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5 Stars: The 4 Stars

One question I just received on a different blog was how to handle the 4-star ratings that come up. No matter how good you are, someone will not be satisfied. I personally have received two 4-stars here on WyzAnt, one when I was just starting out, and one just today.

For the 4-star early on, it was from a weekly student who only rated the very first meeting as a 4-star. When I learned it was him (either WyzAnt didn't let us see ratings back when I began or I just hadn't figured out how), I approached him about it at the end of our next meeting. One thing I've learned in life is to ask questions instead, so I simply inquired as to why the first lesson was a 4-star to him. He thought back and couldn't really remember why; the session had gone well to him, and he couldn't remember anything in particular that went wrong; he simply thought that 4-stars was still "good". When I explained to him that it wasn't really how things worked on WyzAnt, how only 5-stars is "good" and anything else is basically "bad", he kindly agreed to go back in and change the rating.

For today's, the story is a bit different. It seems like the student was a one-time student whom I helped with finals preparation. Thus, I had no way of gently bringing up after a meeting. Instead, I sent an email to her today to inquire of what she felt was missing that caused the missing star. I may or may not get a reply, but I have learned that it is better to ask, as long as it is done politely and from a position of requesting feedback. If there really WAS something wrong, I'd like to know to not miss that star in the future.

I write this as an advice to any fellow tutor reading this. There will be times that you will get a 4-star, regardless of whether you did your best or not. When those times come up, my advice is to make a gentle inquiry as to what was lacking in your own tutoring that caused the lack of the star. If the student doesn't understand the big deal, then you can let them know how the ratings here work, and then see if they are willing to change it if they feel like you did do all you could. Just be sure to also accept the opposite; if there really was a reason, then learn from it and keep growing.


I appreciate your great advice. I took it and asked for feedback and the reason I got a 4/5 was because the place we met was crowded. The person said I did deserve a 5 and did end up changing it. Thank you for your response!

I'm glad it worked out for you. :)

Not everyone is willing to change their ratings. Eventually there will be someone who is not satisfied no matter how well you did. My one 4-start looks permanent. I still think it's worth asking though ;).

