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Reconsidering RateMyProf?

By Ryan Gallant, News Contributor and Daniel Boltinsky, News Editor

Peter Schotch has a ratemyprofessor.com rating of 2.4, one of the lowest in the Dalhousie philosophy department. 58 students have logged on to evaluate him, and comments range from “obviously one of the awful professors who make it to tenure and then simply stop caring,” to “a cool guy; I just think that other people need to be able to stomach hard liquor.”

The website has a “professor rebuttals” section too, where faculty can respond to criticism. Schotch hasn’t used it. He says he does not pay much attention to the site.

“I’ve been told by others that most of the comments about me are negative. Has that knowledge affected my approach to teaching? Not really,” Schotch wrote in an email to the Gazette.

“What I mostly look at are the (anonymous) student comments on my department evaluations. I get some negative comments there too, but I’m pretty sure that they haven’t been written at three in morning by somebody drunk out of all sense.”

This year Dal elected to make end-of-term student evaluations public online—a controversial decision, but one that might give students more thorough feedback to rely on.

There are 1058 faculty members listed on ratemyprofessor.com’s Dal page, covering all the school’s departments. They are rated out of a possible five points on easiness, clarity and helpfulness.

Unlike Schotch, history professor Todd McCallum has an almost perfect rating of 4.7. Nevertheless, he likewise believes there are much better ways to check one’s own teaching.

“After every class, I get lots of feedback, both in statistical form and in proper sentences,” he says.

“Beyond that, as my students can no doubt attest, I spend a lot of lecture time begging for feedback, and in one class, they write an essay that critically evaluates the university, including my own behaviour.  Finally, many of my students have responded to my requests for advice, and talked at length about how I can improve.”

Additionally, McCallum is not a fan of the site’s teacher-hotness meter.

“The sexiness rating is stupid—a banal attempt to stir up buzz, no doubt, and one that suggests that the site isn’t a particularly good source of actionable intelligence.”

One criticism of the website is that, because of the simplicity of the rating system, it merely becomes a ranking of the easiest graders.

Other evaluation sites have appeared following the popularity of ratemyprofessor.com, some with more in-depth assessment systems.

Myedu.com, for example, is a course planning website which also has professor ratings. It includes personal teaching styles, lecture and attendance policies, and average course GPAs. The site currently lists only universities and faculty in the United States.

“More than professor ratings,” the site quips not-so-subtly at its competition on the sign-up page, “If you think a professor “hotness” rating will help your GPA, you’re in the wrong place.”

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