March 20, 2008

"Professors Strike Back."

Apparently, a lot of people want to watch video of professors talking back to the mean things written about them in student evaluaions. (Absurdly, the New York Times calls a website with videos is "a 24-hour network broadcast to more than 7.5 million students on American college campuses.") I watched a few of the videos, and for me, the responses were exactly what anyone should know they would be. If the students say the class is hard, the teacher will attribute that opinion to a failure to put in the required effort. Etc. Tell me any student complaint, and I can tell you what the teacher's answer will probably be. You think the prof is confusing? Well, the subject matter is complex and it would be doing you a disservice to simplify it for you. Boring? Pay attention! It's mildly interesting to see a professor say something like that in response to an actual quote from a bad review. Maybe it's really amusing to students though. Is it? I mean, I could make a vlog where I quote from my student evaluations and answer back. Would that entertain you?

25 comments:

Bob said...

What would be your reply to a charge of political bias/indoctrination? Just curious, not picking a fight. :)

Simon said...

Would it be entertaining? Yes, but only if you do it in the style of SNL's Nicolas Fehn.

Pogo said...

Asking a professor to respond to ratings and comments that include I want to be her slave is of doubtful utility, except in gaining the refreshingly restrained repsonse, I'm not into slaves, [but] I am interested in working with research assistants.

I would rather see RateMyStudents.com, in which teachers rip their charges into tiny little pieces. Friends of mine are teachers, from grammar school through college. Their rants about students are hilarious.

Jimmy W., Bess Truman K-6. He is a moron who picks fights, eats boogers, and tends to wet his pants. Among first graders, he is last. Avoid at all costs.

Kelli N., Groves Academy. She lacks the intellect to write a complete sentence, and when she speaks, which is at the frequency of a dripping faucet, the most grating noise comes out; a mixture of broken glass and shrieking pigs. Her sophomore physics labs usually ended in a trip to the ER. She repeatedly inquires, "Will this be on the test?" ('Yes, of course it will', you answer, even if untrue.) Should drop out and work as a greeter at WalMart, a job she might actually be able to do.

Millicent M., Tobacco State U freshman. Her parents run constant interference for her, e-mailing you and the Department Chair. Expects, no DEMANDS an A or better. Your best bet is to google text from her papers, as it is highly likely plagiarized, immunizing you from retribution. That, or give her an A minus; it will cause her oversized ears to bleed.

Trooper York said...

Definitely. But go to O’Keefe’s Irish Coffee on Court St. where your students hang out and drink to get the real questions, not the namby pamby crap they put on the official questionnaires.

Dylan said...

I, for one, would be entertained if I was one of your students or knew one of your students AND if you were naming names (which I doubt you'd do, even if the student evals weren't anonymous.

-- Dylan in the vortex

Red Wolverine said...

Ann,

I'm assuming you are the exception. Most professors are scum in my experience (U of M , the real one....go blue). They rpeach the same things mr Wright does.

copiousdissent.blogspot.com

Simon said...

"This sentiment is shared by scholars who think that knowing that your Latin professor likes fly fishing and runs a knitting circle could improve the teacher-student relationship. David H. Collingwood, a mathematics professor at the University of Washington and a Web page pioneer, whose online photographs show him drinking wine in Italy, mountaineering and scuba diving, said in an e-mail message that undergraduates in large classes often fear approaching the professor for help. Having a common interest can break the ice. "

Perhaps a similar principle applies to having a professor who writes a successful and eclectic blog.

Ann Althouse said...

Dylan, the evaluation are anonymous.

I don't know if people have noticed, but I never attack students. It's not my purpose here to criticize students, and I don't think it would be a good idea. As the post indicates, student criticisms and the teachers' responses to them are very predictable.

Ann Althouse said...

Lest you go searching for a time when I did "attack" students, I should concede that I have on rare occasions criticized something about students, but it was not strictly speaking an attack. And I don't think using the blog that way would be appropriate.

If any student has ever worried that I might make fun of him on the blog, I'm sure, if he checked, he discovered that I did not.

There are huge parts of my life that I do not use as raw material.

C. Schweitzer said...

I have quite a few bad reviews from students on ratemyprofessors.com. My problem isn't with subjective beliefs such as "too hard," too much work," or "too boring."

What pisses me off are misrepresentations of my course or methods.

One student wrote that I require an essay a week--when my requirement is three essays over 1 16-week course.

Or a student that complains about having to do multiple revisions when revision are optional (and a generous option on my part, I think, because of the additional work it means for me).

How would students like it if I posted their shitty essays on the internet with snide comments?

I also hate the consumerist attitude and the sense of entitlement in education that ratemyprofessors.com encourages.

Middle Class Guy said...

C. Schweitzer said...
I have quite a few bad reviews from students on ratemyprofessors.com. My problem isn't with subjective beliefs such as "too hard," too much work," or "too boring."

What pisses me off are misrepresentations of my course or methods.