Hello, I am new to Wyzant and I was wondering how the star system worked. I just had my first lesson today, which I thought went rather well, and I received a four star rating from the parent of the child that I was tutoring. How does a four-star rating stack up on wyzant?
Hello Melissa, 4-stars on WyzAnt are average at best (not meant in a good way). Most tutors will try to keep an average of 4.5 or preferably better. My advice to you would be to inquire of the student what they felt didn't go well. There's often a reason for a star deduction. Come at it from a place of wanting to improve yourself. You may not be able to get them to change it (especially if there is a reason for it), but then you can learn for future lessons to improve your chances at receiving 5 stars. I have had three 4-star ratings in my years with WyzAnt. I approached all three students. One didn't have a real reason for the star off, so he was willing to bring it back to a 5 when I explained that 4's are considered low on WyzAnt. The second was a one-time student who simply didn't like my style (the one 4-star I still have). The third was because the one who submitted the lesson was different than the person I was in contact with (and when I contacted her, she herself wanted to change it to a 5-star; I didn't even have to ask for it).
That begs the question why five stars are 'good' and everything else is 'bad'. Why bother with the five star system then? Where are the nuances?
Three ought to be average, four good, and five excellent.
Until someone explains otherwise, that is how I take it. I know one four-star rater was happy with her lessons, but reserved the five stars for the 'bingo' experience – when she had a learning epiphany or something really clicked for her. Plus, a fair number of students or parents never rate a lesson, and as far as I am concerned that is their choice.
Hello Susanne,
A lot depends on where/how the rating is taking place and the comparative effect. For a lot of sites, your choice of the rating names makes sense. For example, with a game website like Kongregate, a 4-star average is "legendary", a title that is extremely hard to get.
WyzAnt is different for two reasons. First is the comparative effect. The "average" is very often defined by the average score throughout a site. Going back to my Kongregate example, 3 stars is indeed the average rating for a game. However, on WyzAnt, the average long-time tutor has around a 4.7 average, so 4.7 is the "average" by the comparative effect, NOT 4 stars. In that sense, anything from 1-4 is "below average" as it is below the standard for the site.
To understand the difference requires knowledge of the psychology of statistics. The easier and more beneficial it is to rate something, the more diverse the ratings will be. For the Kongregate example, the rating is a quick button just to the side of the game, taking all of one second to rate, so even those with a neutral opinion on the game (i.e. "this is just average") still might rate it; in addition, you get points for rating a game, so there is an incentive to rate the games, again increasing the chances of a diverse number of ratings, including more neutral ones. Contrast that to WyzAnt where there is no incentive to rate the tutor and the click to do the rating takes more than one second (still doesn't take long, but the difference psychologically is an exponential rate, not linear). The ones most likely to do a rating then are those who have the strongest opinions since those are the ones who feel like they have a reason to do the rating (such as telling the world how great (or horrible) a tutor is). Since hopefully there is a strong lean towards the "great" (5) side instead of the "horrible" (1) side, there is the definite lean for the average rating being above 4 stars, putting 4 stars "below average".
Does it make more sense now?
I am thinking along the lines of Susanne as well.  While I understand the explanation, I have difficulty accepting the concept that a 4 is somehow bad.  Mathematically it might be below the average here, but I still could never see it as "bad," or even that the tutor was "below average."  I know quite a few people who think of a 5 as perfect, and either believe there's no such thing as perfect, or as Susanne said, are holding that back for a really special session.  An average of 4.x has to come from somewhere, and it means it's coming from ratings of 4 (or less), and I don't think necessarily means the ratings of 4 are somehow bad.
If you tell students that only 5 is good, it seems as though you're artificially raising those ratings.  Also, people who get really low ratings would not likely last, and leave.  So the really good tutors stay around, get work, get good ratings (yes including 4), and have a lot of ratings which influences the average.  The bad ratings tend to get weeded out.
If I as a student got told that only a 5 was considered "good," I would have difficultly swallowing that.  It's a bit like saying either your session was fabulous, or it was bad.  And if I felt the desire to leave a 4 (because it was good but not quite fabulous), I would feel I had been discouraged to leave such a rating, and I'd end up feeling like it's 5 or nothing, which would not feel fair to me in making my own assessment.  My reaction to that would be to simply not leave a rating.
I also would find it difficult to tell a student that a 4 is not considered good.  Even if I approached it from the standpoint of wanting their honest feedback, if the idea that anything less than 5 is not good was broached, I would still feel like I was trying to just push them into a rating and telling them what they have to do.
Don't take this to mean I think a tutor who always gets 4, or has 4 average, is a good tutor.  A good tutor should be getting enough 5's to raise their average above that.  But even the best tutors can get a 4 legitimately without it being a bad situation, and without psychologically seeing it as "below average."  (Mathematically below average and psychologically below average are two different things.)
The point is just as you said in the last sentence. For most tutors, we are talking primarily about the mathematical average, not the psychological one. Mathematically, with the average WyzAnt rating being around a 4.8, a 4 is bad. It's basic math. That is the reason why approach it first from the mathematical standpoint and then request the psychological reason for the rating. There will always be some who disagree; when those students come along, each tutor needs to determine for themselves how to handle it. 
My personal goal is not to be merely average. I do aim for as close to perfection as I can, which is the primary reason for my five stars. For tutors like myself (whom this blog is written for), 4 is also psychologically a poor grade too as it means we've missed the high bar we've set for ourselves. Thus, steps should be taken to make amends in those cases. 
This is all just my own opinion. Each tutor must find their own way. Best wishes to you.
Brian, what do you think about the fact that on WyzAnt, a tutor can effectively erase a bad rating by canceling the billing for that lesson?  Does that not allow tutors the luxury of purchasing a 5-star rating, provided their hourly rate is high enough that they can cancel any lessons which get a 4-star rating or lower?
Personally, I want my services to be affordable to people who aren't wealthy.  That means that if and when I do get a 4-star rating (which I did a few weeks ago), I don't feel like I can afford to not take home the money from that tutoring session.  But if my rate were, say, $60+/hour, I could afford to erase my less-than-4-star ratings because WyzAnt lets me do that after the lesson has been rated.