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The North Wind

The North Wind

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Megan Poe
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My name is Megan Poe and I’m an English (writing concentration) and Philosophy double major at Northern. My concurrent experience with being published in and interning for literary magazines has landed...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

Students limited by professor evaluation resources: Rate My Professor website remains one of few options for students

Teacher evaluations at NMU allow students to give their opinions about their teachers’ performance, yet students are not able to see these evaluations and therefore must rely on outside — and sometimes unreliable — sources for information about professors.

Before picking the classes students are going to take each semester, many would like to know which teachers are going to be the best match for the way in which they learn.

Although students are surveyed in class, only NMU faculty and staff can view the results of these surveys.

Students have resorted to another option — the website ratemyprofessor.com, which offers students the ability not only to rate their professors but see the overall ratings of each professor at their university.

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Students can choose to utilize the information on ratemyprofessor.com to pick classes based on a professor’s overall ratings and reputation among past students.

“I use ratemyprofessor.com every semester,” senior biology major Katie Meyers said. “I like to see how different teachers are rated so I can pick which one I want to take.”

Meyers and many other students utilize the website ratemyprofessor.com to choose between different professors when they have an option.  The NMU faculty, however, have a negative take on the website.

“Ratemyprofessor.com shouldn’t be used reliably to pick a teacher because there are two types of students who respond: those who hate the professors and those who love them,” said Ray Ventre, NMU’s English department head. “They give them a good or bad review, without actually analyzing their teaching ability.”

While some think the results taken from ratemyprofessor.com shouldn’t be considered valid, others disagree.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) published its findings for the top colleges in the United States in Forbes magazine, using ratemyprofessor.com to account for 25 percent of their decision.

According to the CCAP, the “participation of students in this website has been overwhelming, and it has been estimated that 7,000,000 evaluations were considered in the formulation of the rankings included in this ranking.”

As observed in a peer reviewed electronic journal titled “Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation,  “Forbes Magazine argued that their evaluation system should be taken more seriously compared to others because their system focused less on reputation and money spent and more on concerns directly facing students, such as whether courses would be interesting and rewarding.”

Although ratemyprofessor.com is used by millions of students all over the country, members of NMU’s faculty feel the website isn’t reliable.

“The thing about ratemyprofessor.com is that it is a self-selecting group of students that use the site, so people who do rate professors, do so on their own, and who knows their motivation for doing it,” said NMU English graduate teaching assistant Erkki Mackey.

Meyers admits harsh feelings were her motivation for one such rating. “One time I gave a teacher who gave me a bad grade a really bad rating on ratemyprofessor.com,” Meyers said. “I think he deserved it.”

Although it appears that people may put undeserved trust in ratemyprofessor.com, Ventre said the teacher evaluations at NMU are taken very seriously, even by the students who fill them out.

As the English department head, Ventre said he goes over all of the teacher evaluations and the results of the survey are mainly used to aid the teachers in fixing any problems they have in the classroom, but they can also have an effect on a teacher’s job.

“One of the things that distinguishes the teacher evaluations from ratemyprofessor.com is that the evaluations ask more in depth questions,” Mackey said. “They allow for analysis to be made to provide a consensus view.”

The results of the evaluations, however, could not be given to the students in a form like ratemyprofessor.com, according to Ventre.

“The student evaluations are confidential. It could create problems if the students were able to view them,” Ventre said. “They are used to generate an analysis of teachers over numerous years.  The results of the evaluations couldn’t be given to the students because it is too short-term.”

Instead of using the teacher evaluations or ratemyprofessor.com, Ventre said he has seen a different option in his past education experience.

“When I was an undergraduate, I was part of an organization that created a survey that evaluated the teachers and then provided the results to the students,” Ventre said.  “If a group like ASNMU created a survey and provided the results to the students it would be more valuable than ratemyprofessor.com if they asked the right questions.

“They should ask questions that provide the students with a feel of the nature of the courses that the professor teaches.”

Which courses to survey should also be considered, Ventre said, because it would be useless to give or receive student ratings on a professor who they have to take a course.

Besides ratemyprofessor.com or other forms of surveys, students currently have another resource they can utilize while picking teachers.

Students are able to request the grade distribution for any teacher’s class at NMU, Ventre said.

In doing so, students can see how many good grades the teachers give out in each class compared to bad grades.

If students want to find out which teacher to take next semester, ratemyprofessor.com is a possibility, but requesting a professor’s grade distribution for said class might be a more suitable alternative, according to Ventre.

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