Instructors get honest about Rate My Professors

by Teresa Gebers 0

One comment on Rate My Professors sticks out in Professor Christian Beam’s mind.

I think the funniest comment was, ‘Talks like a surfer and walks like Jack Black,’” said the COC history instructor.

Rate My Professors is the most popular online destination for teacher ratings with over 1.7 million college professors nationwide having been added to the site.

Currently, COC professors have an average of a 3.89 rating out of 5.

The school’s overall score, taking into consideration a number of different categories such as safety, location, and reputation, is a 3.9.

The scores reflect what students value about College of the Canyons, high-quality instruction, outstanding support services, and excellent facilities that rival those found at four-year universities,” said Eric Harnish, Vice President of Public Relations, Advocacy and External Relations at COC. “At the same time, we’re always looking at ways we can enhance the services we provide to improve the student experience.”

An unofficial Twitter poll showed that out of 39 COC students, 69 percent of them use the site “all of the time”, 23 percent said “sometimes”, and 8 percent said “never”.

More than 4 million college students each month use Rate My Professors, though it’s not as popular with those who are being rated.

I don’t ever go on my own Rate My Professors because I imagine the only students who would take the time to comment would be the ones who really liked me or the ones who really hated me,” said English professor Christine Iskander. “Both of which would be unhealthy and inaccurate to take too seriously.”

One COC professor in the math department believes that the most critical comments are from students who did poorly due to a lack of effort, “and do nothing to inform me of how I might improve the course,” he said.

An anonymous COC student once left a comment on his professor because he thought every other comment he read, “was a straight up lie.”

When describing why he left the comment, he explained that students are trying to transfer to great schools and, “professors like him make it nearly impossible to get a good grade. It’s really frustrating. He treats us like we’re in kindergarten,” the student said.

Philosophy instructor Chris Blakey agrees that comments typically left on the site are written by students who either feel very positive or extremely negative towards their instructor.

He said that the comments on the website are not as useful to him as the official student evaluations done by the school.

The reason I don’t think it’s as important is that it’s even one more step removed from the actual classroom and, therefore, you can get more ‘off the wall’ stuff on Rate My Professors,” he said.

“Off the wall” comments are not rare when it comes to the popular online destination.

For example, “Professor Beam is like a soft tulip blossoming in the gardens of Eden. He is delicate, yet has the fervor of a dire wolf in lambs clothing,” read one comment about the COC professor’s History 101 class.

“Cats teach better,” a student said about another COC teacher.

Whatever the nature of the comments are, most COC professors do take them seriously.

“Of course I take students’ comments into consideration. Why? Because it’s human nature to be curious about what former students say about you,” said professor Larry Carstens.

Blakey said he takes the comments into account because he figures if one students thinks a certain way, then maybe other students do, and there might be some correctness to what they’re saying.

When COC student Katie Ravenell registers for her classes, she uses Rate My Professors every time.

She said the comments play a huge role when she is deciding her schedule for the upcoming semester and will do everything in her power to make sure she is not stuck with a terrible instructor.

“I’ve found that the comments are usually pretty accurate. I haven’t had a teacher yet that I have disagreed with their Rate My Professors’ comments. I trust what other students say.”

Among the highest rated instructors here at COC is English professor Tricia George, having a total of 15 ratings, every single student gave her a perfect score of a 5 out of 5.

“I feel like that score is a bit like a ticking time bomb in that it is a matter of time before I get less than that, so I try to not worry too much,” George said. “Overall, I guess I most appreciate in the comments that many students value more from my classes than just their grade.”

George’s ratings are filled with positive comments from past and former students, one stating that she is the best professor on campus.

“So long as I receive some sort of feedback that it’s all working, then I am happy,” George said.

Certain student’s comments stick out. Blakey, for example, calls one from several years ago, “horrific.”

“The comment stated that I grade down if people don’t agree with me, and that I favor female students in class, both of which I believe to be absolutely false.

“But there it was, for the world to see.  Pretty frustrating,” he said.

One category on Rate My Professors allows students to grade instructors on their level of appearance.

According to the site, a professor who receives a “chili pepper” is considered to be “hot.” Chili peppers are awarded based on the sum of positive and negative (hot or not) ratings.

For example, if a professor receives 7 “hots” and 6 “nots”, the “hots” will be counted as “+” and the “nots” as “-”.

“The sum of these (7-6) equals 1, meaning the professor will receive a chili pepper. If the result had been negative, the professor would not receive a chili pepper. Professors are ranked by highest numerical value in this case. For instance a -3 result is higher than a -4,” explains the website.

One COC professor thought that this aspect of the website was rather strange.

“That seems to destroy the credibility of its creators.  It also seems “creepy” that students would be asked to consider the “hot” rating of an old fart like me,” he said.

Philosophy professor Marco Llaguno, who has received a “chilli pepper”, said that appearance is not a good indicator of teaching ability, style, personality, and demeanor.

“If students are basing important choices on external appearances, then they have much to learn from a philosophy class,” Llaguno said.

Simon Kern, a communications professor, has also received a pepper.

 “I think students being able to rate instructors on looks is fine. I won’t lie, I looked for that when I was a student,” Kern said.

“I think if my students think I’m hot they need to get out more. And I’m sorry to anyone who signed up for a class with me thinking they’re getting Ryan Gosling and end up with, well,  me.”

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