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Professor is No. 23 highest rated on students’ website

McDaniel thinks ratings reflect connections

POSTED: May 17, 2011 10:54 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Mariah Yates, 19, smiles Tuesday as she listens to Professor Michallene McDaniel lecture during a sociology class at Gainesville State College in Oakwood. McDaniel was recently ranked among the top 25 college professors by the online site ratemyprofessors.com.

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Professor Michallene McDaniel's reviews on the online rating site ratemyprofessors.com are riddled with exclamation points.

At a quick glance, the sheer abundance of the punctuation mark gives a good indicator of what students think of the Gainesville State College associate professor of sociology.

Her reviews are so glowing, in fact, that McDaniel recently ranked 23rd on the site's Highest Rated University Professors list.

"That was a total shock to me," said McDaniel, a 13-year teaching veteran who has been at Gainesville State College since 2001. "And I still find it sort of funny."

At ratemyprofessors.com, students rate teachers on a scale of 1 to 5 in four categories: helpfulness, clarity, easiness and overall quality. And of course there is the red chili rating a student can bestow if they think their professor is especially attractive.

McDaniel is averaging a perfect 5.0 in helpfulness, 4.9 in clarity, 4.2 in easiness and 4.9 in overall quality.

The teacher has used the site to gauge the effectiveness of her teaching methods. But she is the first to admit there is nothing scientific behind the rating system.

"I know that a lot of my colleagues that work very hard and are good teachers, they may teach something that people don't want to take or there are certain people that just get slammed all the time and it's not because they're doing a bad job," she said.

She does think, though, that her ratings might be indicative of the connection she tries to form with each one of her students.

"I'm really quite certain that students know if you're lying to them," she said. "If you're not genuine to them, they can tell. I'm not good at faking anything."

Memorizing facts, McDaniel said, isn't paramount in her classroom. And while she stands behind a podium, she's not a traditional power-point professor. The class schedule is dictated by the students' questions in an open-dialogue format that can make even the most depressing concepts interesting, said Mariah Yates, a student in McDaniel's Introduction to Social Problems.

"We're talking about the downfall of our world pretty much, but she makes it really fun and makes it not as upsetting and tries to put a different spin on it and put humor in it," Yates said.

On Tuesday, McDaniel picked on a spoiled socialite to highlight how social structure affects wealth inequality.

"Lets talk about Miss Paris Hilton, one of my favorite people to talk about. She's great for sociologists," McDaniel said with a laugh.

Americans learn that hard work pays off, she told her students. It's a nice concept but Paris Hilton is its downfall, she said.

"I'm not going to ask for a show of hands. I'm just going to assume that most of you don't have a prison record. I'm going to hope that none of you have a famous sex tape. You haven't messed up nearly as much as Paris Hilton," she said, looking across the room. "My guess is Paris Hilton still has more money than any of us."

Her teaching methods seem to be working and her latest reviews on ratemyprofessors.com are just as flattering as the first posted in 2004.

"She is the best professor ever!!! She is interesting, comical and engaging," one happy reviewer wrote. "I have not had a class yet that was boring. Take a class with her as quick as you can!!!"

 



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