Five years later: Still the best professors?

The UP looked at the professors with the highest SPOT ratings five years ago and followed up to see if they still measure up.

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Mary Rasura, Staff Writer

A lot can change in five years. You can earn a college degree, save for a house and your SPOT ratings can drop by 28.6 points.

SPOT, or Student Perception of Teaching, are surveys that FAU uses to evaluate professors’ capabilities in the classroom. The UP published an article in Jan. 2018 about the professors with the highest SPOT ratings in each college. It’s been almost five years, so the UP checked to see if they’re still the best. 

Karen Wisdom-Chambers

College of Nursing: Karen Wisdom-Chambers

Karen Wisdom-Chambers, a nursing professor, earned a rating of excellent from 100% of her Professional Development in Nursing 1 class in Summer 2016 with a 75% response rate. In Spring 2021, she earned a rating of excellent from 71.4% of her Primary Care 1 Practicum course with a response rate of 87.5%. 

“Although my SPOTs weren’t great I don’t think it was because of my teaching,” Wisdom-Chambers said. “I sincerely believe it was just because of the pandemic, the frustration, people worried about their family. They weren’t able to get clinical hours, concerned about their graduation. So I think those were some of the reasons.”

FAU doesn’t release student comments on SPOT surveys, just the percentages. Rate My Professor is an anonymous website that allows students to leave comments on their professors, negative or positive. Wisdom-Chambers has a 4.6 out of 5 overall quality rating. 

“Dr. Chambers is amazing. She really wants her students to be successful but you have to put the work in,” writes one student. 

Another student writes: “Responds online promptly. Gives good feedback. Assignments are not too difficult.”

All in all, even with a drop in SPOTs ratings, her students think well of her. 

Julie Ward

College of Arts and Letters: Julie Ward

Sculpture professor Julie Ward experienced a drop of 10 points. She now has a rating of excellent from 80% of her 2021 Summer 3D Art Foundations course, with a 29.4% response rate. Her previous rating in her Spring 2017 Topics: Sculpture course was 90% excellent with a 100% response rate. 

“Professor Ward gives honest feedback to push work to the next level,” writes one student on Rate My Professor. “She is good about giving a good balance of assignments to develop different skills – conceptual art, craftsmanship, reading, research, roundtable discussions, presentations, and writing assignments. We had 3 projects, but we had time to do one more.”

“She’s very unfair in her grading,” writes another. “Gave me an 80% on a paper because I forgot the page number. It was a 1 page paper and that was my only mistake. She’s not very understanding if you have to miss a class and her lectures are boring (she just rambles). Would not take unless you want a difficult teacher with no empathy.”

Of the four ratings she has on Rate My Professor, three were positive. She has an overall rating of 3.8 out of 5. Ward did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication.

Cynthia Wilson

College of Education: Cynthia Wilson

Cynthia Wilson experienced a drop of 26.7 points. In her Spring 2017 Collaborations with Professionals and Families course, she scored 100% excellent with a response rate of 100%. In her Spring 2021 Classroom Management for Inclusive Elementary Schools course, she scored 73.3% excellent with a 45.5% response rate.

“I have taken classes with Dr. Wilson throughout my ESE program. She is passionate in the area of special education,” one student writes on Rate My Professor. “She also has a great excitement for teaching new teachers. Each time I go to her class it is engaging and we may get off topic but it all relates to the content. She inspires me to continue going and I hope that I can keep her with me.”

“Dr. Wilson is a great professor. She is very knowledgeable. However, she spends too much time straying from the topic,” writes another. “She spends a lot of time talking about her family but I guess that is her way of relating the idea to real life situation. I would recommend her. She just need to use less time to cover each chapter.”

She has an overall rating of 3.8 out of 5. Wilson did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication. 

Khaled Sobhan

College of Engineering and Computer Science: Khaled Sobhan

Khaled Sobhan saw a drop of 45.5 points. His previous rating was 100% excellent with a response rate of 35% of the class for his Fall 2016 Soil Mechanics course.  In his Spring 2021 Soil Mechanics class, he scored 54.5% excellent with a 44% response rate. 

Sobhan said he follows a “continuous improvement process” every year with strategies put together to enhance student success.

“Personally, I believe that the engineering field is rapidly changing and increasingly crossing the traditional disciplinary boundaries,” Sobhan said. “In response to that, I encourage my students to think more globally and be aware of interdependent systems, so that they are career-ready and become more competitive in the data-driven future world of work. While my interactive teaching methods have not changed, the contents are always evolving in response to new knowledge and discoveries.”  

He has a rating of 3.1 out of 5 on Rate My Professor.

“He aight as a person but not recommended as a professor, especially online or distance learning,” writes one student on Rate My Professor. “He never prepared and afraid to use technology. Refused to bring a marker, answer questions and never returned any course work. Hopefully you can find better value by taken someone or somewhere else. Not worth taking.” 

“He is an amazing professor!” writes another. “Really wise man, always answers your questions and tries to help you understand the concepts! His goal is to help you, not to fail you.”

Michael Gauci

College of Business: Michael Gauci

Accounting instructor Michael Gauci received a score of 100% excellent with a response rate of 100% for his Fall 2016 Government Not-for-Profit Accounting class. In Spring 2021, he received a score of 76.2% excellent with a 80.8% response rate for the same course. 

However, according to Gauci, his ratings have not dropped due to the headcount in Fall 2016 having an “abnormally low enrollment of six students.”

He offered his own analysis.

“When I analyze all my SPOT scores, the weighted average for question 6 [rate your instructor’s overall teaching effectiveness in this course] on the SPOTS in calendar year 2016 (Spring and Fall) was 1.40 (with 1.00 being an excellent rating and 2.00 being a very good rating),” Gauci wrote in an email. “The same weighted average calculation in calendar year 2021 (Spring and Fall) was 1.28. Therefore, my SPOT performance has remained closest to the excellent rating through the years and has actually improved when comparing 2016 to 2021.”

Student reviews support his increase in ratings. 

“Prof Gauci is an amazing teacher! He is passionate about the content & cares deeply about his students success,” wrote one student on Rate My Professor. “I wish more professors could observe & learn from him. He ensures all material are covered throughly & provides additional resources to assist students. You will enjoy being in his class and learning about the accounting profession.”

“​​Knowledgeable Professor, with a capital “P”, and he knows how to transmit,” writes another. “The book’s not good, but this professor more than makes up for it with his excellent videos. The concepts are difficult, completely new, but if you sit down, pay attention, and study, you’ll pass. You need to watch his videos at least 3 times and complete all the work.”

Gauci received a score of 4.4 out of 5 on Rate My Professor.

Mary Rasura is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or DM her on Instagram @maryrasura