Websites like Ratemyprofessor.com have made it possible for students to learn about professors and their teaching styles before the first day of class.
Professors on Troy’s campus have varying views on the use of “Rate my Professors” to pick classes.
“Rate My Professors” allows students to rate the level of difficulty of their teachers and provide feedback on their classroom experience.
“The site provides a student with some basic understanding of what they are getting into as far as classroom (environment) before they actually have to commit for 16 weeks,” said George Crowley, an associate professor of economics and chair of the department of economics and finance. “It does it in kind of a tongue and cheek way, but if you have to ask what role it plays, it provides information to the extent it lets people make decisions.”
According to Crowley, anything that has an anonymous element to it would have a bias as to who is actually taking time to respond and most students who usually write reviews either have a positive experience or a negative experience.
“You see, it’s kind of similar to Amazon reviews; it’s either five star or one star,” Crowley said. “It is unusual for someone to take time to write a review of something they have a mixed opinion on.
“It is actually similar to the student evaluations at the end of the semester as to who actually takes time to do those surveys.”
Gina Mariano, an associate professor of psychology, feels that these students who rate professors are more intent on serving their fellow students by providing information.
“I think if students are happy with something, they want to share it, or if they have a bad one, they want to warn students about it,” Mariano said.
Mariano feels that more students use “Rate My Professors” to gain information rather than rate professors.
“I think it’s interesting that I might only have five students do the evaluation, but for ‘Rate My Professors’ there are only two or three, which was surprising because I thought there would be more students using ‘Rate My Professors,’” Mariano said. “I think they are, but more students are looking for ratings rather than rating professors on the site.”
The information there could also be inaccurate sometimes as many negative ratings are often based on professors having a bad day, according to Audra Shumpert, a lecturer in the English department.
“Students who aren’t happy about a moment in class give professors a bad rating to get back at them, but often there are no ‘whys’ … no reasons for the bad ratings,” Shumpert said.
Crowley said the site provides easy access to information for students but should not be seen as the only criteria to pick classes.
“I think it is a tool that provides information, but I don’t think someone should be making their decision based entirely on what ‘Rate My Professors’ says,” Crowley said.
There are also features on the website that professors feel should be replaced because of its objectifying effects.
Both Mariano and Shumpert pointed out the controversial nature of the chili pepper option, a “hotness” rating given to professors who are rated attractive by students.
“I am not walking a runway; I am teaching a course,” Mariano said. “Here, on a website you are being judged on attractiveness; we are not models, so I don’t think we should be judged on it.
“If you are rating someone on a job and you use a chili pepper to rate someone’s attractiveness on a job, you would get fired.”
Shumpert said the attractiveness rating promotes a culture obsessed with the way people look and is unnecessary.
Mariano feels that professors can learn a lot from looking at the ratings as that would allow them to evaluate themselves and make improvements.
“I can carry myself a certain way and I can teach a certain way, but how they perceive that, I need to be aware of,” Mariano said. “So if there are any negative perceptions — if there are any misunderstandings — I might not understand that until after I see those evaluations.”
Mariano said changes made by professors in the classroom reflects on the reviews students give them.
“I did notice that when I changed textbooks, there was a difference in the evaluations; students do pick up on it, and I can see trends and differences from semester to semester,” she said.
Sometimes, the comments on the evaluations give away the anonymity of the evaluator as Crowley found out reading a comment about harpoon guns.
“I read a joke on ‘Rate My Professors’ about a reference to a harpoon gun a student made in class, and that definitely stands out because that told me who the student was,” Crowley said.
Crowley, who holds a 4.2 rating out of 5.0 on “Rate My Professors,” reciprocated by rating it at 4.2, while Mariano, who has a perfect 5.0, rated it 4.0, saying she would get rid of the chili pepper rating option.