If student feedback stings, go looking for more

February 9, 2012

For lecturers who pay attention to such websites, a poor rating denoted by an unhappy face next to their name on the US-based website RateMyProfessor.com can be both a professional and personal blow.

However, rather than dismissing the site, a new research paper has suggested a way to turn the frown upside down - by encouraging more students to use it.

The study, "RateMyProfessors.com offers biased evaluations", published in the journal Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, found that students who left ratings were a self-selecting group who were more likely to be negative than positive.

Thus, the ratings are "not representative of students who have taken a professor's class", the paper argues.

Its authors, Angela M. Legg, Eugene Cota-Robles fellow in the department of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and Janie H. Wilson, professor of psychology at Georgia Southern University, suggest that asking more students to complete evaluations can lead to a more representative sample and better information for future students.

A previous study, carried out in 2007, found that students' views of their tutors were influenced by the comments they had read about them before attending their lectures.

The authors of the new study claim that, in addition to potentially improving lecturers' scores on the site, obtaining a more representative sample of responses will stop academics from falling into a "vicious cycle of negative experiences and comments".

Ms Legg and Professor Wilson - who is highly rated on the website for her helpfulness, clarity of teaching and even attractiveness - tested the bias of RateMyProfessor.com by asking students to complete an in-class evaluation for lecturers who already had a rating on the site.

They found that the lecturers' "clarity" was scored more highly by the in-class evaluation, and the perceived "easiness" of their classes was much lower, than was indicated by their existing RateMyProfessors.com rankings.

When study participants were then invited to submit their thoughts about their lecturers to RateMyProfessors.com, the academics' clarity score rose and the "easiness" score for their classes fell.

sarah.cunnane@tsleducation.com.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Daniel Mitchell illustration (29 June 2017)

Academics who think they can do the work of professional staff better than professional staff themselves are not showing the kind of respect they expect from others

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

A podium constructed out of wood

There are good reasons why some big names are missing from our roster

Senior academics at Teesside University put at risk of redundancy as summer break gets under way

Thorns and butterflies

Conditions that undermine the notion of scholarly vocation – relentless work, ubiquitous bureaucracy – can cause academics acute distress and spur them to quit, says Ruth Barcan