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Rate my professor and the psychological impact.

  1. Jun 26, 2014 #1
    How accurate do you think are the assessments made by students on this website??I had nothing but good things to say about all my professors. When I started in community college last year I joined late and had to take the professors whose classes were available. I did not even bother to check any reviews.

    My introductory chemistry teacher was very strict, had classroom policies ( no cellphones etc ) and assigned a lot of homework. Although it was an introductory level class she took it to a whole new level which was reminiscent to general chemistry 1. Her exams were tough too but she was very helpful and was a fantastic professor. Several people dropped the class, most did average, some of us worked hard and got stellar grades. After the finals when I went on rate my professors to post a good review and I realized that she had average ratings but most of the reviews were good in spite of her tough demeanor. There is this physics professor who is legendary in our college. Most of the ratings are harsh but my friends who are studious and toppers rave about him claiming that inspite of the tumultuous period one might go through during his class you come out with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the subject. My last example is of this chemistry professor who just like the previous two that I had mentioned obtained his phd from an ivy league university. His passion for the subject is contagious but unfortunately all his ratings are bad.

    Makes me really wonder to what degree do these websites have a psychological impact on the student. For example

    1) A student unintentionally selects a class of a professor who is known to be tough. As the class progresses and especially after the first exam the student realizes the intensity and makes the necessary adjustments and ends up doing well in the class.
    2) A student gets into a class of a professor who is known to be tough. The student does not have a choice since this might be a prerequisite he/she has to take to graduate on time or this might be a class taught by only one professor. The student goes in the panic mode and has preconceived notions about the class. Wouldn't that psychologically impact the students performance inspite of he/she being a good student?

    Isn't it true that if you are a good student you will do well irrespective of the teacher? I have heard some horror stories of bad professors too but luckily I have not encountered them so far.

    Please share your experiences and thoughts.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 26, 2014 #2
    This is a hard question. There are lots of factors that can influence the students opinion/perception on the quality of the teaching. A bad textbook can for example, ruin the appreciation for a subject, even if the teacher is "average". Actually, I think nowadays more problems stem from the quality of textbooks than from the quality of teaching itself. If a bad textbook is chosen, the teacher has a bad resource to work with, but the students will still blame the teacher, due to their lack of understanding about the complexity of the subject of education.

    Some teachers might be passionate about a subject, but that does not necessarily mean that he is good at teaching. Perhaps he talks too much in a "TV presenter" style, and students are not intellectually engaged enough. A similar thing has happened to me before. (In a Quantum Mechanics class, the teacher loved Physics and all, but he was awful at teaching and did not use enough Math in the subject)

    A lot of the times, students simply do not put enough effort into studying, and blame the teacher for not getting good grades.

    Most likely, the rating present personal feelings out of spite in more cases than anything else. I would not worry about wesbites like this too much.
  4. Jun 26, 2014 #3
    I think the reviews are worthless personally. I would bet that 8 out of 10 of the people that bother writing bad reviews got a bad grade in the class because they were lazy or didn't try. And 8/10 of the people who wrote good reviews got good grades.

    The only way you'll really know how a professor is is to take the course and see. I would never take the reviews as anything serious.
  5. Jun 26, 2014 #4


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    My favorite professor was an extremely smart guy. He taught me so much that I use every day at my job. He would stay after class and help students, he would come in on weekends, etc.

    His rate my professor rating is a 2.8. I think this stems from students who get frustrated with poor grades in his class ( he's a tough grader). Many of my classmates have the same opinion of the professor as I do.

    I'm not saying all those rating don't mean anything, but there will be good professors with bad rating, and bad professors with good rating. Take everything with a grain of salt
  6. Jun 26, 2014 #5

    Exactly the point I was trying to get across with my post.
  7. Jun 26, 2014 #6


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    This is nothing new.

    In fact, it applies even to PF. If you stay here long enough, you'll find many people who rave about this forum and how it has helped them. But at the same time, you'll find people accusing us of destroying the foundation of science, a bunch of Nazis who censor everything, all the way to being the cause for the failure of human civilization.

  8. Jun 26, 2014 #7
    This may apply to any type of review of anything. People are more likely to voice a complaint than to voice a compliment.

    I've realized that having professors that are "bad" or are not matched to our style of learning, or are otherwise difficult, is part of being a college student. Reading reviews may help you prepare for a class or make a better decision, but you don't know what else will effect your class experience. The subject itself may end up being difficult for you or not interesting. The textbook may be awful. The schedule might not be good for you. There might be a bad classroom environment. Your social or physical life may go to hell and make your grades suffer.

    The sooner you accept that the totality of your college experience includes all of the above, I think the better off you'll be.

