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Rate my professor

An accurate indicator or an outdated complaint

By Caleb Brown
On April 20, 2011

Nobody wants to get stuck with a bad professor. If you get into a class with a teacher you cannot stand, your semester can be miserable. So when registration time rolls around students are always eager to find out which professors are good and which ones are not.

There is even a Web site with this expressed purpose (www.ratemyprofessor.com). With this site, a student can look up professors at schools across the country and see how they have been rated by the people who have taken their classes.

A peak at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse shows that our staff gets better than average marks at a rating of 3.36 out of 5.

At first glance this site promises to be a useful tool when lining up next semester's  schedule.

One student said, "I know a lot of people who have used it," adding, "I'm actually going to use it for next semester." But the site may also be of use to professors.

"It's important [for teachers] to adapt," said English teacher Sharon Jessee.

Audie Olson, a German professor, had thoughts along those same lines.  "I try to listen to the students," he said, "I'm not here for myself."

But before we all run off to see which professors we want or what students think about our staff, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Browsing through the list of professors names reveals that the number of ratings each teacher received varies widely. Some received only a few, some none and others had well over 100.

With that being said, we should take some of these grades with a bit of caution. After all, the reviews of just a few people can hardly be taken as the final word on how good a particular professor might be.

On the other hand, a bit more confidence could be placed in those professors who have received many ratings, as long as the ratings seem consistent.

Even then there can be other things to consider. As we all know, our instructors do not teach just one class. Not all of the ratings for any given professor on the site are for the same class. Fortunately, next to each grade the course number is listed. So if you do use this Web site, pay attention to that.

The date the rating was posted on also stands out. The most recent reviews are listed first, but some of them go back as far as 2003. That means the review was written before many in the student body were even in high school.

Remember that professors change.  Just because students disliked, or liked, a particular professor eight years ago does not mean you will dislike, or like, them now.

Is "Rate My Professor" useful? It can be, so long as we pay attention to what we are actually reading. For the professors, probably not so much. In that case the student evaluations we all fill out would probably be more relevant feedback. As for us students, a better bet would be to talk to people who have had those professors recently.

 


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