The Power Of Rate My Professor

For those of you that have been blindly picking courses based on what someone’s second cousin thought, I am about to make your academic life a whole lot easier.  Just to be right up front, we are receiving no compensation of any kind from rate  my professor, I just believe in the usefulness of it that much!  The basic idea behind the site is that students can rate a professor in 3 different academic categories: Clarity, Helpfulness, and Easiness.  There is also an overall rank, and just for kicks, a “hotness” ranking (humorously symbolized by a jalapeño pepper).  There is also a place to state any comments about the course or professor.  I’m not sure about every school, but I think the vast majority of post-secondary institutions conduct course/professor reviews at the end of each course.  We used to joke that they used these to start the boilers because there seemed to be no correlation between tenure being granted, and who was actually a decent teacher.  Rate My Professor remedies this situation by giving students a public forum to tell each other what the course was really like.

Strength In Numbers

As long as a prof has 5 or more reviews I have always found the rankings to be extremely accurate.  I’ve made a point of mentioning the site to my friends, and I have never heard a single person complain about being misled.  The only caveat I would add is that obviously if a professor only has a couple reviews, it may be too small a sample size to go on unconditionally.  You always have to account for a couple of outlier students who just received a bad grade because they were bad students and now want to blame the world for it.  Many of the comments are where you can gain especially valuable insight into a course or specific professor.  A comment such as, “Extremely dedicated to providing after hours help,” or, “Very entertaining lecture style,” score huge points in my book.  I personally would place more weight on the Clarity and Helpfulness rankings since I wasn’t usually intimidated by “hard” courses in the Faculty of Arts, but I do know people that actually got degrees and high GPAs simply by picking professors with extremely easy rankings.  The system does work.

I Like Anything That Pisses Off “The Man”

It is ultimately because of this effectiveness that professors truly hate it!  Naturally this just gives the forum even more credibility with me because I love anything that tweaks the nose of upper academia.  Professors love control, and they love to believe that they are above being evaluated by lowly undergrads.  By and large, most professors almost have to be a little eccentric to spend that much time in academia when you really think about it. Rate My Professor takes all that control out of their hands, and allows an anonymous and honest review of their skills, style, and competency.  I think it is one of the only democratic venues in a system that is fairly authoritarian.  Go ahead and Google “professor’s opinions of rate my prof” and scroll past the actual site.  You’ll soon find all kinds of professors who are worried about what this is doing to their reputation and talking about how invalid the whole system is.  A lot of words like “ludicrous” and “ridiculous” are used to describe the rankings.  I only have one message for these professors who have had their tail feathers ruffled: Quit posting on internet forums and crying about what those nasty students said about you, and instead, get off your butt and learn about how to be a better teacher!  I have given numerous professors very high marks even though their classes were difficult.  Most students that actually care enough to go online and fill out a ranking are probably fairly trustworthy, and I guarantee they are more reliable than any measure that the university uses.

Rate My Professor Is A Good Tool If You Need A GPA Booster?

As a side note, I mentioned above that Rate My Professor is an easy way to boost your GPA by picking a lot of professors that are rank high in the “easiness” category.  I don’t like this idea, and I feel that if you’re paying for an education you may as well learn as much as possible (I guess if someone else is paying for it, you should also learn as much as possible!).  I do think it shows how arbitrary the whole idea of GPA is however.  I’m not sure if a better system exists, but I think it’s too bad that someone who knows about RMP stands a much better chance of getting into a GPA-dependant faculty like Law.  It really is that easy to game the system, I’ve seen it firsthand.

The Feedback That’s “Too Honest” For Some

Check out the site and tell us what you think.  There are probably too many personal attacks on there (as there are on any public forum), but I think it is extremely effective at upgrading your student experience.  Many of my friends that I have recommended it to now use it to pick the majority of their classes.  I think there is even an argument to be made that it helps a “free-market-esque” system develop as far as attracting good professors to your university and rewarding them.  If more students are constantly signing up for the highest ranked professors’ courses, this should send a fairly clear message to top university brass.  Now if only they could read clear messages from rate my professor…

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It seems like a perfect resource! It used to be word of mouth now online. I guess it is a sign of the times.

This sounds like a very good idea for college students. It is difficult to talk to many people in person like when I went to school. The internet didn’t exist back then.

Great resource. I don’t think it applies to Canadian profs though. I will have to look into that.

I must say I really appreciate these sites. I find the feedback from others really helpful.

You are spot on about being slightly strange to saty for a long time in academia – I say that we become ‘institutionalised’ just like in the Shawshank Redemption. As to students evaluating their Profs – it is done everywhere (at least all universities in the UK do it). It sounds like a good idea but I would like to mention two negative effects: professors start seeing themselves as teachers rather than enablers of learning; and they start entertaining rather than opening doors to knowledge. BTW, I always get top marks and I do teach epistemology.

I am on the fence with the rating systems that are out there for the Professors. Rating systems were introduced as I was going through my program and I watched how a lot of my courses became watered down. The older professors stuck to their guns, but the younger ones that were trying to earn a position blatantly made their curriculum easier so that their ratings wouldn’t be that harsh. It would be good if the institutions used the reviews to correct the outliers; scrutinizing the very good evaluations just as much as the very bad ones, and ignoring the… Read more »

I remember filling out those end of the semester reviews too. Don’t think they ever amounted to much either. There’s a big difference between a professor and someone who teaches. Most of my profs were not teachers. They were all about lecturing with very little help in between. Once I got into my major did I see actual teaching going on.

