Students and professors weigh in on methods of course evaluation

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By: Isabelle Spaulding

RateMyProfessors.com is a website that aims to supply students the opportunity to “grade” professors and universities across America, Canada and the United Kingdom. The site boasts over 15 million ratings and lists professors from over 8,000 colleges and universities, including Boise State.

According to freshman elementary education major, Joy Flournoy, students are using the website to choose professors for classes because they seem to find it useful and reliable; the actual professors find it to be almost the exact opposite.

Flournoy said she relies on the website when picking out professors at the beginning of each semester. However, temporary lecturer, Christopher Michas, has different thoughts regarding the website.

“Course evaluations with Boise State are slightly more reliable than RateMyProfessors.com because at least you know the student has taken the class that they’re rating, and that in itself is more reliable; that level of verification,” Michas said.

In his time at Boise State, Michas said he has not encouraged course evaluations through the school either.

“I don’t encourage it because the evaluations and RateMyProfessor are both one sided—there is no dialogue there. That’s not productive.”

There appears to be a discrepancy between students and professors. Students are using the website to choose professors for certain classes because they seem to find it useful and reliable; the actual professors find it to be almost the exact opposite.

Both methods of evaluation can have  a positive outcome, however. Adjunct professor, Timothy Murdock, said that his evaluations help him progress towards more productive teaching methods.

“My evaluations have evolved for the better,” Murdock said. “I have gotten many more positive responses to my teaching. They indicate more confirmation of what I set out to do and conform more to what I want to do as a teacher.”

Michas expressed a different view, explaining that a student could give him a bad rating for something as unrelated to his course as not liking his political views. He believes the professor should not take full responsibility for everything, including the ratings.

“I feel like some of it should be on the students to make the effort to go and connect with the professor if they are struggling,” Michas said. “If that professor refuses to meet with them or makes it hard to meet with them, then that’s on the professor. But I do think it’s a two-way street. There’s some responsibility on the student there.”

Murdock said students come into certain courses with preconceived ideas on the subject matter or professor, and that if they don’t put the effort in for the class and end up with a bad grade, it can very well result in a bad review on one of the evaluation sites. Murdock said he tries to help students get over that fear and loathing about specific subjects, but it still affects evaluations at the end of the semester.

On the student side, Flournoy said that even when she does use RateMyProfessor, she doesn’t trust every review. She expressed that when a student writes a thorough review with their honest opinion and the grade that they got in the class, then she will trust that rating. Flournoy stated that she only trusts the ratings of students that got a C or higher in the class because she believe these reviews are more accurate

“It helps if you use it properly and don’t just trust all the reviews,” Flournoy said.

Professors utilize these evaluation methods so they can improve to help themselves and their students. The accuracy of the reviews vary: a professor could be fantastic and engaging offline, but have poor reviews on a website. It’s up to the students to decide what to trust and which professors to seek out.

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