Or a student that complains…

How would students like it if I posted their shitty essays on the internet with snide comments?

I also hate the consumerist attitude and the sense of entitlement in education that ratemyprofessors.com encourages.

You do not understand. They have a right to complain. They have a right to misrepresent your course and methodology. The students are there to get a degree, not an education. It is consumerism. They are buying a piece of paper that “entitles” them to a good paying job, fancy cars and digs, and a nice lifestyle. Then when they find out there is a real world outside the classroom, they transfer their blame from the professors to the politicians.

There should be a site where you can publish “shitty” essays. There is an advertising site where the owner of the agency publishes the worst resumes and introductory letters he receives. It is pretty funny what people write in order to get a job.

If I remember the guy's name is Bob Killian.

Smilin' Jack said...

I highly recommend Rate Your Students--hilarious student-bashing, updated daily. (Not the same as "RateMyStudents.com" mentioned by pogo above.)

former law student said...

I wonder if Ann's evaluations on ratemyprofessor.com are from actual students.

B said...

A local University of California English Professor is a close friend who, for the last 11 years, schedules dinner 3 times a year with me and the Mrs. to open and read his student evaluations.

One very interesting thing happens: our friend always ranks above the campus and department mean. But there is always at least 1 - and never more than 3 - students who complain along the lines of "the Professor didn't explain well", or "was not very available for help".
It is difficult to take those seriously as our friend has more regular office hours - I have visited him numerous times unannounced and always found him there - than anyone else in his entire department.

The absolute funniest comments were in his first years teaching several Remedial English classes for students who - if they didn't pass it by the third try (!) ( this is the University of California for goodness sake! But that's affirmative action's legacy for you) - would be expelled from the University.

Same ratio of mean and complaints as today for our friend, but the complainers were hilarious. my favorite (I copied it down exactly):

"Professor ----- is very much racist. He will not pas me. This second tim my."

Ann Althouse said...

Former: They're not like the actual evaluations I get that are collected in class, and they look a lot like remarks from blog trolls, but some of them could be from real students, disaffected students. There are like 5 comments there on me, and I've been teaching for 20+ years, so it's obviously not where my students go to register their opinions. We have internal procedures for evaluations, and we use class time to get anonymous written feedback from everyone. That's more accurate, though still someone problematic, as the students haven't done their final studying for the exam and they haven't the exam yet so they are often very worried at that point. The class is hard, and the grade is entirely based on the exam. That has a distorting effect.

Eclecticity said...

Yes vlog it please! It would be even more fun if you answered spontaneously to random student comments that you pick from a pile. Kinda like questions to Miss America Blogger contentants. E.

reader_iam said...

Eek! Weird coincidence. I just spent some time watching some of the vids, and not via the NYT.

Oddly addicting. Had to step away list a pick up another bad habit.

Grant said...

I teach part time at a community college. Two and a half years ago I applied for a full time position at another institution and looked myself up on ratemyprofessor thinking that perhaps the hiring committee would look there too. There were only three or four comments, all scathing which I knew wasn't representative of my relationship with most of my students. The site tells instructors not happy with their ratings to get other students to leave feedback. So I sent out a note to my email list asking people to rate me, positive or negative. The response was overwhelming, and quite touching really. Over 50 responses, not all uniformly positive, were made in the following few days. None of them lasted a week. They were all deleted. I wrote the site asking why and never heard back from them. Looking at the comments the other instructors in my department received it was pretty obvious that the same few people were responsible. Anyone reading them would see them for what they were, poorly written personal rants, but anyone just looking at the rating would see a low number that doesn't match my formal evaluations. As for rating my students as some form of retribution, what's the point?

MadisonMan said...

My Dad was a professor. His theory was that 10% of the students would hate you no matter what you did. 10% of the students would love you no matter what you did. Your job is to teach the 80%

rhhardin said...

Se Theodore Roethke ``Last Class'' in _On the Poet and His Craft_, hmm, here's the first page, for a vast swath cut across higher education.

Chet said...

Online classes, and distance learning, solves the problem of certain scantily-clad professors who insist on inflicting their body parts, and nether regions, on the trapped students.

Trooper York said...

"Online classes, and distance learning, solves the problem of certain scantily-clad professors who insist on inflicting their body parts, and nether regions, on the trapped students."

Dude that's the strip club, not Brooklyn Law.

blake said...

I'd like to see professor hack apart a student with a sword, then shout at the webcam, "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?"

El Presidente said...

Predictable? Go back and view Andrew Tomasello: Baruch College.

"Did you say I was mean and not cool? F-blep-K you. F-blep-K you I'm Mean"

Nicole said...

You are discussing something other than the article is referring to. Student evaluations as you refer to in your post are intended specifically for the professor and the department so that they can improve the course. RateMyProfessors is a website created for students so that they can communicate with EACH OTHER about the nature of the course. Thus, there is no reason for the professors to respond because the comments were not intended for them.