Professors’ feelings about ratemyprofessor.com

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Students refer to ratemyprofessor.com for information on their professors, but few consider how their professors might feel about their candid feedback.

“A few of the comments have hurt a bit, (especially) the ones that are personal instead of directed at my teaching or the amount learned in the class,” said Robert Walz, a communications professor.

However, Walz said he liked some of the ideas behind the system.

“Most of the student comments are intended to help other students looking to sign up for a class,” Walz said. “I believe in transparency, and this is a good venue.”

BYU currently has 3,386 teacher profiles on ratemyprofessor.com. Out of a scale of one to five, BYU professors have an average rating of 3.96 and have been awarded a “Top School” distinction on the site.

Opinions concerning ratemyprofessor.com among professors vary, as does the amount of time professors choose to spend looking at their ratings.

“I don’t find the site hurtful,” said Paul Westover, an assistant professor of English. “In fact, I find it amusing, and I think many other professors do as well.”

Every profile of a teacher includes a rating scale, comments section and even a “hotness” score, indicated by a chili pepper. Hundreds of students post about their experiences in their classes and warn or encourage other students about professors’ teaching styles.

Some professors were open to the idea of using the site to improve teaching but only if it was statistically sound.

“I visited the website three or four times, seven or eight years ago,” said Daryl Lee, who teaches French and Italian. “I haven’t been back since. Since the BYU administration doesn’t use the system for formative or summative moments of faculty review, a faculty member couldn’t use it in a professional way.”

Some feel the ratings and comments posted are biased and unhelpful because they come from students who have polar or extreme feelings of disapproval or gratitude for each class.

“Students are making decisions based on a fairly limited sample of colleagues’ responses — responses that may be dated,” Westover said. “Students who use the site and believe in its concept should probably pitch in a little more to enhance its reliability.”

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