Mason Professors Weigh In on Internet Rating

Posted: November 16, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ryann Doyle

As college students begin to prepare for the upcoming semester, many look to the popular teacher evaluation web site, Ratemyprofessors.com, as a resource to plan their class schedule. Access to students’ opinions is as simple as opening the web page.

According to Ratemyprofessors.com, it is the Internet’s largest listing of collegiate professor ratings, with more than 6.8 million student-generated ratings of more than 1 million professors since the site’s launch in 1999. Professors from more than 6,000 college and universities in the United States, Canada, England, Scotland and Wales are rated on attributes such as clarity, helpfulness, easiness and overall quality on a five-point scale.

The web site also features “Top 50” lists with categories such as “highest ranked” and “hottest” teachers (designated with a chili pepper). In a current top 50 “hottest” list, Mason has several professors ranked, including Pelin Aksoy, assistant professor in Applied Information Technology (7); and Malda Kocache, term professor in Molecular and Microbiology (14).

Kocache’s evaluations show high ratings for clarity, helpfulness and overall quality, but it was her good looks that landed her on a top 50 list.

“While personally I find it humorous, I wish that they concentrated as much on our teaching as our looks,” says Kocache.

Aksoy says she thinks the web site is very popular among students because they find it fun to share comments about their professors with each other, as there currently is no other mechanism to do so.

“Even though the students have the opportunity to write similar comments on the Mason evaluation forms, I believe that they find it easier to share their thoughts through the web site, hence the comments that are included on the web site are less inhibited,” says Aksoy. “I am not sure how I got on that [hottest professors] list, but I would only hope that the students appreciate the quality of my teaching and the fact that I care about their education.”

Other Mason professors say they even like the web site and think it is useful when students are deciding which classes to take.

“I teach mostly smaller discussion-type courses and have found that a lot of students end up taking a risk on these kinds of courses based upon what students have said on the site,” says Walter Rankin, deputy associate dean of undergraduate academic affairs. “It’s no more or less subjective than the evaluations we give students at the end of the semester, and they seem to respond openly on it.”

David Beach, term instructor of English, believes ratemyprofessors.com should never be used as any official institutional method of evaluation. However, out of curiosity he took it upon himself do a brief comparison between the official Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs) and the ratemyprofessors.com evaluations.

“The correlation was surprisingly close,” says Beach. “One person really, really hated me and posted some humorous (to me) vitriol that was probably a true statement in that person’s perspective. On the official SETs, the person who hated me for giving a poor grade (or some other reason) will mark me low anyhow.

“The reality is that students use ratemyprofessors.com to make their course/instructor choices, and this is something we faculty have to live with,” says Beach. “Some students will love us, some will hate us, many will probably consider us indifferently down the road. Bottom line: If we do our jobs well, stay on top of scholarship, be respectful of students and be fair, then the ‘numbers’ will substantiate that, regardless of where they are posted.”

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