Another study cited in the article, "concluded that the site's evaluations 'closely matched students' real-life concerns about the quality of instruction in the classroom. The paper added, 'While issues such as personality and appearance did enter into the postings, these were secondary motivators compared to more salient issues such as competence, knowledge, clarity, and helpfulness.'"
Professors, like the one pictured at left, can get a bit squirrelly when it comes to criticism. Some cherry-picked examples from the Chronicle's article:
"The only way such anonymous online "evals" might actually earn some credibility is if we knew the grade and GPA of the student doing the posting . . . too much opportunity for payback against the prof." Huh? What only smart students will give valid evaluations? Hmmm . . . is that an oxymoron? (Use your dictionary app)!
Here's another: "The lemming response is also a strong biasing factor. A student's remarks about a professor will often be swayed by previous comments made by other students." Students are lemmings? (Use your dictionary app)! It's not a compliment.
When discussing voluntary response samples and web polls in my stats class, I show RateMyProfessor on the projector screen, have the students pick a state, pick a school from that state, and pick a teacher from that school. I ask if anyone knows the teacher. Assuming my students are honest, I never use a teacher we know. Then I rate them as helpful, clear, hard and always hot. For the course I put in something like 'intro 101'.All I can say, I hope he never "picks" me.
The students laugh along until I click on "submit". Then a shocked silence fills the room as they realize that I really submitted the rating and it's now a permanent part of the web site.
It's a far more effective lesson on web poll validity than any lecture I could give (and it takes less time).
The Weird Factors
Weird Factor No. 1. In this time of fiscal crisis, paid college researchers are spending our hard-earned money researching "RateMyProfessor"? Shouldn't they be researching things like, oh I don't know, which professions and what markets will be viable once students graduate?
Weird Factor No. 2. This is the FOURTH academic study of RateMyProfessor.com by an institution of higher learning. AYK? See Weird Factor No. 1.
Weird Factor No. 3. Professors? Chili-Pepper-Hot? Weird.
Weird Factor No. 4. According to The Chronicle's article (and professor comments) you would think that none of these professors ever deign to look at their rating. In the infamous words of Mel Brooks (look him up on Wikipedia), "C'mon you do it, you know you do it. Everybody does it! I just did it and I'm ready to do it again!"
Yes, I have to admit I just looked at my rating.
Do you use RateMyProfessor.com or some other website to make class choices? Do you think taxpayers should continue to fund studies like those mentioned?