I recently saw my ratings on RateMyProfessor.com and it's very disheartening to see all the negative reviews from a course for which I worked so hard. Comments like "sh***y professor" are very difficult to accept. How do you all deal with it? Also, how much does it impact one's career? It's taking a toll on my mental health for sure.


I am not a professor. Perhaps it would be useful to you to understand this from a student's perspective. I am a PhD candidate and did my undergrad at the same school I'm in the PhD program for. This has given me some unique insight into the difference between what is put on a review, and the actual person (one of whom I work with closely) in reality.

RateMyProfessor encourages extremely harsh reviews. From a professor's perspective this is simply noise in the channel.

As a student RateMyProfessor became virtually worthless after I got through the middle of my undergraduate courses. Early undergraduate courses tended to be a grab-bag of instructors and professors. Some of them not even in the same field they are teaching. You will find that as course numbers increase and topic becomes specific (implying higher difficulty) the ratings skew heavily to the negative. The conclusion here, I think, is obvious. Student's want easy grades. But the explanation for that is not simply "students are lazy". As a student I didn't really get time to enjoy my classes. In order to graduate in 4 years I had to stay focused entirely on two goals: (1) minimize time spent studying (because I had several classes to worry about as well as a part time job) and (2) maximize my grade. I got out of my CS program with a 3.7 GPA which given that I took several hard classes really amounted to a mixture of actual work ethic, careful selection of professor, and time management.

You might say "well that's quite contrary to what I'd expect of a PhD-worthy undergraduate!" given that I am a PhD candidate. But truth be told, it wasn't until my last semester of undergrad when my course load was low that I really got to enjoy my classes for what they were. Until then, it was simply a game. Optimize the parameters of the equation whose solution is your graduation. The crushing weight of both expectation (get a good job) and retaking classes costing significantly more money made this equation my single greatest concern. Though you didn't say you were in the US I am speaking from a US standpoint. This is absolutely a consequence of extremely high prices for classes (where failure isn't a financial option), the unspoken requirement of a college degree for a good job, and the time crunch to get into industry to make some actual money.

Knowing this, take these things with a grain of salt. Know that especially if you are teaching undergraduate courses your students are adversarial. You could be a bad teacher, that is certainly a possibility, but more likely you have screwed up their solution to the equation required to graduate. Keep this in mind and seriously evaulate whether you are a measurably bad professor or you are teaching a hard subject and students who misinterpreted your presentation (as in you, personally) are upset you screwed up the game they are playing.

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Ignore these ratings. Just like most people who go online to write reviews of restaurants and other places go to write (sometimes baseless) criticism and vent, students who go online to write review of their professor go to write (sometimes baseless) criticism and vent. This is heavily skewed against the professor. Add to that the fact that ratings can be made anonymously and that people tend to behave like complete idiots anonymously (including posting multiple bad reviews just to mess with the professor), and you've got a recipe for disaster.

If you want to know better what your students think of you, take some time to do an anonymous in-class survey with pointed questions that go beyond rants and points on arbitrary scales. There are already questions about this on this website, you can look them up.

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If it's a few people and your evals are otherwise fine then just ignore it. Everyone who gets a D or an F because they showed up high all the time and never learned anything will write a bad eval. Also you can ignore all your zoom class evals from last semester cause covid.

If it's a consistent thing in all your evals it's probably you. Teaching is a skill and like any skill it can be lost. Student evals are pretty good at telling you what's wrong but usually it's bad lectures, disorganization, or unfair/unclear testing. The biggest thing I think is disorganization and fair grading - students will put up with a bad lecturer. They hate feeling like the class is being slapped together at the last minute. They really hate exams that feel capricious and grading that feels arbitrary.

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I think the only way you could counter this is for you to produce a few introdutory video productions of what you are teaching and post them online or YouTube , that way students who have seen your bad reviews have an opportunity to make up their own minds

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