgaicun at 9:56 PM on March 18, 2007


Teaching is a public job. If you (or your employer) can't stomach people making public comments about your performance (justified or otherwise), then you don't belong in the profession.

Pretty much. Students often think uncharitable thoughts about professors, and frequently state them. This is just another way of stating them. You should be able to let dumbass comments from students slide off of you the same way you let dumbass comments from reviewers who haven't really read your paper slide right off of you.

I'm now involved in five faculty hiring committees. Looking them up on RateMyProfessor could run them out of a job.

People resort to all sorts of heuristics in hiring, but this one seems particularly ill-founded.

You realize that any jackass can post, right? That I can make 30 hotmail accounts and post 30 comments about how awesome I am? And that if I know people who are also on the market, I can post about how terrible they are?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:20 PM on March 18, 2007


Myself, I think the whole thing is pretty goofy. I keep meaning to log on and post all sorts of outrageous comments about friends or about myself. Prof. Soandso is a well-known cannibal. Prof. Wossname likes to make us cry, and that's just the smell. Prof. Xenophobe turned me into a newt!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:23 PM on March 18, 2007


I've actually found both Rate My Professor and Rate My Teacher to be surprisingly balanced. I looked up my high school French teacher, who was known (and apparently still is) for his wild mood swings. He still got something like a 4.0, because the students recognized he mostly got pissed when he noticed we weren't putting the effort we could have into his class.

I then looked up my thesis advisor. Again, he is relatively well-regarded, because while he has very tough tests and homeworks, he is always (and I mean always) available to answer questions and go over the subject. I remember waiting for 20 minutes or more outside his office while he explained something to one of his students for an astronomy for poets course.

And yeah, students have been doing this shit forever, they just didn't have an internet site that professors could read.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:33 PM on March 18, 2007


I just went to rmt.com...how the hell am i supposed to believe any of the comments about me? I'm too hard? I make them do projects over 'brake' (you know, Christmas brake)? Presentations are hard???? Night is dark. Hell is hot.
However, I've seen colleagues cry over the comments.
IMHO, anonymous comments like those at RMT are worse than useless.
posted by tristanshout at 12:18 AM on March 19, 2007


"Professor Socrates is sooooo smart..."
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 12:30 AM on March 19, 2007


I'm surprised by all the controversy. When I was in college in the early 80s, there were two different guides published every year that rated the professors. One was sanctioned by the University and had numerical ratings, the other was the "unofficial" guide that dished the dirt.

It seemed perfectly normal to everyone that professors got rated by the students. And it brought a lot of recognition to the professors who actually cared about undergraduate education.
posted by fuzz at 2:20 AM on March 19, 2007


The idea is useful for students who seem in need of inut from other students. But as for the teachers: no need to worry. The worst that will happen is you will have a bad re among the students but this will not much matter for your career. Your classes may be a bit smaller but tenure, rehiring the following year etc will not be changed since administration does not comb thrrough this sort of thing to cull remarks for you personnel file.
If you are not hot, stay chaste. If you are a hard grader, you will get students who want to be challenged. If you are dull, incompetent, just give good grades and your classes will fill up.
posted by Postroad at 2:40 AM on March 19, 2007


Great idea, long overdue. If one can rate the integrity/efficiency of doing business on eBay, why not rate a lot of other transactions, like teaching? I certainly would love to see free and anonymous sites like this for Rate My doctor, lawyer, accountant, building contractor.
posted by nickyskye at 5:41 AM on March 19, 2007


bumpkin - I'm curious and would be fascinated if you could share with us a few choice criteriae that've punted otherwise qualified candidates off of the short list.... (I totally believe you, I just want to know what to keep off of my CV!)
posted by porpoise at 6:27 AM on March 19, 2007


I strongly suggest you don't look up your mother on ratemyteachers, you'll want to kill the little bastards.
True, but looking up one's ex-wife can provide sweet, sweet vindication.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:46 AM on March 19, 2007


My wife's exboyfriend is a TA at OSU, and several commenters have said things like "Can't even dress himself properly - clothes wrinkled and mismatched."
posted by dmd at 7:50 AM on March 19, 2007


My undergraduate university (Brown) had a separate evaluation that was used to produce a guide to classes called the Critical Review. It was very helpful, and the fact that it was edited by students meant that comments were summarized and filtered to some degree.

I was a Teaching Fellow for three courses over two years during graduate school. The main thing I learned from those (i.e. so I could improve from one course to the next) was to be careful what I said. It's embarassing to have your (possibly lame) jokes recalled word for word.
posted by nekton at 11:30 AM on March 19, 2007


I'm stunned by the responses like this one:

If professors actually had the time to do so they should start a "Rate my students" website. Hell if a bunch of freshmen can pretend to understand what it takes to honestly rate a professor and possible impact them negatively professionally a little turn about is fair play.

Isn't it obvious that this is already "turnabout". Teachers rate students every day in a way that is almost certain to impact them professionally. This is fair play.

This site, however, is compromised by a 200-word review limit and opaque censorship.
posted by shunpiker at 11:59 AM on March 19, 2007


Rate My Wife. Please.
posted by davejay at 2:02 PM on March 19, 2007


I strongly suggest you don't look up your mother on ratemyteachers, you'll want to kill the little bastards.

Had to look anyway; I'm pleased by my mom's high ratings (on RateMyProfessors), but rather frightened by all the chili peppers. Apparently many people my age think my mom is hot. Augh! Time to back away slowly.
posted by ilana at 2:08 PM on March 19, 2007


Why isn't this considered libel?
posted by MythMaker at 3:50 PM on March 19, 2007


Teachers rate students every day in a way that is almost certain to impact them professionally. This is fair play.

Well, it's fair play as long as the teachers get to make public the student names and grades, the lame excuses they've submitted throughout the course, and any comments on manner of dress, behavior, ethics problems, etc. that might serve to warn other professors, or just entertain them.

As an older student taking college courses, I'm disappointed at the degree to which many of the younger guys expect to be handheld and spoonfed through everything, and expect any manner of accommodation to their personal situations. I'm being generous when I say that perhaps 10% in any class I've taken are there for something more than just filling up that credit quota. I doubt it will be too long before the quality of a bachelor's degree is pretty much on par with how we view the high school diploma today. Not that institutions aren't to blame for that as well, for what they will tolerate and shouldn't, and for the overprogrammed nature of degree tracks. But overall, it's rendered the idea of a degree rather meaningless to me.
posted by troybob at 5:46 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


there were only a few postings for the small charter school where i substitute, and i found them to fit pretty well with my behind-the-scenes assessment. while it is true that there is often an axe to grind--sometimes there's a reason to grind that axe.
posted by RedEmma at 4:34 PM on March 20, 2007


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