The other day I happened to look at my RateMyProfessor.com page. I have nothing to complain about, the comments are all largely positive. But there was a recent entry that ticked me off probably more than it should have and I am not entirely sure why. Namely, the entry says that I am a decent instructor, but that I “move fast through the class” (I am assuming this means that I cover the material quickly, not that I pace, but I suppose either is possible and wouldn’t be untrue), that I assign a lot of homework and that my tests are long and hard, but that I curve the grades so it works out.
None of this was mean or damning and I would say it’s all correct for that particular class — I do assign a lot of work and the tests are not easy. So why was I ticked off by the review? It’s true, after all.
People tend to be more viscerally affected by the negative than the positive, and the same holds for feedback — I often remember one negative teaching evaluation in a sea of glowing ones.
But in this case I think I’m mostly disappointed. I tend to kick the students’ butt in that course on purpose: it’s an important course and the material has wide applications for many of their subsequent courses as well as their overall understanding of the discipline. I do assign a lot of homework, so students could practice and get better. The exams are challenging but hardly impossible, and making them do homework frequently and diligently is how I prepare them for doing well on the exams. If taught with proper emphasis, the course ties a lot of important concepts from seemingly disparate subdisciplines together. I repeatedly emphasize how important the material we cover is for the students’ overall education. And then I see a review where all these aspects went completely over the student’s head, where all the work was a nuisance, just something to plow through en route to a grade, and my cold professorial heart sinks just a little deeper.