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Using & Teaching Educational Technology


Rate my teacher
By Terry Freedman
Created on Mon, 19 Dec 2005, 23:47

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I have just come across a website called Rate My Teachers, on which students and parents are invited to, er, rate their teachers. There are a number of issues here.

1. As a matter of principle, there is, in fact, no need for a website like this. The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) exists to inspect schools, and as part of the inspection process it seeks the views of parents and students.

2. If a student or parent wishes to praise or criticise a teacher, they can do so by contacting the headteacher or Chair of Governors. In the case of praising the teacher, you can nominate them for a teaching award by going to:

http://www.teachingawards.com/2006/Nomination/NominateTeacher.asp

3. As a parent contributor to the website says, anyone can post comments to this website about a teacher they don't even know. Where are the controls?

4. The terms and conditions state that the owners of the website take no responsibility for the comments that people make, and the comments are posted anonymously as far as I can tell. That means that a teacher whose career is potentially blighted by this website has no way of getting redress through the courts. It would make an interesting test case I imagine: I wonder if the company that hosts the website could be sued in such a scenario?

5. Having said that, I don't think there is much danger of anyone taking the ratings seriously, when you have this sort of comment:

"Dont like him at all. Had him as form teacher in 1st year and if he sees u in the corrider nw gives u a dirty look or looks straight thru u. He finks hes pur clas on the piano :("

What an incisive and useful analysis! This guy may be the world's greatest educational expert, but that counts for nothing because someone thinks he gives them dirty looks!

Another comment said that the lessons were intense.

Which leads me on to...

6. If students are going to rate teachers, it should be on the basis of their impact on learning. Of what use is a comment like "She is a nice person although her lessons are intense" (I made that up, but it's an amalgam of similar comments.). What does it mean? Although there are guidelines on the website, they come nowhere near the incisive and structured questioning that should be used to find out how well teachers teach, and how well students learn under their guidance.

Some years ago I did some private college work for a few weeks. After the first morning, the Principal called me into his office and said: "Good news: the students like you". I nearly said, to almost quote Clark Gable, "Quite frankly, I don't give a damn". After all, I was there to teach, not win a popularity contest. Besides, I thought it was out of order for him to go asking students what they thought of their teachers after one morning!

However, I thought I would say nothing until I found out what was really going on, and it soon became clear: most of the students were foreign, and if they liked you, they would tell their relatives, eg cousins, who would then apply to enrol on a course at the college. So good academic results were regarded as a kind of bonus: the really important thing was whether the students liked you.

But I digress.

7. A website that is set up purely for the purpose of enabling people to pass judgements on others should surely try to ensure that it passes muster itself? The most recent "monthly" newsletter is dated February 2005, at least one of the links doesn't work properly and the site is plastered with advertisements.

So all in all, I am not at all sure how this website contributes to educational standards in the UK.


What do you think? Please leave a comment.