October 21,1993

Hal Kolb


The Art Department has responded to the pressure for more teaching and better use of our space by asking tenured faculty to teach an extra course in the faculty member's area of interest. For example, I will be offering a course in drawing methods and materials called "The Craft of Drawing" aimed at the general college population, and specifically at art history majors who have no "hands-on" experience in studio. Jim Hagan will do a design courses that reflects his interest in electronic art media. These are new courses and ones that we hope will be useful to the College. We will also be offering several more into drawing sections to try to increase our numbers as a department. We hope this will serve to make us (and our areas of research) more accessible to the College.

We are offering these as 3 credit courses with the idea that they will rotate as a means of sharing the burden and preserving our research time as best we can. Courses that prove successful may be incorporated into our regular course offerings. All upper level faculty will offer something new in the spring (SPG 94) and then we will evaluate the results.

Hope this is useful,

Dick Crozier

P.S.: We are also encouraging faculty to offer USEMS.




TO:       Barbara Nolan, Vice Provost

FROM:     Richard McCarty, Chair

DATE:     November 4, 1993

RE:       Teaching

Faculty in the Department of Psychology offer an array of courses each semester for undergraduates at the introductory level, for undergraduate majors at the advanced level, and for graduate students. All tenure-track and tenured faculty provide support for our instructional programs and the majority offer courses at the introductory, advanced and graduate levels each academic year.

For the 1993-1994 academic year, we have 36 faculty members but we will generate approximately 51 FTEs through our instructional programs. In addition, 8 faculty members serve as lower division advisors for first and second year students, many other faculty advise our 500 undergraduate majors, and the majority of faculty supervise graduate student research in their laboratories.

My strong preference and long-standing philosophy of this department have been to minimize the use of graduate students as instructors of record in undergraduate courses (refer to Table). In our 100- and 200-level introductory courses offered during the spring and fall semesters, 1993, all 16 courses were taught by faculty, the majority of whom were tenured faculty. At the 300 and 400 levels, 41 of 47 (87%) courses were taught by full-time faculty. Above the 400 level, each of the 27 courses offered was taught by a full-time faculty member.

Graduate teaching assistants do play an important role in our instructional programs. PSYC 101, a popular 4 credit course that enrolls approximately 1500 undergraduates per year, includes a 1 hour discussion section each week for groups of 20-25 students. These discussion sections are taught by graduate teaching assistants under the direction of the instructor and a senior graduate student. In addition, graduate teaching assistants serve as instructors in optional or required discussion sections for several courses at the 200 level. Finally, graduate teaching assistants serve as laboratory instructors for our 2 semester required course for psychology majors in experimental design and data analysis (PSYC 305, 306) and in our psychobiology laboratory course (PSYC 321). In each case, the laboratory instructors work under the direct supervision of the course instructor.

Finally, approximately 40% of our undergraduate majors take at least one 3 credit research course with a faculty member. In many cases, this research apprenticeship is cited in exit interviews as one of the most valuable experiences of the undergraduate years. Although faculty members do not receive formal teaching credit for working directly with undergraduates in their laboratories, they, too, find it to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of their work in the department.


University of Virginia

Department of English

26 October 1993

Thomas H. Jackson, Provost

Madison Hall

Dear Tom,

The success of the English Department in teaching undergraduates is by any measure conspicuous. The sheer size of the major, the consistently enthusiastic student appraisals of our courses and professors, the many unsolicited tributes from students, and our high general reputation among undergraduates: all testify to the Department's striking achievements. While I hasten to respond to your request for details of our teaching arrangements, I believe that such an account must be placed securely within the context of this-standing and notable success. Care should be taken not to jeopardize the smooth functioning of a flagship department with radical changes abruptly imposed.

During the present semester, we are teaching almost 5000 students (4994, to be exact). Of these students, 64.5% receive their instruction from tenured or tenure-track faculty members (2620), permanent part-time faculty of professorial rank (334), or lecturers (269). If one considers undergraduate courses alone, including ENWR, the total number of students is 4302, of whom 59.1% (2531) are taught by tenured and tenure-track faculty (1973), permanent part-time professorial faculty (289), or lecturers (269). Graduate assistants teach 1683 students in small sections of ENWR (composition courses) at the introductory level or in the introductory literature courses listed under the ENLT rubric. They also teach 88 students in ENLT sections directly supervised by faculty members, and 877 in discussion sections of large courses. (I have used authorized enrollment figures in making these calculations. They do not correspond precisely to actual enrollments, but they are readily available, and they offer a reasonable approximation.)