  9. Jun 26, 2014 #8
    Its been hit or miss for my prof's.
    There was one prof we had in the first 2 years who was (and still is) one of my all time fav profs, but cause he wasn't "easy" his ratings are on the poor side. So in this case the ratings were off (imo)

    Then last year we had a prof who was by far the worst prof I've ever had. He rated around a 1.8 on the site and again I think this is off (as it's too high lol)

    generally what I do is I read the comments and ignore the ratings that lack anything constructive to say, usually there are a few good and a few bad commentors who actually explain why they rated the prof so.
  10. Jun 26, 2014 #9


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    I once saw tacked to a professor's bulletin board a pair of reviews for the same class. One was a perfect 4.0 the other a 0.0.
  11. Jun 26, 2014 #10
    I found they correlated well with my experience in their class. The professors that were helpful and did a good job got high ratings and the professors who were not helpful or good got poor ratings. I've seen hard professors with good ratings and easy professors with complaints for being too easy.

    Most recently I used it to choose my Spanish teacher and it was spot on in suggesting her over the guy I got stuck with in my last term.
  12. Jun 27, 2014 #11


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    I find that the best ways to assess the value of the reviews of RateMyProfessor are to do the following:

    (1) Look at how many people have provided reviews of the professor. A professor could have a highly negative rating, but perhaps only 1 or 2 people have provided a review that led to that rating, in which the rating itself may well be suspect. On the other hand, if you have many people (>10 people) giving a negative review, then the rating may be worth taking into consideration when choosing to take a course (of course, it's possible that a student with an axe to grind may create several negative reviews using different IDs).

    (2) Read carefully each review (positive and negative) to determine why that reviewer gave the review he/she gave. Those reviews can tell you far more about what he/she felt about the instructor.
  13. Jun 27, 2014 #12
    Also, make sure what class those reviews are coming from. I know one good prof with 20 low ratings simply because there was one semester he had to teach a business calculus course with 500 students in it.
  14. Jun 27, 2014 #13
    I wonder if there is some number (say 5) by which one should divide the number of bad reviews to make it even out the good reviews. There are always more bad reviews because people like to whine more than praise.
  15. Jun 27, 2014 #14

    This +1
  16. Jun 27, 2014 #15
    A little bit of research and modeling and we might find the mathematical law that governs this behavior... :)
  17. Jun 27, 2014 #16

    Mhmm. :). It could be a simple law :P.

    I think I read in a study about customer happiness that an unhappy customer tells 11 people on average about their bad experience. A satisfied customer only told 3 or 5. It was a lower odd number for satisfied, don't remember which.
  18. Jun 27, 2014 #17
    Have you even looked at the site? There are more good reviews and professors with positive "smile faces" than bad. University of Arizona: 3.69, Colorado State: 3.61, Ohio State: 3.77 - all these averages are above the halfway mark. People like to leave compliments, even if the teacher is mediocre.
  19. Jun 27, 2014 #18
    Doesn't sound like we're talking about the same thing, but we can parse it out.

    You're talking about average reviews, good and bad, per university.

    I'm talking about reviews per professor. If we want to be more specific, my observations are also biased towards math/physics professors. Non math/physics majors that have to take these classes tend to complain that it's too difficult, as they often resent having to take the class in the first place.

    My favorite comment is "he expects you to know the material."

    -Dave K
  20. Jun 27, 2014 #19
    Well, the exact numbers will depend on the study. But here is an interesting list of stats from various studies:

    http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130604134550-284615-15-statistics-that-should-change-the-business-world-but-haven-t [Broken]

    A few interesting ones:

    This might be slightly tangential to the discussion, but maybe not. It would be interesting to do similar studies. I doubt we have any education majors in here...
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  21. Jun 27, 2014 #20
    You claimed there will always be more bad reviews than good. That is not true, there are more good reviews than bad. There is no breakdown that I can find... But when I look through the lists there are plenty of professors with many positive reviews giving them a positive average and some of the few professors with negative reviews only have one or two making them negative. Even in math and physics I dont see a more bad reviews than good. Sure, they may be lower. But maybe physics and math teachers actually are not as good... Heresy! We all know they are all excellent and only a slacker would think otherwise... Yea right. In my experience math and science teachers can have a bad attitude and be checked out - they get a negative review.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2014
  22. Jun 27, 2014 #21

    Thanks :).
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  23. Jun 27, 2014 #22
    Sorry, if I knew we were going to go down to this level of detail I would have phrased it more carefully. I guess it's like a conditional probability.

    P(V) Probability of a voicing an opinion
    P(G) Probability of having a good experience
    P(B) Probability of having a bad experience

    So P(V|B) > P (V|G)

    "The probability of a person voicing their opinion, given that they have had a bad experience, is higher than the probability of a person voicing their opinion, given that they have had a good experience."

    For this reason I tend to give less weight to bad reviews. If a professor has almost all bad reviews though, I would be very wary.

    -Dave K
  24. Jun 28, 2014 #23


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    At my community college, I agree that the professors with low ratings were a lot easier than the ratings suggested.

    When I transferred to a University, the ratings are dead on in my opinion. You are a fool if you intentionally take the hardest professor, asking for a lot of trouble.
  25. Jun 28, 2014 #24


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    That happened to me once. I got one review that said I was "one of the best teachers at the university" and another, for the same class, that said "one of the worst". For that same class I got another review in which each of the individual questions was marked "5" (on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best) but ended by marking "one of the worst teachers".
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