Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What About...RateMyProfessors?

So, what about RateMyProfessors? In case you have never heard of it, this website, the largest in the world, allows students to evaluate over 8,000 schools and 1 million instructors. According to the site, “… a rater must rate the course and/or professor on a 1-5 scale in the following categories: "easiness," "helpfulness," "clarity,” the rater's "interest" in the class prior to taking it, and the degree of "textbook use" in the course. The rater may also share what grade they received in the course, rate the professor on their "hotness," and include comments of up to 350 characters in length max.”

But, really, just how much weight should these evaluations be given? Instructors scratch their heads when they see a low rating on RateMyProfessors and yet, their IDEA feedback reports glowing responses from their students. How can this be?

Critics of the website point toward gender bias in the methodology the site uses to calculate an overall rating for each instructor. Benjamin Schmidt, a professor at Northeastern University, created a searchable database of roughly 14 million reviews from the site. Schmidt found that male professors are far more likely to be considered "smart" or "brilliant" by their students (Huntsberry).

Furthermore, in another study done by researchers at North Carolina State, students taking online courses, who had never met their teachers, gave significantly lower scores to professors with female names. “Students who thought they were being taught by women gave lower evaluation scores than students who thought they were being taught by men. It didn’t matter who was actually teaching them … the instructor students thought was male, received a 4.35 rating out of 5. The instructor students thought was female, received a 3.55 rating …” (MacNell and Shipman).

So where does this leave us? Well, know that students can leave multiple comments, making it appear that many students are saying the same thing about you. By logging onto different computers and using different email addresses, students who may have it “out for you” could be sabotaging your rating. Since most of the rating categories revolve around the ease of a course and how easy it is to get an A from the instructor, take heart if your ratings are a bit low. Challenging students is not a bad thing. What counts is your desire to work with students and deliver quality every time you step into the classroom!

For more information, see us in the CTE or email Carole Kendy at kendyc@star.lcc.edu.

Huntsberry, William. “How We Talk About Our Teachers.” NPR. 23 Feb 2015. Radio.

MacNell, Lillian and Matt Shipman. “Online Students Give Instructors Higher Marks If They Think Instructors Are Men.” NC State News. 9 Dec 2014.