RateMyProfessors.com


RateMyProfessors.com

RateMyProfessors.com (RMP) is a review site, founded in May 1999 by John Swapceinski, a software engineer from Menlo Park, California, which allows college and university students to anonymously assign ratings to professors of American, Canadian, British, New Zealand, and Australian institutions. The site contains more than six million ratings, for more than half a million professors. The site was originally launched as TeacherRatings.com and converted to RateMyProfessors in 2001.

All ratings are supposed to be anonymous without any instructor input or decisions. According to the site's privacy policy, RateMyProfessors.com will only reveal a user's personal information in response to a court order or a subpoena. [ [http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/privacy.pdf RMP Privacy Policy] ]

In November 2005, RateMyProfessors was sold to Patrick Nagle and William DeSantis. [ [http://www.ratingz.net/press/051116-pr-RMP-sale.pdf John Swapceinski announces sale of RateMyProfessors.com] ] The site was sold again in January 2007 this time to MTVu, a subsidiary of Viacom.

Ratings and reviews on RateMyProfessors

Anyone who goes onto the website, with cookies enabled, may post a rating and review of any professor already listed on the site, and may create a listing for any individual not already listed. To be posted, 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 rate the professor’s "appearance" as "hot" or "not", and may include "comments" of up to 350 characters in length.

According to the website’s FAQs page, "The Overall Quality rating [that the professor ends up with] is the average of a teacher's Helpfulness and Clarity ratings...." It’s the professor’s Overall Quality rating that determines whether his/her name, on the list of professors, is accompanied by a little smiley face (meaning "Good Quality"), a frowny face ("Poor Quality"), or an in-between, expressionless face ("Average Quality"). A professor's name is accompanied by a chili pepper icon if the sum of his or her appearance ratings is greater than zero (one "hot" rating equals +1, one "not hot" equals −1).

Michael Hussey, who helped design RateMyProfessors, sums up its purpose: "All we're doing is taking chatter that may be in the lunchroom or the dorm room and organizing it so it can be used by students." [ [http://www.csimpson80.com/new_page_505.htm Everybody's a Critic - New York Times 23 April 2006] ]

Although one RateMyProfessors CEO, Patrick Nagle, told Christine Lagorio of the Village Voice, "we are for students, by students," he also justified the site's existence by explaining: "This is to enhance your college experience so you don't end up taking classes that aren't worthwhile." [cite news |first=Christine |last=Lagorio |title=Hot for Teacher: Students Rate Profs Online -- and Vice Versa |url=http://www1.villagevoice.com/arts/0602,lagorio,71678,12.html |work=Village Voice |date=2006-01-11 |accessdate = 2006-01-11]

Professors' rebuttals

Since MTVu took over the website, RateMyProfessors.com has added a "new rebuttal feature which allows professors to write blog-like comments. These comments will appear in a new window that will link from here [the 'User Comments' section of the professor's page on RMP] once a rebuttal has been added." [ratemyprofessors.com, accessed 19 Dec 2007.] Professors must register with the website, using an ".edu" e-mail address, in order to make their rebuttals. The site also links to a new website called "Professors Strike Back" which features videos of professors responding to specific ratings that they received on RateMyProfessors. [ [http://www.mtvu.com/professors_strike_back/ Professors Strike Back on mtvU - As Seen on Rate My Professors ] ]

Criticism

How accurate are the ratings?

*The main criticism of RMP is that there is little reason to think that the ratings accurately reflect the quality of the professors rated. [Sacha Pfeiffer, "Ratings sites flourish behind a veil of anonymity", September 20, 2006, Boston Globe Online [http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2006/09/20/ratings_sites_flourish_behind_a_veil_of_anonymity/] ] [Kenneth Westhues, "Stephen Berman: Scapegoat", Dec 2006 [http://arts.uwaterloo.ca/~kwesthue/berman.htm] ] Even more importantly, the range of areas on which ratings are allowed is narrow. Clarity and helpfulness may not be the only or even the major components of quality instruction "in general". [James M. Lang, "RateMyBuns.com", "Chronicle of Higher Education", December 1, 2003 [http://chronicle.com/jobs/2003/12/2003120101c.htm] ] [See Fritz Machlup and T. Wilson, cited in Paul Trout, " [http://mtprof.msun.edu/Fall1998/TroutArt.html Deconstructing an Evaluation Form] ", "The Montana Professor", Vol. 8 No. 3, Fall 1998, accessed 7 May 2008.] Edward Nuhfer says that both Pickaprof.com and RMP "are transparently obvious in their advocacy that describes a 'good teacher' as an easy grader. ... Presenter Phil Abrami...rated the latter as 'The worst evaluation I've seen' during a panel discussion on student evaluations at the 2005 annual AERA meeting." [Edward B. Nuhfer, 2005, " [http://www.isu.edu/ctl/faculty/docs/fractalThinker.pdf A Fractal Thinker Looks at Student Evaluations] ", accessed 10 May 2008.] A study of RMP ratings, conducted by James Felton found that "the hotter and easier professors are, the more likely they’ll get rated as a good teacher." [David Epstein, " [http://insidehighered.com/news/2006/05/08/rateprof ‘Hotness’ and Quality] ", Inside Higher Ed, 8 May 2006, accessed 10 May 2008.]

Who's doing the rating?

