A UW-Eau Claire study has found that a popular website used to rate college professors is "providing useful feedback about instructor quality."
RateMyProfessors.com allows students to voluntarily rank their professors, but there is conflicting research on the validity of the website. Skeptics say students who use the site are not representative, tend to have extreme views, and give high ratings to easy instructors.
Students rate their instructors on a five point scale on easiness, helpfulness and clarity. They can also say if they find the professor attractive (with a chili pepper icon) and provide written comments.
The study by UW-Eau Claire associate professor April Bleske-Rechek and student Amber Fritsch looked at ratings for 366 instructors at UW-Eau Claire. They found that students were consistent in their ratings and, in the aggregate, agree about which instructors are effective and which ones are not.
The findings "suggest that students who use RateMyProfessors.com are likely providing each other with useful information about quality of instruction," Bleske-Rechek and Fritsch wrote in the journal Practical Assessment Research & Evaluation.
However, they called for "cautious interpretation of any single instructor's rating" and warned administrators against using the site as the sole basis for decisions about promotions and other opportunities.