Who Owns School?
Authority, Students, and Online Discourse

by Kelly Ritter

New Dimensions in Computers and Composition Series
eds. Cynthia Selfe and Gail Hawisher
Hampton Press, 2010

Reviewed by Rita Malenczyk
Director, University Writing Program and Writing Center
Eastern Connecticut State University


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References and Credits

Chapter 4, “E-Valuating Learning: Rate My Professor and Public Rhetorics of Pedagogy,” addresses the phenomenon of online evaluation services, e.g., Ratemyprofessors.com (RMP), which take teacher evaluations out of the control of the academic institution and put them into the hands of (unsupervised) students.  The difference between such sites as RMP and their previous, pre-Internet incarnations is, however, not only that they can disseminate their findings more readily and on a larger scale.  Rather, Ritter claims, they allow students—who are, after all, members of the public—to participate in public discourse about pedagogy and, ultimately, help shape that discourse. 

If this sounds scary to the professors being evaluated, it shouldn’t, necessarily. Unlike university-administered student evaluations, the audience of which is solely other faculty and administration, the online medium of RMP facilitates conversation among students in which they can respond to and sometimes critique one another’s evaluations.  The result is that one reads the conversation, not the individual evaluation.  Ritter calls this phenomenon “uniquely dialogic debate." Dialogic spaces such as RMP exist, Ritter argues, because students have been locked out of meaningful (to them) institutional conversations about evaluation and are seeking to make their voices heard by different means.