Professors read harsh reviews of their course and teaching methods in a video produced by student journalists at Simon Fraser University in Canada this summer.
The students asked 40 professors to participate in their mean-review reading. Nine accepted.
Jimmy Kimmel’s Celebrity Mean Tweets inspired SFU students to make their own. Kimmel’s videos feature celebrities reading harsh comments from Twitter users. SFU’s video features professors reading RateMyProfessor (RMP) reviews. Kimmel’s videos reach 19–30 million views. SFU’s has 146,000 views so far.
Leigh University in Pennsylvania made a similar video this month, allowing professors to speak their minds after reading reviews. The video elicits a more genuine reaction from professors and currently has 42,000 views. The video can be viewed here: Reading from Rate My Professor
Social media users often feel secure enough to write what they wouldn’t say out loud. The increase of anonymity means the increase of security behind the screen. Removing the name means removing the courtesy. Websites like RateMyProfessor and PostSecret provide protection to personal posts, and users take advantage of them.
RMP reviews hold high value among students, who can score a professor on a scale from one to five and leave additional comments. Evaluation categories include helpfulness, clarity, easiness, overall quality and average grade. Students can add a red chili pepper if the professor fits into the “hotness” category.
Like BYU student ratings, RMP is available to faculty and administration to read.
BYU’s highest-rated professors on the website work in the Department of Religious Education. Tyler Griffin, a BYU religion professor who teaches Book of Mormon, New Testament and Doctrine and Covenants, said that because Rate My Professor is non-controlled, most professors do not see it as a reliable source of student feedback.
“I browse through student comments on RMP about once a year to get a general pulse on what they are freely reporting in addition to comments from the BYU student evaluations. This exercise is never a major game changer for me, but it has served to make me aware … and helped me to make useful adjustments,” Griffin said.
Griffin’s most recent review on RMP say “he is the best Book of Mormon teacher BYU has. Great projects, easy reading assignments … couple that with the fact that Br. Griffin is a talented orator and fantastic BOM scholar, you learn a ton … take it from Griffin!”
Other religious professors, like Byron Merrill, do not pay attention to outside websites for student feedback. Austin Tiner, a TA for Merrill, said that “Brother Merrill said he doesn’t pay attention to rate my professor.”
According to website data, low-scoring professors on RMP do not directly correlate to challenging subjects. Even difficult math or physics courses receive high scores on RMP, which shows that professors really do determine the quality of the course.
Eric Swenson, a BYU math professor, said he has never looked at RMP. “I mostly just use BYU’s midterm evaluations for feedback,” Swenson said.
Brandie Siegfried, an English professor at BYU, compared RMP to BYU student evaluations. Siegfried said university evaluations represent the interests of institutional evaluators, while RMP is a space where students can talk to each other.
“Of course, there are plenty of comments that are incredibly silly and reveal the writer’s immaturity … being preoccupied with a professor’s fashion sense, or vehicle preference, or hairstyle has little to do with the quality of a course, for instance,” Siegfried said.
A student who reviewed Siegfried on RMP in 2011 said “this was by the far the hardest class I’ve taken at BYU … but I learned so much and am grateful I had her as a teacher, because every other class will probably seem extremely simple compared to hers.”
Another reviewer, who took the class in Winter 2014, said, “Dr. Siegfried is the bomb. Her class goes beyond the text; I’m still using principles she taught me a year later, and I always will. It’s a load of work, but worth it. Read, listen, participate, and you’ll get a good grade.”
Siegfried suggested that students talk to each other to determine the rating of a particular course. She said it’s a good idea to visit the professor during office hours to get a sense of how the professor thinks regarding the course, students and general topic.
“Talk to students who’ve recently taken the course you’re considering — ask them the questions you’re concerned about,” Siegfried said.