Registering for courses: SIRS vs. Rate My Professors
Students take a wide variety of information into account when deciding which courses and sections to register for.
As a whole, Rutgers administrators evaluate the quality of teachers and courses using an electronic survey called the Student Instructional Rating Survey (SIRS) that was developed by staff at the Center for Teaching Advancement and Assessment Research.
But students tend to utilize other resources as well. One popular website that is used to evaluate courses and instructors is Rate My Professors, where users can view profiles of professors that have been generated through various reviews and ratings. The site has culminated more than 17 million total student ratings, according to its page.
While Rate my Professors is used frequently at Rutgers, it is very different from SIRS in that it operates independently from the University and is organized by an unrelated party, said Steven Miller, a professor and coordinator in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies.
“Rate My Professors could be Yelp for all I care,” Miller said.
Rather than use Rate My Professors, Miller said students should more actively utilize the results of SIRS. He has found that students undervalue how important their feedback is to the University.
“The evaluation of teachers is an extremely important part of what we do here,” Miller said. “Students do not comprehend that we really do use (SIRS results) for a number of things … We use them predominantly to look at what the student perception of the teacher is. Then, I as coordinator of Undergraduate Studies, and the chair of our department and the dean of Instruction for SC&I (School of Communication and Information), will sit down with that person.”
The history of the modern 10-question SIRS evaluation dates back to 1994, two years after the Center for Teaching Advancement and Assessment was founded, said Monica Devanas, director of Faculty Development and Assessment Programs. She helped develop the modern SIRS, which consists of 10 heavily researched and considered questions that are just broad enough to apply to all classes but specific enough to gather the much-needed feedback, she said.
“There’s a lot of history and a lot of research that goes into (the creation of the SIRS),” she said.
Some students use Rate My Professors exclusively, regardless of claims to its inaccuracy.
School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Holly Chok said Rate My Professors is a better tool because it allows students to get a wider range of opinions since everyone does not take the SIRS.
Others prefer to cross-reference the two sources, School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Priscila D. Ruiz said.
“I think both are good … If I have to pick between different professors, I’ll choose the one with the better (average) rating,” she said.
In general, the Chronicle of Higher Education found that students are more likely to write negative reviews of a professor in third party reviews than in official University reviews. Additionally, professors are capable of manipulating their own results online in a way that is not possible through SIRS.
Some students take the courses they need to take regardless of these numbers and reviews, said School of Arts and Sciences junior Zenab Abdelgany, and he personally does not pay particular mind to negative reviews.
“I wouldn’t not take a section because of a bad review, but if I see a good review then I’m more likely to take that section, ” Chok said.
Zachary Peterson is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.