Yelp! Reviews for music teachers - fair or not fair?
It seems like every third TV commercial (USA) is for some site that takes in ratings from the public for a service rendered. “Angies List” for home improvement providers, “Expedia” for hotels and airlines. “Yelp!” for restaurants. Other sites rate or allow for public opinions to be shared on topics like movies, books etc. Amazon thrives on rating. Colleges are rated, even the individual college professors are rated by their students in a very public manner. I’ll bet wedding musicians are rated somewhere online. In short, if you provide a service, educate, or sell to the public you or your product is probably rated. In some threads on V.com there is mention of second and third tier music programs which implies a rating. Who comes up with those ratings?
Not too many years ago these star ratings and reviews, were viewed as threatening to many businesses but it appears now that the more public savvy businesses have embraced these rating sites. Good rating increase exposure and they gain business.
So what about reviews of individual music teachers. You provide a one on one service to (hopefully) paying customers. Is it fair for adult students or parents of younger students to comment on your teaching methods and results in a public forum like say Yelp! ? Would you encourage this?
It depends on whether one believes that the ability of the general public to assess the efficacy of music teachers is accurate or not.
As a parent, I wouldn't cold call anyone my kids interacted with- I always got recommendations. As a teacher, I've never had to advertise/put my name on the internet to pick up students. I've always had a strong reputation and good word of mouth. As a consumer, I've been increasingly suspicious online reviews, which can be manipulated or falsified.
As a consumer in general I am very suspicious about online reviews in general - they are just too easily skewed - and too many from someone with an ax to grind.
I would strongly disagree with any form of teacher grading.
I can't be the only person who reads the bad reviews, can I?
Michael, I think some things can be user-reviewed and others shouldn't. I personally contribute to TripAdvisor for restaurants, because I like cooking as a hobby and have enjoyed restaurants worldwide. T.A. allows me to choose the best places to eat when I'm travelling, as I've learned to interpret reviews pretty accurately.
I don't think it would be a good idea. Online reviews are very useful as long as there is a big number of them. That is the only way to sort out the fake, paid, blackmailers and disgruntled. I can't see hundreds of students rating a violin teacher, which would be the only sure way of guessing that the average score is close to truth. With 10-15 reviews any opinion would create score swings and give an unfair score.
@ Carlos - I can already see unmotivated, talentless, lazy kids drop violin lessons and blame it on the teacher...
Yes, it also becomes a popularity contest like http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/
Reviews serve as a motivation for business providers to improve. Reviews also tell them what areas of service they’ve done well and what areas need to be improved. Anonymous online reviews may actually help the teacher as it is almost always too sensitive for such things to be discussed face-to-face.
The rating itself is definitely not helpful, but what is written in the comment that give an idea on how this teacher teaches can be helpful. If the review system is ever used, I prefer they remove the ratings.
i believe that some of the online sites for teachers -- TakeLessons.com, etc. -- have online reviews. I suspect that most o the teachers who use those kinds of sites tend to be inexperienced, so the ratings model may work all right in that context.
Online reviews should be a great idea...in principle. After all, how is it different than gossip (one person talking to another)?
Here's another problem with Yelp or other sites: they can be gamed by using "shills," someone planted to write a "review."
They might be good for really egregious stuff, but I think an online review system would be unlikely to be able to help me find a violin teacher who knows their stuff, because most parents can't actually tell good teaching from bad.
A problem for ratings and reviews is that nearly all are initiated at the completion of the service or thing. You might post a review after you leave the restaurant, after you have seen the movie, once the painter, plumber, carpenter etc is done and has left. But most students who find a good match with a teacher are likely to stay with him/her possibly for years. I would expect that happy, content students and parents are unlikely to post a review while still taking lessons. It skews the rating as others have suggested.
Ultimately I agree with Dimitri - students aren't qualified to write reviews about music teachers - but can see how it would be a good idea for safety/professionalism concerns.
I'm torn here with conflicting emotions. I don't read or believe on line hotel or restaurant reviews. They can be gamed as mentioned, plus some reviewers don't review a place for what its category is (e.g A hostel in Anchorage I went to had been reviewed as if it were a quaint European boutique chamber d'hote, and it didn't come out well in the review.).
I can tell you that the research on patient satisfaction surveys shows that if medical personnel are perceived as respectful by the survey respondent, the respondent is likely to be satisfied with the treatment. They are satisfied even when the treatment was inadequate or flat out incorrect, and, even when they fail to get better.
I'm sort of biased because I have a lot of Yelp reviews (as well as other reviews), but I just wanted to add a fun snippet of knowledge: almost none of my students called me because of my reviews. In fact, I'm always hoping they'll say "hey, I saw your great reviews!"
We dont have a review system here similar to the one you are talking about.
As Ken brings up the math issue, I thought I would throw in some more numbers too.
Here's some insight from the NY Times (today's online issue):
Private teaching isn't a series of closed transactions but continued guidance over a period of time. The "product" is affected by what the "consumer" (student) puts in - attitude, preparation, mutual discussion of goals. Yes, a private music student pays to access a teacher's knowledge/expertise/inspiration but is (should be) more of an active participant in the "production" compared to a typical consumer service or product. Public sharing of one's experience is not necessarily a bad thing but people have to use their judgment about reliability and credibility of the comments...which is the same as with anything else you see or hear...
Dimitri wrote, "In 2016, the most recent year for which information is available, about 96 percent of the state’s teachers were found to be “effective” or “highly effective,” and only 1 percent was rated ineffective. That same year, fewer than 40 percent of students statewide passed standardized exams in English and math."
Having taught university for 23 years, I know a thing or two about these various evaluation schemes. And my conclusions is that everything has its place. Open, online systems like "rate my professors" is something I do not find useful -- the ratings are all over the map and the comments are not helpful to me. Unlike some others, I will take anonymous student comments to heart if I feel they are issued thoughtfully, and especially if I hear them repeatedly. One has to remember that student "perceptions" are just that ... perception. So one thing I have learned is that I need to be a LOT more careful with my sense of humor in 8-AM lectures than I would with an 11-AM or 2-PM lecture slot. I teach a lab course and some students said they cannot hear me in the back, that's because their stations are near instruments that hum. So next time I can move them all to the center, near where I am standing, for the brief discussion at the start of lab.
I always read reviews with 3 stars. 5 stars and 1 star are biased (paid).
Michael, how can someone who's never taken a music lesson possibly be qualified to rate a music teacher?