Professors weigh in on ratemyprofesssor.com
Sidney Guedry, assistant professor of biology and horticulture who scored a 4.9 overall quality on ratemyprofessor.com, overlooks his students taking an exam. Allison Crady
The popular anonymous review site, ratemyprofessor.com, displays over 8,000 schools, 15 million student-generated comments and ratings and 1.8 million professors from colleges and universities across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Despite foreshadowing what students could expect, many professors disagree with the site's validity. The common complaint is the narrowness of scope in ratings and comments.
"I teach roughly 200 to 500 students a semester depending on which classes I teach and have around 35 RMP responses in the three years I have taught, so 35 out of a couple of thousand students is a small percentage," said Daniel Chadborn, instructor of psychology with a 4.8 Overall Quality on RMP. "I would caution students in relying solely on its judgment, unless those numbers go up."
Since its founding in 1999 by John Swapceinski, a software engineer from California, the site has grown to become the largest online destination for professor ratings. More currently RMP has expanded to include an iPhone app, Facebook and Twitter.
While the variety of opinions may be limited or inaccurate, many students use RMP religiously.
"I love RMP. I used it to schedule every single class/teacher," said Kimberly Luce, a junior special education major. "There are a bunch of new teachers that need to be added, but the site has helped me sign my second semester at Southeastern."
Students commonly believe the site can help them to avoid "bad" or "difficult" professors and provide overall ease to their college experience.
"I think it'd be kind of a stretch to say that I'd never have made it this far without the site, but in reality it has made my college career easier; that much I know," said Cory Soileau, a senior kinesiology major. "I find it very useful; it tells me about my professors, what they do and don't do, what they're like and if they are good professors or not. I would highly recommend the site to any and everybody to use."
Keith Finley, instructor of history with a 4.6 Overall Quality on RMP, does not check the review site, but measures his success based on student life progress.
"My ratings on the website are unimportant," said Finley. "I measure my performance based on the number of my students who go on to do important things such as enter graduate programs, secure meaningful employment, make real contributions to the community, etc."
Despite the questionable validity of the review site, a natural curiosity comes into play for some instructors.
"Students judge me before ever meeting me based on those ratings, so it would be hard not to care. Early on, I would check often, but I didn't find it to be a healthy habit, so now I avoid the site," said Leigh Rourks, an instructor of English with a 4.0 Overall Quality on RMP. "The thing about SOTs is that everyone fills one out, so they give me a nice wide view. I don't think that is true about RMP."
For the professors who advise students to avoid using RMP, they suggest paying more attention to word-of-mouth reviews, meeting the instructor personally or the possibility of seeing the previous Student Opinion of Teachers.
"Maybe students should be allowed access to university, department and faculty averages concerning SOTs, if they are not already," said Chadborn. "This would offer far more valid feedback than RMP."
A number of students typically post only the most extreme professor experiences, which may be viewed as both a positive and negative aspect of the review site.
"I have only posted once, and that was to warn people of what they were getting into with this professor," said Matthew Krumm, a junior criminal justice major. "The tool is great to find overall good opinions. However, it is best to look back at previous reviews of a certain professor because not everyone's opinion is helpful."
Several professors feel students should approach instructors with an open mind to form their own opinions.
"I know this is an important student referral tool, but I encourage students to not base their judgments on one piece of information alone," said Krystal Hardison, a general studies instructor with a 4.7 Overall Quality on RMP. "I encourage students to be open-minded when choosing teachers and allow their own opinion to be formed and not influenced by others."
Whether visiting the site to select future professors or to review previous professors, both students and instructors agree it's important to read critically and take others' opinions with a grain of salt.
"I wouldn't depend on RMP totally," said Sidney Guedry, assistant professor of biology and horticulture with a 4.9 Overall Quality on RMP. "I think the best advice is from your fellow classmates who you can trust and who have experienced that instructor to tell you the good, bad and ugly."
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