The Top 4 Myths About RateMyProfessors.com Examined, Including Results From A Reddit College Poll
Featured in this post:
- 4 pervasive myths about RateMyProfessors.com examined
- What to do if you get stuck in a class with the worst-rated professor at your school
- The story of how I got banned from Reddit College.
Where Can You Rate Your Professor?
On RateMyProfessors.com (also known as Rate My Professor), college students can leave anonymous feedback about their professors.
With over 17 million student reviews, RateMyProfessors.com is definitively the number one site of its kind on the web.
It’s unquestionable that the content on this site is very influential for college students, as many are more than willing to rearrange their entire schedule to avoid getting stuck with the worst-rated professors.
Without further introduction, let’s jump right in with the first myth!
Myth #1: Students don’t trust information on RateMyProfessors.com
We live in a day and age where the internet gives us rapid access to virtually unlimited streams of information.
However, this is not without its downsides. As we all know, you can’t believe everything you read online.
Surely college students don’t actually trust the things random anonymous people say on RateMyProessors.com, right?
Determined to get to the bottom of this myth, I took to Reddit to try to gain some insight and posted this poll on the college subreddit.
My poll quickly sparked a lot of really interesting intellectual discussion, but then I got banned from the subreddit without explanation shortly after posting.
As the results indicate, 44% said yes, 15% said no, and 41% said it depends on the volume of reviews, with more reviews for a professor indicating higher trustworthiness.
I expected there to be a lot of votes for the last category, which there were. However, I also expected there to be fewer votes for yes, and a lot more votes for no than what the results actually show.
Based on just this college Reddit poll, it appears that students find ratemyprofessors.com ratings/reviews to be generally trustworthy, and even more so when there are more reviews.
Clearly a simple Reddit poll like this isn’t the best sampling method, but I still think the fact that 85% of the participants picked either choice 1 or choice 3 is pretty telling.
Verdict 1: Myth #1 is false!
Myth #2: Students just go on RateMyProfessors.com to bash their professors
This is a very pervasive myth, and the reasoning behind it is that most students are too nonchalant/busy to take the time to post a review online unless they had a really bad experience and want to slander their professor.
In 2010, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire performed an in-depth statistical analysis of 322 instructor reviews from the ratemyprofessors.com page for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Their results showed that students actually left more positive reviews than negative reviews!
Verdict 2: Myth #2 is false!
Myth #3: Students rate professors on likability, not teaching ability
Just for a minute, think about who your favorite professor is and why you like them so much. Is it because of their sense of humor?
Enthusiasm? Charisma? Attractiveness? Brilliance?
Or is it because of their actual teaching ability?
The rationale behind this myth essentially comes from the halo effect- the cognitive bias in which our overall feelings toward a person influence our evaluations of their more specific traits (source).
The term “halo effect” comes from the idea that we may perceive some people we really like as having a halo around them.
A different 2008 study was conducted to test the hypothesis that ratemyprofessors.com ratings reflect a halo effect. The researchers analyzed the ratings of 399 unique professors from 373 universities.
Their results showed no evidence of a halo effect among the reviews included in the sample!
Verdict 3: Myth #3 is False!
Myth #4: You’re basically screwed if you get stuck in a class with one of the worst rated professors at your school!
RateMyProfessors.com plays a big role in influencing students’ expectations about classes.
I talked extensively in my post The Pygmailion Effect and the Self-fulfilling Prophecy in Education about how our expectations are very powerful drivers of our behavior.
Most are familiar with the concept of the placebo effect- the phenomenon in which a person who is unknowingly given a fake treatment shows improvement in health because they expect the treatment to work.
Expectation in education works essentially the same way: whether you expect to perform well, or expect to perform poorly, you’ll usually get what you expect.
“The expectations we hold of ourselves and others heavily impact our perceptions and evaluations, with profound implications for cognitions and behavior (source).”
In another, separate study, researchers took 135 undergraduate students and divided them up into three groups.
One group was given a printout from ratemyprofessors.com with positive feedback about a professor, while the other group was given a printout with negative feedback on a professor.
Both groups were then shown a video clip of the professor they had just read about giving a 10 minute lecture on trans fat.
The third group didn’t receive any printouts, but they were still shown part of a lecture.
After the lecture clip, all of the students were given a questionnaire designed to measure their learning, and the results showed that the students in the group that were given the positive printout performed the best, and that the students in the other two groups performed roughly the same.
This study serves as evidence of how these reviews can shape our expectations, and thus the results we get.
The real question now is this: what should you do if you get stuck in a class with a very badly rated professor?
Every school seems to have at least a few professors who virtually everyone warns you to steer clear from!
We’ve all been there; maybe you procrastinated and put off scheduling classes, or maybe you simply couldn’t fit a class into your schedule at any other time.
Whatever the reason, it can be pretty terrifying to come to the realization that you’re stuck in a class with one of the hardest teachers at your school!
Here’s why you shouldn’t panic too much though: remember, RateMyProfessor.com shapes people’s expectations in advance, and our expectations often lead to the results which we most expect.
What I’m getting at here is that the majority of your classmates also read the atrocious reviews.
When the going gets really tough, do you know what’s going to happen to the majority of the students in your class?
Those reviews that they read will be there to play tricks on them in the back of their minds.
Rather than take a good hard look at how they’re studying, and why they aren’t getting the results they want, they’re going to remember all of the terrible things they read about the professor, and they’re going to think to themselves something like
No matter how hard I study, it’s no use..
It’s Dr. ______’s class, nobody ever gets a good grade.
And they’re going to give up, stop trying, and play the blame game.
All you have to do is keep a positive attitude, set your goals high, and refuse to buy into their way of thinking, and you’ll have a great shot at getting a great grade (assuming you put the work in)!
Your professor can’t fail everyone!
Some people are going to get poor grades, and some people are also going to get good grades.
In conclusion, ratemyprofessors.com reviews/ratings seem to be mostly trustworthy and useful sources of information, as long as you use common sense and remember that if you do get stuck in a poorly-rated professor’s class, it’s not the end of the world!