Rate Me!

Though some of my “Twitter buds” said I was crazy, I have invited my online students to evaluate my teaching, twice. As usual each semester, I have a survey based on MiraCosta’s online instructor evaluation, but with some of my own questions added.

Two of the most important questions I add are

  • I understand why I’m getting the grades I’m getting
    (responses are Likert-style, i.e. Strongly Agree – Agree – Disagree – Strongly Disagree) and
  • How much effort, in time and thought, would you say you put into this one class this semester?
    (responses are: A huge amount of effort – a large amount of effort – a moderate amount of effort – little effort)

These give me an idea of their own level of dedication to the class, and enable me to interpret the ratings. Thus a class that has a lot of slackers but gives me low ratings may not be my fault, or a class that has very low grades but gives me high ratings may have been happy with the experience anyway. The formal MCC evaluations, which are not administered every year but only during my tenure evaluation cycle, do not get to this level of assessment, so I do my own survey for each class each semester. (For those following technologies, I had a lot of trouble with Moodle’s Questionnaire module, and although I was advised to use Feedback instead, by that time I had already reconstructed the survey using phpESP on my hosted server.)

What’s new this semester is that I have also invited students to rate me at RateMyProfessors.com by putting the following notice in a Moodle block:

I’m asking everyone to please fill out the course survey at the bottom of this main page. In addition, if you’d like to do something more “public”, I invite you to respond at RateMyProfessors.com if you’d like.

As everyone knows, such sites tend to pull in the complainers (often those who dropped in frustration) or the enthusiasts. But in this case, by asking at the end of the semester, I thought I could attract the ones who’d hung in there, who actually know the whole class. And so far, it’s going pretty well.

3 comments to Rate Me!

  • I think that this idea should be widely emulated. I understand the concerns (that teaching will become a popularity contest, or that teachers will water down instruction in order to get better marks) but having gaging teacher efficacy is necessary in education today. I can’t tell you how often I think back to how some of the teachers I had were terrible, but stayed on because no one was saying that they stunk. Besides that, providing constructive criticism is a skill all of our students should have (and by commenting on their teachers it’s certainly one they will learn quickly).

    Providing online courses since 2004, we struggled with student evaluations until we really started tracking them. Now we can instantly affect the marks given by students to the facilitators by letting the teachers know what students like/didn’t like about their methods.

    Keep up the great work, I hope your students enjoy being able to let you know how great you are and what you might do to improve.

  • Oh, dear, I was not suggesting wide emulation to the point of affecting actual formal faculty evaluation! If I were, I would suggest training students in constructive criticism before they even begin. I do not agree that they learn by doing in this case. Take a look at *all* my comments and you will see hostile entries, including one that just says “DISASTER”.

    I am actually not a big believer in student evaluations as a sign of instructor effectiveness. I add questions precisely because the standard evaluations do not take into account student effort, interest, grade level, attention span, or anything else. Studies have indicated that most elements that affect student performance are completely beyond the control of the instructor, and that all evaluations indicate is whether an instructor is personally liked. My own survey is the best way for me to learn what I need to know, not RateMyProfessors.com.

    Another important element here is that I’m very secure as an instructor and as a person. I am not threatened professionally by bad reviews. I do try to learn from their suggestions, but most often in the aggregate. And while they were talking to me with my own survey, which was very helpful, only the extremists were going to RateMyProfessors.com. It was precisely the unfairness and imbalance of entries at that site that caused me to try this at all.

  • I understand you weren’t suggesting that this be emulated, but I was. You are putting yourself way out on a limb that other teachers don’t ever dare to (except perhaps for evaluations that are not shared with potential students). I think you do it with great success.

    I’ll concede that students should be well versed in providing constructive criticism before doing something like this. After all, “nightmare” is hardly a beneficial comment to students or their professors.

    I also agree that Ratemyprofs site is a bit lacking; a site that lumps pedagogy with “hotness” is questionable. That’s not to say there are alternative ways to solicit evaluations. I utilize a Google Docs form that lets students submit anonymously and it works very well. I hope you’ll keep up your evaluations, I think it’s a very valuable practice you’re making better.

    Thanks for the reply, you have an excellent blog with lots of great information.

3 comments to Rate Me!

  • I think that this idea should be widely emulated. I understand the concerns (that teaching will become a popularity contest, or that teachers will water down instruction in order to get better marks) but having gaging teacher efficacy is necessary in education today. I can’t tell you how often I think back to how some of the teachers I had were terrible, but stayed on because no one was saying that they stunk. Besides that, providing constructive criticism is a skill all of our students should have (and by commenting on their teachers it’s certainly one they will learn quickly).

    Providing online courses since 2004, we struggled with student evaluations until we really started tracking them. Now we can instantly affect the marks given by students to the facilitators by letting the teachers know what students like/didn’t like about their methods.

    Keep up the great work, I hope your students enjoy being able to let you know how great you are and what you might do to improve.

  • Oh, dear, I was not suggesting wide emulation to the point of affecting actual formal faculty evaluation! If I were, I would suggest training students in constructive criticism before they even begin. I do not agree that they learn by doing in this case. Take a look at *all* my comments and you will see hostile entries, including one that just says “DISASTER”.

    I am actually not a big believer in student evaluations as a sign of instructor effectiveness. I add questions precisely because the standard evaluations do not take into account student effort, interest, grade level, attention span, or anything else. Studies have indicated that most elements that affect student performance are completely beyond the control of the instructor, and that all evaluations indicate is whether an instructor is personally liked. My own survey is the best way for me to learn what I need to know, not RateMyProfessors.com.

    Another important element here is that I’m very secure as an instructor and as a person. I am not threatened professionally by bad reviews. I do try to learn from their suggestions, but most often in the aggregate. And while they were talking to me with my own survey, which was very helpful, only the extremists were going to RateMyProfessors.com. It was precisely the unfairness and imbalance of entries at that site that caused me to try this at all.

  • I understand you weren’t suggesting that this be emulated, but I was. You are putting yourself way out on a limb that other teachers don’t ever dare to (except perhaps for evaluations that are not shared with potential students). I think you do it with great success.

    I’ll concede that students should be well versed in providing constructive criticism before doing something like this. After all, “nightmare” is hardly a beneficial comment to students or their professors.

    I also agree that Ratemyprofs site is a bit lacking; a site that lumps pedagogy with “hotness” is questionable. That’s not to say there are alternative ways to solicit evaluations. I utilize a Google Docs form that lets students submit anonymously and it works very well. I hope you’ll keep up your evaluations, I think it’s a very valuable practice you’re making better.

    Thanks for the reply, you have an excellent blog with lots of great information.