RateMyProfessor 2013 “Best Profs” List Filled With Non-Tenured Faculty

by P.D. Lesko

The second highest rated “professor” in the United States on the faculty rating website RateMyProfessor.com is Devon Hanahan. Hanahan, who teaches Spanish at the University of Charleston, is a non-tenured faculty member. She has taught at the college for 16 years. What is Hanahan’s secret to success in the classroom, or at least earning the highest marks possible from her students? This is from Hanahan’s teaching philosophy page on her College of Charleston faculty website:

College of Charleston Spanish Instructor Devon Hanahan.

I believe that every student that comes into my classroom will learn something in it. It is my responsibility to find a way to reach each one of those students and to discover his or her interest and method of learning. To that end I try to incorporate many different approaches to teaching each day, and I praise and encourage my students when they succeed. I carry a clipboard all the time to keep track of the students with whom I have spoken each day, and I try (and usually succeed) to speak to every one of them every day. The students sense that I am excited about their learning, and that enthusiasm contributes to their own desire to learn. In no way does my “cheerleader” approach diminish the demands of the curriculum. I expect a lot from my students, but because they see that I am willing to give a lot in return, they in turn are willing to do the work.

Hanahan was rated number two in the nation by RateMyProfessor users. In this video, she talks about why teaching the same courses and the same materials never gets old for her:

About one-third of the top-ranked professors hold part-time or full-time temporary faculty positions. RateMyProfessor.com also released a list of the colleges with the most highly-ranked teaching faculty. While the list is dominated by state schools, such as the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan, according to officials at RateMyProfessor.com, the size of a college or university—and thus the size of the student population—doesn’t influence the rankings. In 2013, the U.S. college with the most highly ranked faculty members by students was Duke University. However, teaching at the colleges ranked in the top ten at RateMyProfessor there are, literally, tens of thousands of non-tenured faculty. For example, at 10th ranked University of Michigan, approximately 40 percent of the college’s faculty teach off the tenure-track.

If you are among those faculty members who are not generally enthusiastic about the “service” RateMyProfessor provides to the academic community, join the club. In this AdjunctNation piece by Jennifer Berkshire, she looks at the underbelly of the industry and how it impacts faculty members.

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