Grading the Graders

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    Beating almost 6,000 schools and more than 1 million professors, TCU secured sixth place for having the highest-rated professors in the nation on RateMyProfessors.com, the largest professor-rating Web site.”It is certainly a testament to what great professors you have at TCU, and how much students value them and think of them,” said mtvU General Manager Stephen Friedman. MtvU bought RateMyProfessors.com in January.

    Professors are rated on a scale of one to five, five being the highest score, and only include professors with at least 30 ratings for quality purposes, Friedman said.

    The ratings were made possible by statistical support from Wolfgang Jank, a tenured associate professor in the department of decision and information sciences at the University of Maryland.

    Friedman said RateMyProfessors.com helps students learn about professors before registration.

    “It is a great resource for students to hear from other students about what professors are inspiring, difficult, easy or really hard,” he said.

    Friedman said he was going through TCU professors’ ratings when he came across Darren Middleton, an associate professor of religion.

    “He is the kind of professor I wish I had in college,” Friedman said.

    Middleton, who has a score of 4.8, said he is flattered by his rating.

    Middleton said he thinks the site is interesting and provocative at the same time.

    “It provides formal mechanisms of assessments,” Middleton said. “I think it is a helpful device.”

    However, Middleton said the Web site has its drawbacks. He said negative remarks posted by students affect professors’ teaching reputation.

    Also, there is a “hot” option on the Web site that allows students to rate how attractive a professor is. This application slightly reduces the site’s credibility, Middleton said.

    Todd Davis, an accounting lecturer, said he thinks RateMyProfessors.com is a good site and he has visited it to check his ratings.

    “It is a good opportunity for students to be able to anonymously provide feedback on their professors,” he said.

    Davis, who has a score of 4.4, said a few negative comments will not deter students from taking his class because they will be looking at his overall performance and ratings.

    Ronald Pitcock, assistant director of the honors program and assistant professor of English, said he likes the idea behind the Web site.

    “It is important for students to have the chance to give feedback,” Pitcock said. “I think it is important that students feel comfortable talking about their professors online.”

    Pitcock, who has a score of 4.7, also has 32 ratings for “hot,” which makes him the highest-rated professor for that category.

    “I would hope that comment is about teaching,” Pitcock said. “If it is not, then it gives evidence that TCU students have a good sense of humor.”

    Pitcock said overall the site is good, as long as it deals with teaching. He said he dislikes the idea of students being able to leave comments anonymously because they often launch personal attacks on professors.

    Neil Daniel, a junior finance major, said he uses the Web site a lot, and it helps students to know which professor suits their learning style best.

    Daniel said it is important for students to be able to post comments anonymously because if a student decides to retake the professor on whom they commented, it will not influence the teacher’s decision on grading the student.

    Christine Cook, a junior education major, said she used the Web site during her first semester at TCU, and it is useful for freshmen who have little or no knowledge about professors.

    “It is a good way to get a feel for the different teachers in different departments,” Cook said, “especially since they (freshmen) have not formed any bond.”

    Cook said she does not use the site anymore because she relies on the words of students who have already taken the classes, rather than the comments posted on the Web site. Most of the time, students post negative comments about a teacher because they did not do well, Cook said.

    Sylvia Garcia, a sophomore English major, said RateMyProfessors.com is helpful in letting students know what the professors and their courses are going to be like.

    “It kind of keeps you from the classes you are not going to enjoy,” Garcia said.

    As far as the “hot” application goes, she said it is simply funny and has no real purpose.

    Friedman said three new features were added to RateMyProfessors.com in October.

    One is a video application called “Professors Strike Back” and is ranked among the most popular mtvU programs. The program gives professors 30 seconds to speak their mind about their ratings. Professors on this show are either contacted by mtvU, or in many cases, the professors contact them, Friedman said.

    Another feature called “Professor Rebuttal” can be found on the comments page for every professor at RateMyProfessors.com, Friedman said. This is another way for professors to express their concerns.

    An application has also been added on Facebook that allows students to search for the professors and their ratings, Friedman said.