Quick Takes – RateMyProfessors.com

Professors’ Scores Ignore Differences in Individual Methods of Learning

When looking for the right professor, relying on RateMyProfessors.com may not always be the best option. Although the site may provide general ratings of professors, RMP is an unreliable source because it does not account for the differences in the ways various individuals learn.

RMP asks students to rate professors on easiness, helpfulness, clarity and interest level, but the accuracy of these ratings is questionable because these can be very subjective. The helpfulness rating especially depends on how much effort the student put into attending office hours and utilizing all resources the professor provides. Students who failed a class may have not actively sought help yet blamed the professor for their own shortcomings.

In many cases, students cannot simply decide if a professor is compatible with their learning style until they attend a couple of lectures. Receptiveness can differ depending on teaching style because students learn through different paces and methods. The developers of the widely used Index of Learning Styles, Dr. Richard M. Felder and Dr. Linda K. Silverman, observed that more intuitive students learn concepts better through facts while visual learners prefer pictures and charts. Poor performance can be caused by out-of-sync learning and teaching styles rather than by inadequate instruction.

Due to individual differences and subjective ratings, students should not solely depend on RMP’s website while scheduling classes. Next quarter, it might be a good idea to attend various professors’ lectures instead of using RMP to choose the “right” instructor.

— Shannon Kang
Staff Writer

Students Gain Access to Personal Perspectives From RateMyProfessor

Even though the “hot” chili pepper for professors may seem like a petty bonus, there is a good reason for why RateMyProfessors.com is the most popular instructor evaluation website. With over 15 million student reviews on roughly 1.7 million professors in three nations (Canada, United Kingdom and United States), RMP helps students research lecturers and find one that best suits their needs. 

Professor qualities as categorized on RMP — such as easiness, helpfulness and interest — act as good cognitive shortcuts for decision making. These traits are displayed through an objective representation on RMP with a scale of one to five but are not the only basis for the reputation of a professor.

What separates RMP from other evaluation sites, such as UCSDs CAPE, is that there are personal reviews on the professors. Rather than numbers, which recommend the course or indicate the number of study hours, personal reviews give perspective on what it’s actually like to be in the class. These reviews also provide explanations for why a professor received the rating for each category.

CAPE does not provide details on whether a professor will lecture with a heavy accent or if the professor is known to entertain students with personal anecdotes. Many may argue that the reviews and ratings are biased or skewed, but the sheer number of reviews per professor normalizes ratings. Even if a professor only has a handful of reviews, the site still offers insight on whether or not to enroll into a class. 

With a growing compilation of professors and reviews, RMP is, and will continue to be, the site that students pore over as they tinker with their upcoming schedules.

— Vincent Pham
Senior Staff Writer

User Biases Hinder Website’s Credibility in Ratings and Reviews

While RateMyProfessors.com is widely used for recommending and evaluating professors, it is inherently biased due to its nature as a public reviewing site. Students should approach these reviews with a healthy measure of scepticism.

RMP is similar to Yelp, an online company that allows people to rate the quality of local businesses, in that both have been criticized for primarily showcasing either highly satisfied or incredibly disgruntled reviews. Positive reviews on RMP tend to glamorize easy professors, while negative reviews are oftentimes merely angry responses to bad personal experiences — with many even containing profanity. 

Those who are indifferent do not have much reason to actively seek out RMP to laud or criticize a professor. CAPE, on the other hand, is heavily pushed on students; some professors even require its completion to receive a passing participation grade. This forces the more apathetic students to give rankings and comments, thus making it a more accurate way to see evaluations for professors. 

Since RMP averages reviews to come up with one composite numerical rating per instructor, the fact that most professors on RMP only get a handful of comments is discrediting. Carl Hoeger, a chemistry professor, has the most ratings of any UCSD instructor. Yet he only has 296 reviews written in a 12-year span from 2001 to 2013. This number barely accounts for the size of one of his classes, let alone all of the students he has taught in his UCSD career.

While not completely useless, a professor’s RMP scores should be taken with a grain of salt.

— Alia Bales
Staff Writer

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