Making the grade
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the teacher review Web site, ratemyprofessors.com. The site gives students the opportunity to connect with peers and share opinions on college and university professors.
“I use the site every semester when making my schedule,” said Colleen Crowder, a junior theater major. “I often base my decision to take a certain class section on the reviews I read. I choose the teacher with the best rating.”
A student’s motives for rating a professor may include the desire to vent frustrations, sing praises and share helpful class tips.
Most teachers receive mixed reviews. According to the Web site, 65 percent of ratings are positive.
There are reviews for 2,675 USF Tampa campus professors. Around 200 of those have only positive comments and a 5/5 quality rating.
Though a perfect rating could be the result of low number of votes, it also indicates a good reputation among students.
Ratemyprofessors.com has a 1-5 scale to gauge easiness, helpfulness and clarity. But the most informative part is the comment section, which allows students to describe a teacher or a class.
“There are different qualities that I look for in a teacher,” said Porsche Purkett, a sophomore music major. “A teacher can make a big difference in regards to my appreciation of the class.”
Purkett said that she gives her teachers a good rating “if they can keep you interested in the subject matter.”
She also said that she wants to feel like the teacher cares about the students, and a good teacher will be encouraging and helpful in any way they can.
Economics professor Karen Ostrye – who is in the top 15 best rated teachers for “Overall Quality” – said she
makes her classes interesting by keeping the tone “colloquial, casual and humorous.”
“I try to make economics relevant to today’s student market,” she said. “Instead of using a ’50s model of guns and butter, we study the market for Red Bull.”
Ostrye has an overall rating of 5.0 and an easiness rating of 4.9. She said, however, that students may only use the Web site when they feel strongly in one direction, possibly skewing the results.
“It seems like review Web sites show the extreme cases,” she said.
Public health professor Karen Perrin also has a 5.0 for overall quality. She said she tries to stay connected with students and maintain an interactive teaching style.
“I use experiences and stories when I instruct. It is easier to remember a concept when there is a story attached to it,” she said. “For my online classes, I try to respond as quickly as possible so that the students will not feel like they are dangling out there.”
Heide Castaneda, who is the fifth highest rated professor at the USF Tampa campus said her ratings may be because of her enthusiasm in her subject.
“I am very passionate about my career as a cultural anthropologist. I keep the class contemporary by incorporating current news and issues into discussions,” she said.
Common traits in well-rated teachers are their priority in making classes interactive and genuine concern for students.
Robotics professor Rajiv Dubey said he has students participate at the white board.
“It keeps them awake and paying attention,” he said.
Several of the comments on Dubey’s page nominate him for higher positions like provost and even the governor of Florida. He also has a chili pepper next to his name, signifying three “hotness” points.
“Hotness” points can be given to teachers by students who find them attractive.
American Sign Language professor Steven Surrency is another professor with high ratings and a chili pepper. He said that he shapes his teaching style to fit the needs of his students.
“It is important to address different learning styles. Lectures, activities, group work and videos alone will not cut it for all students,” he said. “I teach in different ways. Extroverts will get more out of group work, while introverts may like lectures more.”
Surrency’s 3.2 easiness rating is lower than most high-scoring professors, a credit to his ability to cultivate interest in American Sign Language despite being difficult.
“The teacher is the one giving instruction. Most importantly, they are the ones giving the grades, so the teacher is the most important element in the experience of a class,” Purkett said. “If the teacher is … approachable and answers questions, then you are in good hands.”