Rating teachers and doctors has finally reached Norway – with a lag and some cultural differences

Norway has had its own hot-or-not (Deiligst.no) for rating sexiness for ages, but we’re only now seeing the first sites that rate professional abilities: Legelisten.no lets patients rate their doctors, and Minlærer.no lets high school students rate their teachers. After reading about doctor rating services in the US and Canada (if you search google you’ll find several), Arne Krokan wrote three years ago wondering when rating of doctors would hit Norway, and there’s an interesting discussion in the comments, too.

I wonder if anyone’s studied the lag from an internet service being common in the US to its adoption in Norway. Does it differ with the kind of service? Photo sharing, blogging, sexiness rating, doctor rating, teacher rating? Or is the target audience? There was a three year lag from hotornot.com to deiligst.no. I’m not sure when the first doctor rating sites arrived, but it seems they were around and fairly new in 2007, so let’s estimate a five year lag for doctor rating services. There was a thirteen (13!) year lag from Ratemyprofessor.com started up in 1999 until minlærer.no was launched a few days ago. Minlærer.no was started by an 18-year-old high school student, Eirik Rossbach, who was tired of the lack of options for student feedback to teachers. In interviews since the launch a few days ago, this lack has been one of his key points. (Below I talk about how universities do have a public evaluation system, although perhaps not quite what Rossbach would have wanted.)

The questions Minlærer.no asks are interestingly different from those asked in Ratemyprofessor.com too. Notably, there’s no “hot or not” option in the Norwegian site, so “hot” teachers aren’t awarded sizzling chili peppers. The Norwegian form is simple, and asks about the teacher’s knowledge of his or her subject, their ability to teach well, respect for their students and their level of engagement/enthusiasm.

Here’s the form for Minlærer.no:

Here’s the form you fill out at Ratemyprofessor.com. I left in the professor’s name as he is currently the top rated professor in the United States. And yes, of course Ratemyprofessor gives you lists of the best and the hottest professors.

The differences between the Norwegian and US forms are interesting. Obviously the US form is more mature after thirteen years, but the Norwegian categories of respect for students and enthusiasm for his or her subject are certainly expressions of Norwegian culture and not just random, although the form itself probably was designed without too much thought by the individual student who created minlærer.no. It’s also interesting that the US site focuses on how easy a class is. And why ask about textbook use? Is that so students can search for classes they won’t need to buy the textbook for? It’s also interesting that Ratemyprofessor asks for the grade the student received. That information isn’t displayed, but presumably the system can use it to assess the value of a particular rating.

Universities in Norway do provide their own public evaluations of classes, although these are compiled from the institutions’ official evaluations, and each class’s evaluation is written by the class’s teacher based on student feedback, the teacher’s own experiences and student evaluation forms, and it assesses things like access to technology, the quality of the rooms the course is taught in and other material constraints as well – but each course is only evaluated every two or three years. The University of Bergen’s course evaluations are public at Kvalitetsbasen. Unfortunately they’ve changed the system so you now download PDFs instead of easily viewing it all online. Here’s an evaluation I wrote of DIKULT302, an MA class I taught last autumn. So in some ways this is a more comprehensive and reliable system than ratemyprofessors.com, and in other ways of course you don’t see the students’ opinions directly.

As a teacher myself, I know that I’m sometimes I’m a great teacher and sometimes I’m probaby not. There are days, and weeks where it’s really hard to find the time to prepare as well as I’d like to, whether because of other parts of my job as an academic (yes, teaching, research and admin do compete and quite often add up to more than 100%) or because the kids were up half the night or I’ve been warding off a cold for a week or I’m just having a bad day – and I do, at least, show up and teach. There are semesters where I’m teaching a syllabus somebody else set up and I really struggle to teach well with the assigned readings. Of course there are days I’m not happy with my teaching. And there are other days and semesters I think I did a really good job.

I’m quite sure a rating site for university teachers like me will show up in Norway too within the next few years: minforeleser.no, probably. And I’m sure I’ll love the positive evaluations and hate the negative ones, just as this family doctor commented about reading his reviews on RateMDs.com in 2007:

“Those ones [positive ratings] are nice… but the negative ones really sting, especially when you know you’re just trying to be out there everyday and do your job as good as you can,” says Jablonski, a family doctor.

I guess I’ll be happy if I receive ratings like these:

Though reading that bit about how easy the class was, I would definitely increase the work load if that were a review of my class…

30. September 2012 by Jill
Categories: social media, Teaching | 5 comments

Comments (5)

  1. Thank you for this fascinating post about the difference between ratings forms and what it suggests. As a college-level instructor, I’m interested in national differences in attitudes and approaches to education. I’m especially intrigued by the instructor-generates public course evaluations you talk about doing. Would you be willing to write further in a follow-up post about how you compile them and what they’re used for? As a formal tool incorporating both student responses and the instructor’s observations, they sound like a tremendously useful tool for evaluating a course, and I’d love to hear more both about the procedure and how useful you have found them. (Unfortunafely I don’t read Norwegian, so I can’t benefit from the example you posted.)

  2. Interesting reading. Thanks for sharing.

    What I find most troublesome e.g. with the Norwegian rating site minlærer.no is the lack of moderators and the possibility to enter data anonymously.

    A quick look at some schools in my area show that Osama Bin Laden is teaching electronics, a Norwegian mayor is teaching sexual abuse and even our prime minister is mentioned.

  3. Yes, agree with Egeland! I also found some odd names, and I think the option to be anonymous attracts pupils that are not very serious about their commenting. I did notice that filthy names from yesterday were removed today, but then another one had entered. There were no comments on teachers for my school so far.

    I wish schools would be rated for the work they do to make good teachers, rather then rating teachers like this. Education is not only about subjects, but also about learning social skills. I’m not a teacher at the time, but work as an ICT-pedagog, and I organize the schedule. I sometimes have kids coming to me for wanting to switch groups because they don’t like the teacher. We have a policy at my school that state that changing classes because of communication problems are not allowed. The students need to learn how to confront people in their context on how to make better conversations, better mediation, or communication to improve what ever their goals are – weather it is learning, producing something, or reaching goals. We are not learners alone, nor teachers on our own – we are teams of humans reaching for the same goals with different resources and backgrounds.

    We need to address problems where they belong, and I am skeptic to the Norwegian site minlarer.no , and the way it is organized and maintained at the time.

  4. Are there any research on how user evaluation of doctors and teachers affect how schools and hospitals are managed, and if students and patients change behavior when they get access to the views of others?

  5. The site mentioned has been closed down, as they were breaking rules about personal information in Norway. Myself I find this very sad – as ratemyprofessor.com was a great resource whilst studying in USA, and I was looking for something similar to base my decision in choosing my courses (having unfortunately just finished a course with horrible lecturers).

    The main comments/reactions were about how the site was used to bully the teachers… Probably a good example of the difference in attitude in Norway and the US.

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