The undergraduate courses now being offered include four USEMs, 35 sections of ENLT, one section of introductory comparative Literature, 16 300-level literature courses (open to and heavily elected by students from all majors), 14 400-level seminars, and eight 500-level courses, open alike to graduate and undergraduate students. There are also 61 sections of ENWR at the 100 level and 24 at the 200 level. Graduate students teach discussion sections for three or four of our large 300-level courses, but members of the professorial faculty lecture in these courses, supervise and visit the classes of their graduate assistants, and read many of the students' papers. (In at lease one instance I know of, the professor reads all papers, even if teaching assistants grade some.) Professors in these big courses hold frequent office hours and characteristically have close contact with students. Some use e-mail networks to intensify exchanges among students and between students and faculty.

The perceived needs of the graduate program and the undergraduate major largely control the distribution of courses. Our recently revised major emphasizes of historical range in the courses of every student, and the Department feels obligated to provide an appropriate sequence of offerings to allow its majors to fulfill the requirements. Area committees consisting of faculty members self- designated as interested in teaching a specified chronological period (Renaissance, Nineteenth Century) or critical approach (Feminist Studies, Genre) meet once a year to draw up a roster of major-level and graduate courses they propose to offer. Some courses on the list are specified by custom or by prior agreement; others emerge from the committee deliberations, usually in response to initiatives by individual faculty members. The associate Chair studies the committees' lists of courses to be offered and faculty to teach them, reconciling these lists with the specifications of individual faculty members (worked out at least tentatively for two years in advance) about what they expect or want to teach. During the present semester, 54.2% of the courses offered (38.5 out of 71) consist of undergraduate offerings. The faculty have, however, recently agreed that every member of the Department will henceforth offer three undergraduate courses for every graduate course; this ratio, therefore, will soon change.

Graduate students teach all sections of ENWR at the 100 level (61) and all except three (21) at the 200 level. There are several reasons for this arrangement. In the first place, students at the beginning of their teaching careers are both dedicated and flexible. They provide enthusiastic guidance for their largely first-year students; they have the available time to offer close attention to their papers, to require frequent writing and revisions, to return student papers within a day, and to attent frequent teaching workshops. They are also responsive to the guidance of the Director of the Composition Programs, Charlene Sedgwick, who provides seminars on specific teaching problems as well as an intensive series of introductory workshops in the teaching of writing, and who spends many hours in individual consultation. Graduate students thus learn and are frequently reminded of up-to-date methods in the teaching of composition. They share a common set of assumptions about how one teaches writing; they help and reinforce one another. The first-year students they teach characteristically express enthusiasm for what they have received from their graduate instructors. Professor Sedgwick reviews evaluations of every instructor at the end of each semester, keeping a record of these assessments and using them as a guide to further assignments.

It is also the case-- and this is almost equally important, given the Department's responsibility for graduate as well as undergraduate education-- that teaching introductory writing is a vital skill for young men and women seeking university and college positions. Without the kind of training we offer, our graduate students would be at a great disadvantage in a highly competitive market.

(The University of Chicago Department of English, currently revising its graduate program, has discovered the disastrous consequences of providing students no experience or training in teaching writing.) Teaching in the ENWR program, they receive not only the help of Professor Sedgwick, but the support, guidance, and reinforcement of an assigned faculty mentor, who visits their classes at least once during their first semester of teaching (and oftener by request) and who stands ready to offer help to beginning teachers.

Any training of graduate students worthy of the name must be closely tied to the supervised development of their growth as teachers. We have taken this as a high and abiding responsibility. Unlike most comparable programs, we have resisted the financial lure of graduate student assistantships offered in the first and second years. Our students do not teach independent courses until they have completed two years of course work; at no point do they teach major-level courses in the English Department. What they do teach--composition beginning in their third year, introductory seminars in literature beginning in the fourth-- belongs to a deliberate, carefully elaborated system of teaching apprenticeship, a central component in the Department's preparation of a next generation of scholar/teachers.

Finally, the ENWR program provides graduate students' principal means of support. It is of our few significant resources for the funding essential to any sane graduate program under contemporary conditions. Graduate students who take on serious nonacademic jobs to pay their way are, experience shows, severely or even fatally hampered in their progress through what is at best a five- or six- year program. Unlike members of more lucrative and secure professions, they cannot reasonable be expected to incur high levels of personal indebtedness. Yet the cost of a graduate career continues to rise--especially at the University of Virginia, with its recent massive tuition increases.

Graduate students also teach many, though by no means all (27 out of 35 sections), of the ENLT offerings. These are courses on literary topics for pre- majors, courses for which there has been a high demand. (An ENLT course provides a popular way of satisfying the College's humanities requirement.) Graduate students compete for the right to teach them, on the basis of teaching record and of a course prospectus that they submit to the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Such courses are obviously valuable to the graduate student's training, providing practice in the teaching of literature, and graduate instructors have proved very successful in offering them.

