Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Via Newmark's Door, I find an article in Slate on online professor ratings. It makes good fun of what students evaluate professors on, and how one becomes a "hot" professor (represented on by a chili pepper next to your name.) Three quotes stand out for me.
Remember�as demonstrated by your fellow marketing professors�people who are compelled to rate things online have usually had a strong emotional response, i.e., they either hated you or loved you. For every student complaining that "this is the most boring class ive ever taken ... she is too much of a hippie and needs to occasionally wear a bra," there is another who will write, "Clone her as the model of a Perfect Prof!"
I have in fact taken to wearing a bra. I don't know that I'm a hippie. But I do notice that the distribution of scores for most faculty on these things is bimodal. I thought when I first looked at mine -- yes, of course I looked, wouldn't you? -- that it was what my friends say about me: "You either love him or hate him." But if you look at student evaluations given to all members of the class, there's a lot of "feh" in my classrooms.
...a casual read through the ratings turns up a lot of suspect data. I doubt, for example, that a professor named "Homer Saxshual" really teaches art history at the Wentworth Institute of Technology. I also doubt that the student who took Joyce Carol Oates' writing seminar at Princeton was being truthful when he or she wrote, "Brooke Shields told me this was a great blow off class."
There isn't a screen that asks you when or where you took the course. Some campuses are linking their registration systems to these online ratings providers to help students decide whose section of a class to take. I don't expect them to screen who rates whom, but I would think a disclaimer discussing data quality to be within reason.
The take-away impression of is that students want you to be organized, fair, accessible, and reasonably interesting. When you think about it, that's kind of hot.
Not if you "give too many C's", though. Oh well. No chilis for me.