Who Reads Rate My Professor?
There are a few resources most students swear by; Google, cliffnotes, and Rate my Professor.
There are a few resources most teachers swear by; Google, their emails, and not Rate My Professor.
Recently on WebAdvisor, some students may have noticed a lack of the professor’s name when registering for a class. While the frustrating prospect may hold a few back from signing up, some have assumed that is due to the popular rating website, Rate My Professor. Much like Yelp or Angie’s List, Rate My Professor is a student oriented review site. Previous classmates can write about their experience with a college teacher and rate them on specific criteria like easiness and clarity. While no one can enter “Mathematics Staff” in the website’s search box, students should still question the credibility of the information on the site.
According to Vice President of Academic Affairs at HFC, Dr. Tracey Pierner, “Rate my Professor has no absolutely bearing on how faculty are assigned at Henry Ford College.”
While that may be a better outlook for the teachers, some just don’t know how much trust students should place on the particular ratings professors hold.
“I have no personal knowledge on the level of which students trust Rate My Professor ratings,” he goes on to say. “This said, I would caution students against placing too much trust in other student’s ratings of professors. As with many optional customer satisfaction questionnaires, results can be skewed.”
He was right.
Two studies have been conducted to bring about the hidden core issues of the popular rating site. Gender biases and racial views have unsurprisingly yielded negative results with most institutions taking no action to resolve the issue.
In the first study, Nicholas Subtirelu, a linguistics grad student at Georgia State University has found that Asian professors receive considerably lower ratings than native English speaking professors. He searched for specific words such as ‘thick’ and ‘language’ finding that accents heavily influenced the teachers’ overall ratings despite giving good grades.
The second study focused on gender biases done by Benjamin M. Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University. He looked through ratings and found that words such as ‘bossy’ and ‘demanding’ strongly labeled female professors. Whereas ‘genius’ and ‘cool’ reviews are said among male professors.
“I am honestly not surprised,” Jeff Morford, a full-time professor at HFC confidently agrees. “The results are just like American culture.”
Despite a survey by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, students are found to be more liberal than they are political. However, social factors are at large when it comes to Rate My Professor. Categories like ‘clarity’ and ‘easiness’ for ratings help students weed out challenging teachers that would otherwise pose a threat to an easy ‘A’.
Liberal Arts major Professor Hazlett at HFC advises against it.
“I was disappointed when I found an easy ‘A’ for my teaching,” he says after reading positive reviews about him. “I mean, who taught them that class? Because I hope that wasn’t me,” he jokes. “But students shouldn’t let Rate My Professor influence their decisions, you will miss out on passionate teachers.”
Professor Hazlett explains in an interview that he was able to find his career in liberal arts through influential teachers. He believes that college should be challenging in the classroom. “I believe the mentoring aspect is important when learning with professors.”
Although he admits that it is a tool he definitely would’ve used, He also says that it isn’t useful for his teaching. “I haven’t read my ratings lately, but certain comments I’ll read to maybe improve it.”
So why is there “Staff” listed for instructor on WebAdvisor when registering for classes?
John Mcdonald, President of the Federation of Teachers at HFC explains.
“This may be in part of confirming demand for that class. There are classes that are opened that have not been assigned to teachers as well.”
In part, faculty and staff agree that Rate My Professor has not helped or hurt the college in any way. They do recognize the site’s popularity and discourage students from relying so heavily on it. Especially the ‘Chili Pepper’ rating that reviews how hot, or attractive, a teacher is.
“I was so shocked, you know,” Professor Hazlett laughs at his chili pepper. “I mean it’s kind of weird too, but beauty is in the eyes of the beholder I guess!”