June 12, 2013, by Zoë Goodwin
UK students are urged to rate their lecturers
‘Rate My Professor’ a website used in the US for students to rate their professors on the grounds of their teaching is the largest online destination for these kinds of rankings. Over 4 million students are using this site each month from the US, Canada and even the UK. Now, a UK equivalent ‘Rate my Lecturer’ urges more UK students to do just that.
‘Rate Your Lecturer’, which bills itself as being “by students, for students”, allows students to publicly rate their lecturers by providing feedback along with a score out of 10 for their teaching ability. The data provided will be used to generate an alternative ranking system to that of the norm. The website states “Universities and courses will be ranked purely on the lecturers’ ability to educate and inspire, rather than churn out research and publish articles.”
The aim of it is to be used by students when choosing which university to go to or which modules to take by comparing them on the quality of teaching. Essentially, it aims to “help both prospective and existing university students achieve the best possible educational return for their expensive investment.”
Positive and negative feedback has already been posted on the site with such comments as “He is a really great guy! His lectures are lively and engaging, to the point where you don’t really feel like you are being ‘lectured’ at all” and “Although she speaks with exceptional clarity, she could have spoken a little louder as it was sometimes hard to hear everything at the back of the lecture theatres.”
The site claims that “this is the only way to improve teaching in the UK whilst holding your lecturers to account”…”Ultimately, the students themselves are the best advocates for their lecturers and their ability to teach and inspire. It is therefore essential to engage with them.”
However, the site has not escaped without criticism. Many critics have questioned the possibility that instead of providing a platform for students to help students, it will provide a platform for abuse.
The ‘Rate Your Lecturer’ website has targeted these criticisms directly: “Thankfully, this has been far from the truth as we could ever have hoped for. Around 90% of our ratings so far have been positive.”
Matt Styles, Education Officer, University of Nottingham’s Students’ Union (SU), provides us with the opinion of the SU:
“We can absolutely understand why students would want to engage with ‘Rate Your Lecturer’. Particularly for those students paying £9,000 per year, they want to make their voices heard, know that their comments are taken into consideration and issues acted upon, and be able to make informed choices based on peer experiences.
The major downside of ‘Rate Your Lecturer’ is the lack of formality – there is nothing to suggest that a lecturer will see their comments and take positive steps to change their teaching practices to better facilitate student learning.
It is also of course un-moderated, and students need to be aware of the relevant policies and procedures within the University around publishing details of staff members and students online.”
Wyn Morgan, Director of Teaching and Learning for the University of Nottingham adds:
“At the University of Nottingham we already have lots of ways for students to provide direct and indirect feedback on the quality of their teaching. The great advantage of those channels is that we can collate responses and respond to them directly thus potentially making a difference to both current and future students’ experiences. External channels are much less able to offer this route to change.”