Class Size & Instruction
Recall from a previous page that the average class size of freshman/sophomore Calculus courses is only about 38 students, and that over 80% of these courses are taught by permanent faculty. (Often in larger schools these courses are taught in sections of hundreds of students, with individual contact essentially only with graduate student aides.) Of course, our upper-level Mathematics courses are smaller still, and average between 20 and 25 students. Our graduate students do teach lower-level math courses for other academic majors. If they are allowed to teach freshman/sophomore Calculus, however, it means that they have earned that status; they have had good teaching evaluations and lots of experience in their previous lower-level service courses. They have also undergone a strict teaching review process, and they have become excellent teachers.
The Mathematics Department also assigns mentors to new instructors until they acclimate to Virginia Tech courses in terms of level, material coverage, and class maintenance. Often teachers who are teaching different sections of the same course will meet on a regular basis to discuss successful ways to present particular topics. In terms of raises and promotion, all permanent faculty are judged on performance in three areas, research, teaching, and service. There is a fixed percentage of the assessment assigned to each category, and with only a couple of exceptions, no one's performance is judged with less than a 40% emphasis on teaching. (A typical assignment is 40% research, 40% teaching, and 20% service.) Hence everyone takes their teaching performance very seriously. Moreover, as listed in the Honors and Awards section, our instructors have an unusually high proportion of excellence-in-teaching recognitions from the University.