Janice Fiamengo takes on Rate My Professors as a sign of what is wrong with American universities.
Such accusations reveal little about the professor in question; no one ever satisfactorily distinguishes a boring professor from a boredom-inclined student — which is not to suggest that boring professors do not exist, simply that Rate My Professors cannot recognize them. What the comments reveal are students’ assumptions about what they are owed by their teachers and what constitutes a good classroom experience. Most pointedly, they show the extent to which higher education in North America has become a consumer product like any other, catering to client satisfaction and majority appeal. Reading through the comments, one is disheartened not only because so many are crude and illiterate but also because they indicate how deeply most students have imbibed the canard that university is about being entertained and helped to feel good about oneself.
Rate My Professors probably never would have been created if schools in the 1970s had not started collecting student evaluations, instead of relying on peer evaluations and other methods. That got us to thinking that student opinions mattered right then and there instead in retrospect after a few years of growth.
The funny thing is that in my years of university teaching only once did I see my department chair use someone’s evaluation against them, and that only because he needed some “objective” evidence to support his decision not to rehire a particular adjunct professor.
Otherwise, as long as your numbers came in sort of average, you were OK, and if they were below average, well, that was because you were teaching difficult material and actually making the little darlings work.
I dodged the RMP bullet, but when M. was teaching psychology, one student rated her as “a great teacher, just a little off the wall. but its [sic] all good.” Isn’t “off the wall” appropriate for a psych class? 😉