Rec'd with a technical glitch.  --gw

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 29 Jan 2012 15:52:26 -0500
From: Scott Barker <[log in to unmask]>
To: Open Lib/Info Sci Education Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: RE:

At the University of Washington Information School as it is elsewhere, 
teaching is an extremely important factor to consider when evaluating 
faculty for tenure and promotion (as is their research and service).

Like most universities, student evaluations take place at the end of each 
course through an institutionally approved set of forms and processes. 
The evaluations are looked at by the chair of each program, our assistant 
dean for academics, and of our dean as part of the annual merit review 
process.  For guest faculty those evaluations may be looked at more 
regularly, especially if the person is new to teaching for us.  For 
faculty up for tenure and promotion, students and alumni are also asked to 
give additional feedback on teaching beyond the standard course 

We are aware that students use sites like "" but we 
don't look at them as part of our standard processes.  Some of our faculty 
look themselves however.  Some like what they see and some don't as you'd 
expect.  I'd also note that some of our very best teaching faculty 
occasionally will have a negative comment posted there, and they sometimes 
agonize too much over one negative statement.  But that's good to me, 
because that shows how much they care.

My PERSONAL opinion is that the vast majority of our faculty do a good 
job, and I don't object to sites like "RateMyProcessor".  We have nothing 
to worry about.  I am chair of our undergraduate program and I actually 
find very few students that like a faculty member because the "class was 
easy" or the professor tells good jokes.

  In general, when I look at our institutional student evaluations, for the 
most part students are very fair.  The faculty that do the best on student 
evals are typically the best teaching faculty we have if I had to rate 
them myself.  And it isn't because they are "easy".  Instead it is because 
they are passionate, they get students excited about the material, they 
engage students, the class is well organized, their knowledge is 
up-to-date, they bring past professional and research experience into the 
classroom etc.

This is harsh, but I'd suggest that if a faculty member is worried that 
most comments on "RateMyProfessor" are negative, they should look hard at 
themselves and the content of their course.  Like I said, you can never 
please everyone in a class and everyone will get negative comments.  But 
if the faculty member and the class routinely are evaluated poorly, the 
problem is not likely to be with "RateMyProfessor", it is likely to be 
with the class or instructor.

Scott Barker
Information School
University of Washington

-----Original Message-----
From: Open Lib/Info Sci Education Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Gretchen Whitney
Sent: Saturday, January 28, 2012 5:29 PM
To: [log in to unmask]

    A concerned jESSE reader brought this site to my attention privately and
asked that I bring it to your attention for discussion.
    I have not found very many SIS faculty on this site, but I have found a

    The reader wonders how your institution handles such student evaluations
on such a web site, and how these evaluations factor into tenure decisions
and other faculty evaluations.  The reader notes the differences between
course choices by students (which these appear to be having writ large),
and peer evaluations, but also notes that there is a connection between
the two:  if students don't sign up for your courses, that is going to
have a bearing on your evaluation by peers.
    The reader also wonders how you as an individual and as an institution
balance negative reviews ("He asked us to do too much work!!") with
positive reviews ("She's really sexy", "He tells great jokes", "Attendance
isn't mandatory because he posts his lectures online", "Easy!!, "Homework
was not collected" "I only came on test days".

    I and the reader would appreciate your comments on this site.

    And I and the reader would appreciate your comments on such student
evaluations of professorial performance.


Gretchen Whitney, PhD, Retired
School of Information Sciences
University of Tennessee, Knoxville TN 37996 USA           [log in to unmask]