*RMP itself admits that the ratings are "not really" statistically valid. [www.ratemyprofessors.com/faq.jsp, accessed May 16, 2007]

*Also, studies of research methodology have shown that in formats where people are able to post opinions publicly, group polarization often occurs, so that a given instructor will often receive very positive comments, very negative comments, and little in between; those who would have been in the middle are either silent or pulled to one extreme or the other. So the ratings may not represent a true consensus. [R. Wilson quoted in Adam Hinterthuer, [http://www.thedailypage.com/isthmus/article.php?article=2103 "Best. Professor. Ever. (And some of the worst)"] , "Isthmus", TheDailyPage.com, 31 Aug 2006, accessed 6 Aug 2008.]

*Another problem is that a single individual is able to make multiple separate ratings of a single professor on RMP. [Gabriela Montell, "The Art of the Bogus Rating", "Chronicle of Higher Education", September 27, 2006 [http://chronicle.com/jobs/news/2006/09/2006092701c/careers.html] ] While RMP alleges [Pfeiffer, "Ratings sites flourish behind a veil of anonymity".] that it does not allow such multiple ratings from any one IP address, it has no control over raters who use several different computers, or those that "spoof" IP addresses. In actuality, RMP only conducts minimal policing of ratings, frequently allowing multiple ratings from even a single IP address. [Westhues, "Stephen Berman: Scapegoat".] Also, there is no way of knowing that those who rate a professor's course have actually taken the course in question, making it possible for professors to rate themselves and each other, [Montell, "The Art of the Bogus Rating", "Chronicle of Higher Education".] and for posters to rate professors based purely on hearsay for any reason imaginable. As recently as May 2006, the FAQ page on RMP itself said:

How relevant are raters' comments?

*Another complaint about RMP is that unlike other methods of rating teacher performance, most teachers themselves do not feel they gain any helpful feedback. [Lang, "RateMyBuns.com".] Rather, they say that it only leads to the harassment or denigration of particular instructors. [ [Steve Giegerich] Associated Press, "Web warnings: Sites extol, slam professors", Feb 2003, CNN Online [http://www.cnn.com/2003/EDUCATION/02/17/rating.professors.ap/index.html] ] [David Epstein, "Rate Your Students", Jan 2006, insidehighered.com [http://insidehighered.com/news/2006/01/16/rate] ] Critics state that a number of the ratings focus on qualities irrelevant to teaching, such as physical appearance. [Lang, "RateMyBuns.com".] Furthermore, whereas anyone who is hired as an instructor usually has a great deal of experience in and knowledge about the field in question, students generally do not. Given their lack of experience and of wide-ranging knowledge of the subjects being taught, students generally are in no position to make "well-informed" criticisms of the teaching they receive. [Robert Sproule, [http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n50.html "Student Evaluation of Teaching"] , "Education Policy Analysis Archives", vol. 8 no. 50, 2 November 2000, accessed 7 May 2008; R. Olshavsky & R. Spreng, cited in R. Wright, [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FCR/is_2_40/ai_n16689772/print "Student Evaluations of Faculty: Concerns Raised in the Literature and Possible Solutions"] , "College Student Journal", vol. 40 no. 2, 2006, accessed 24 Sept 2008.]
*Also overlooked is that it is common at universities and colleges for faculty (especially junior faculty) to be called on by their departments to teach courses on topics that are not within their area(s) of expertise, which can earn them poor ratings at RMP that do not reflect the ability of those professors to teach courses on subjects that they are much more qualified to teach.Fact|date=August 2008 RMP, though it lets the student identify the course that they took with the professor, lumps together the ratings for all courses taught by each professor, instead of providing separate ratings averages for each course taught.

ubverting students' real educational interests?

*Instructors have voiced concern that it and similar methods are in fact counterproductive to the educational process by minimizing the importance of quality in instruction and instead encouraging students to see themselves as consumers filling out product satisfaction surveys, a disheartening perception of student values. [ [http://www.slate.com/id/2130586/ The Hottest Professor on Campus] ] This sentiment has been articulated by Mark Edmundson [ [http://staffwww.fullcoll.edu/dfouquette/spring%202005/Fall%202004/Liberal%20education.htm "On the Uses of a Liberal Education: As Lite Entertainment For Bored College Students"] , "Harper's Magazine", vol. 295, Sept 1997, pp. 39-49, accessed 30 May 2008.] of the University of Virginia, among others, in what has been described as an influential essay [Book Reviews, "Averett Library News" Winter 2005 [http://www.averett.edu/library/news_0602.pdf] ] on the topic of course evaluations. Finally, Edward Nuhfer has argued, "Pseudo-evaluation damages the credibility of legitimate evaluation and victimizes individuals by irresponsibly publishing comments about them derived from anonymous sources. This is voyeurism passed off as 'evaluation' and examples lie at http://www.pickaprof.com/ and http://ratemyprofessors.com/index.jsp. Neither site provides evaluation of faculty through criteria that might be valuable to a student seeking a professor who is conducive to their learning, thinking or intellectual growth." [Edward Nuhfer, 2005, " [http://www.isu.edu/ctl/faculty/docs/fractalThinker.pdf A Fractal Thinker Looks at Student Evaluations] ", accessed 7 Aug 2008.]

ee also

*Rate My Teachers - Ratings for high school teachers.
*Rate Your Students - A blog created as a reaction to RateMyProfessors.
*Pick-A-Prof - Another college professor rating site.

References

External links

* [http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ RateMyProfessors.com] - Official site
* [http://www.mtvu.com/professors_strike_back/ Professors Strike Back] - videos of professors responding to ratings from RateMyProfessors.com


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