Students say they take professor ratings ‘with a grain of salt’

Natalie Estrada

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For decades, college students have shared with each other information about which professors to take and which ones to avoid.  This is exactly what students are doing on ratemyprofessors.com, but on an international scale.

Currently, there are about 3,000 CSUN faculty members, both past and present, listed on ratemyprofessor.com.  These faculty members are subjected to the rating system, which is based on a five-point scale with five being the best.  Students rate professors on the following categories: easiness, helpfulness, and clarity.

The average rating for all CSUN professors listed is a 3.41. According to the website’s  rating system, this is equivalent to average quality.

CSUN graduate student, Liz Schultz, said she used ratemyprofessors.com as a resource when choosing classes every semester as an undergraduate at CSUN.

“There is always a mixture of responses between students,” said Schultz, 22.  “I found that with the G.E. classes that I was taking (at CSUN), the responses were fairly accurate and at least gave me a good idea if the professors were going to teach a lot, assign a lot of busy work, if they were biased toward any specific student group, or if they were an ‘easy A.’”

Ratemyprofessors.com boasts the largest inventory of professor ratings online, according to the website.

Schultz said she has found the website useful, but she also recognizes that comments made about professors should be “taken with a grain of salt.”

Steve Graves, geography professor, said many of the student comments on ratemyprofessors.com, show the extreme points of view about a professor.

“They (the students) need to recognize—and I think students do—that there are a bunch of crazies on there (ratemyprofessors.com),” Graves said.  “Most of the time, the only people going on there are the students that really loved the professor and want to say something about it, but even more likely are the ones that really didn’t like the professor and can’t get back at them, so they’re going to say something (on ratemyprofessors.com).”

Dr. Jane Bayes, CSUN professor of political science, said students should keep in mind when looking at ratemyprofessors.com that someone’s favorite teacher could be someone else’s worst.

“Teaching is a very personal situation,” said Bayes.  “Some (teaching) tactics work for some students and don’t work for others. There are so many variables that go into teaching.”

Graves said that some courses are more difficult to teach than others.

“Sometimes it is hard to differentiate if the subject or teaching material is difficult from the teaching ability of the instructor,” said Graves. “It is really difficult to say who is a good teacher and who is not.”

Schultz said, because of her major, she expects a lot of reading and writing assignments For this reason, she is more interested in the professor’s teaching qualities than in the amount of work assigned.

“If I see a comment that says this professor assigns a lot of reading, but you learn a lot—that’s the kind of professor I’m interested in,” Schultz said.