When choosing a professor, many UT students visit the website Rate My Professor, which provides prospective students with reviews from other students on these professors. But are these reviews enough to determine the quality of a professor?
“They [students] want it [class] to be easy,” said Sally Harmych, a senior lecturer in the department of biological sciences. “I think they would prefer it would be easy and they really want a class where they can understand what’s going on and they can follow all the assignments and where the professor makes them feel comfortable and they can ask questions.”
At the end of the semester, professors are evaluated by their students with the intention of improving their class based on their results. Unlike Rate My Professor — which only provides a small percentage of every student a professor has had — every student provides feedback.
“I always encourage my students to give me reviews and then tell me what they did or didn’t like about the class,” Harmych said. “I do get reviews that say, ‘This class sucked,’ and I just say, ‘Well, what didn’t you like about it?’ I find that it’s a much more constructive way. Sometimes if it’s a biting review, it can get in my head and make me think about how they got that perspective or how they came up with that opinion.”
Harmych has been reviewed over 128 times on Rate My Professor, with comments such as “tough grader,” “get ready to read,” and “lecture heavy”; however, most reviews are positive. She attended UT for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology. Harmych has an overall score of 4.0, which is above average for professors at UT.
According to Rate My Professor’s website, their overall quality rating takes several factors into account including “how well a professor teaches the course material, and how helpful he/she is both inside and outside of the classroom,” according to their website.
Rate My Professor does not delete reviews from years ago and it also does not specify the major of the student writing the review. Shouldn’t a review by an English major on a biology professor be taken with a grain of salt?
“I really think the key to student learning is that they have to be able to see the material in different ways,” Harmych said. “I think the most valuable thing students can do is to learn the information, process it themselves and be able to look at the big picture so they’re not just regurgitating facts. They have to do for themselves to some extent.”
Ultimately, doing well in a course has more to do with the student and their preparedness rather than checking a review on Rate My Professor and dropping professors with bad ones.
“If you come into my class not having read the books or the notes, you’re going to be lost,” said Andrew Jorgensen, an associate professor in the department of chemistry. “We only get three 50 minute periods per week. We can’t cover all this stuff in that time period. You should be working ahead of time.”
Jorgensen has a rating of 2.8 and 108 reviews by former students on Rate My Professor. However, Jorgensen says he reads every single one of his end-of-course evaluations, so instead of writing a review on Rate My Professor, it would be more beneficial for future students if his current students provide Jorgensen with direct feedback via the evaluation.
“Some complain,” Jorgensen said. “I told my students at the beginning of class, ‘Some say he expects me to prepare for class.’ Guilty! Of course, I expect you to prepare for class. I get some critical ones that say I’m tricky or difficult … It’s not my job to trick you; it’s my job to prepare you.”
Each professor in every department at the University of Toledo knows what they expect of their students, but, according to Jorgensen, students also have expectations of professors.
“[Students want] accessibility,” Jorgensen said. “They can find you and that they can speak to you. That their professors approachable and are clear in presenting material as well as the expectations for grades. Grades aren’t everything, but they are still very important. Students want to know where they are at in the class. They want their grades on Blackboard to be updated often.”
Professors such as Harmych have an open-door policy for their offices and others like Jorgensen are always available by email when not on campus.
Though Rate My Professor is still a good tool in deciding on a professor for a class, if students truly want to improve UT professors, it starts with giving honest evaluations and solid feedback at the end of the semester. Both of these professors seem to teach in similar patterns, but one of them received a great score and the other was rated poorly.