I love this! I wish they would have had this 10 years ago when I was in college, would have made things a long easier :)

“It is ultimately because of this effectiveness that professors truly hate it! Naturally this just gives the forum even more credibility with me because I love anything that tweaks the nose of upper academia. Professors love control, and they love to believe that they are above being evaluated by lowly undergrads.”

Totally agree with this comment. I hope this site continues to be successful.

I remember this from the good ol’ days!

I remember using it- it was very useful.

I want to say that I would have wanted this in place 15 years ago when I was in school. But, I did research my potential professors by using word of mouth and just “listening” to what other professors may or may not have said. I am satisfied that I did for the most part pick the professors that were great for me.

I love any kind of feedback loops that gives the edge to the “little guy”. And I hope that conscientious professors that care about ratings would also rebut any negative reviews. Power to the People! :-)

Good to know. I will definitely reference it in the future then.

Well, they are different though. I see colleagues who stand infront of their students and lecture (mumble) for two hours; the outcome is the teaching rather than the learning. Lecturing is a necessary bit not suffcicient condition for learning.

Gerard

I get good scores on RateMyProfessor, I think more because I’m entertaining/funny rather than because of my skills (or lack of them!). I’m not crazy about it, though. It seems to be used mostly by early-year weaker and sketchier students — the ones who are looking for easy profs because they’re not good enough to do well otherwise. I guess for them it’s a worthwhile resource. But by the time students get far enough into their degree that they can really recognize effective teaching, they’ve grown out of using RMP. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it more… Read more »

Gerard

Yes, I do get the pepper! Which is another reason to distrust the system!

Student

As a student, I would just like to side with some of these professors – there are a lot of good/great professors not getting particularly awesome ratings on RateMyProf. I think this is particularly the case for those who teach first and second year classes, when some of us still equate easy with good prof. That’s not to say I haven’t used RateMyProf, just that, as you mentioned, I find the comments infinitely more useful than the actual ratings. Lots of comments like “GUARANTEED A+!!!!!” tell me that chances are, this guy isn’t as good of his prof as his… Read more »

Mary

Why do you equate ratemyprofessor with sticking it to the man? it’s owned by mtv. when you use rmp, you’re basically helping mtv rack up more profits. rmp is not some subversive, empowering website. it’s just more of the same old consumer ethos- using people’s insecurities to sell them shit. learn to make up your own mind when evaluating your classes.

Ling

Wow, Teacher Man, you sound a little touchy. There there. To be honest, RMP, though originally conceived as a useful and proactive tool, has indeed given people a very problematic mindset. Most people I know pick their classes based on this site, and I think they cheat themselves out of an education in the process. Certainly there is more to a teacher than whether he or she is “entertaining” or easy or “crystal clear” or supposedly helpful; some of my most valuable educational experiences were from teachers that were not entertaining or easy or even very approachable. In fact, the… Read more »

C skey

Can I just please add a couple of comments? One, not all your instructors are professors. Many students don’t realise that the ones teaching them especially as undersgraduates, are not tenured professors, but people who make maybe $3-4K a course (less than they would in a fast food joint) with no benefits and no security. We get rated with the same guys who have tenure and who have huge salaries and total job security. But, for eg., in our dept. for a number of years, 85% of the undergrad courses were taught by grad students and sessionals. To a student,… Read more »

C skey

Thank you! As a struggling sessional (have taught for 16 years) who has been rated poorly (Yet I’ve also been nominated for teaching awards 3x in recent years — I guess that doesn’t count, as it doesn’t make it onto the site) I appreciate imput from a former student who has a less short-sighted view of education. Some course are boring. I’m struggling right now to find a ‘entertaining’ way to teach Pilgrim’s Progress. I know I’m going to get slam dunked if I don’t. I do love what I’m doing — I must eh, since the most I’ve ever… Read more »

The quality of the comments at RateMyProfessor depends on the quality of the school and the quality of the students. Top-flight students who arrive on campus prepared for college-level work and who understand the purpose of higher education appreciate a challenge and rise to it. But these are far from the majority. Many view college as voc-ed, come into the classroom unable to write a clear, literate sentence in their native language, ignorant of high-school level math, and innocent of the history and thought of the culture in which they grew up, and expect to get through courses with as… Read more »

hey y’all, i teach over at a cheesy community college IRVINE VALLEY COLLEGE, my dumb prospective students love to use this site so i jack up my ratings and flag all negative ratings, how do i get alerted? well my iphone gets a text from RMP.com when anyone leaves a review, i mean its pretty hard to flag a positive comment and get it removed, but negative ones get removed no matter how mundane even if they follow the site guidelines to a tee. LoL, try it to me yourself and you’ll see my power!! wahahaha, this will help any… Read more »

Kaye

I’m in Canada, and where I am we get paid 4 to just under 6 thousand dollars per course. Most sessionals are not full time, and grad students rarely get more than one course per term.

Cskey’s description is correct and we are often teaching in course outside of our area of expertise, and usually for the first time.

Plus we have to submit teaching evaluations as part of job applications (but not rate my prof – though who knows, they might look).

GeoffP

No, the article is flawed from the get-go. RMP is, and largely has been from the start, a tool for low-end students to get revenge. I’m teaching a course right now and among the comments were “What textbook?” The… textbook all the material came out of? The one with all the, you know, whatchamacallem – “figures” and “tables” and “concepts” and such. “Confusing notes”? You mean, the ones that followed the textbook you couldn’t seem to locate or read? Okay. Course average 78%? “Too hard.” I see. “Lectures are long”. You mean the ones the same length as all the… Read more »

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