Here, though, the teaching situation seems certain to change dramatically in the next few years. The Department has instituted as a prerequisite for the major an ENLT course taught either by a faculty member or by graduate students operating within a small team led by a faculty person who also teaches his or her own section.

This team system, providing instruction especially sensitive to undergraduate needs as well as forums for the development of pedagogical skill in graduate students, evolved from a specific course (ENLT 201) carefully worked out by a chaired professor, Jerome McGann, and another tenured faculty member, Steve Cushman, to answer the needs of prospective English majors. Professors McGann and Cushman taught the course, each leading a team of graduate students, for two years. The course itself has survived; it will be offered next semester under the leadership of two fulltime faculty members. And the methods it pioneered and now expanding into other individual courses with the ENLT designation.

The advent of this new requirement (which went into effect this fall), the Departments explicit commitment to a heavier weighing of undergraduate over graduate teaching, and the fact that we expect to decrease the number of Ph. D. students we accept by about five a year: all these actualities imply that a considerably higher proportion of ENLT sections will in the future be led by regular faculty.

Faculty work closely with undergraduates in 400-level and 500-level seminars, of which we offer between 18 and 23 sections per semester. Enrollment in these courses usually varies between 15 and 20. The seminars provide students with the opportunity to develop personal intellectual relations with faculty members. The writing of honors thesis supplies even better opportunities of the same sort. Many of the faculty work on directing such thesis (18 to 22 every term), often conferring with thesis writers for an hour or more every week. In addition, three to six students a semester pursue independent study projects in critical or creative writing, each with a faculty director.

It should be added that most of the regular faculty spend much of their time teaching writing in one way or another. It is, for instance, probably the norm in 400-level seminars to require the submission of "first drafts" in advance of a final paper. Teachers comment voluminously on these drafts, often holding individual conferences about them, trying to help seminar participants write more lucidly, forcefully, and cogently. Virtually every course in English literature requires a considerable body of writing from its students, and virtually every teacher in the Department works to advance students' awareness of the pit falls and the opportunities of writing. Student evaluations of the English Department faculty are typically very high. (Last semester, for instance, I wrote letters of congratulation to between a fourth and a third of my colleagues, all of whom had received evaluations almost unanimously in the highest possible category.) The consistent help they get with writing--and of course no one "learns" to write in a single semester--is one reason for student enthusiasm.

The English Department consists of a faculty profoundly dedicated to undergraduate teaching. With a smaller staff than those of most comparable departments offering instruction to fewer students, we work hard at what we do.

Our recent revisions of the curriculum, our recent decision to cut back the graduate program-both testify to the high importance we attach to undergraduate education. We spend a large proportion of our time on teaching (I hope to send you a letter with specific details about this later in the week), and we do it well. Doing it well requires time and administrative support--not administrative undermining.

Sincerely yours,

Patricia Meyer Spacks

Edgar F. Shannon Professor

Department Chair

October 20, 1993

Professor Steve Schnatterly

Department of Physics

Dear Steve,

I am responding to your request for information concerning how the Mathematics Department addresses elementary and lower division teaching. I am answering as one who oversaw this responsibility as chairman, and as one who is currently engaged in teaching an elementary calculus course. Some of what I am about to say is a personal view of the situation.

The Scale of Things

It is useful to indicate first the scale of lower division teaching. About 3/4 of the entering students in the College take some sort of mathematics course(s). Although mathematics is not a separate area requirement, some mathematics is a prerequisite for many majors (including the sciences and social sciences) and is required by professional schools such as Architecture and the Commerce School. Mathematics is perceived as central to a pre-med program of study; it is required in at least the Navy ROTC program. In any case, I would just summarize the situation by saying that the overall scale of lower division teaching is large, and a considerable fraction of the Department's teaching effort is directed toward elementary courses.

There is a wide diversity in the mathematical needs of our entering students. Some students will begin mathematical studies with a pre-calculus course, others might begin with actual calculus course--the 121-track or the 131-track or now a computer-intensive version of 131, and even an "honors" 141- track. We have in place special versions of the 121 and 132 courses designed to ease the transition from pre-calculus to calculus, and the transition between the 121- and 131- tracks. (Students frequently place out of one or more of the courses within a track and might begin at a more advanced level). There are other elementary courses including probability and finite math, mathematics intended for teachers, and elementary statistics (a best seller and a required course for admission to the Commerce School). In particular, there is no catch- all "mathematics 101" course. The menu for lower division mathematics courses is large. Needless to say, there is a wide diversity in the backgrounds and abilities of our entering students, compounding the complexity of addressing their needs.

How our courses are taught

How do we teach these courses? The Department has made the decision to teach mathematics either in small sections, 20-30 students, or in mid-size lectures which we try to hold to <= 75. (Typically the larger lectures break out into three small discussions sections, each meeting for an hour per week.) Our decision is based on the notion that mathematics is a discipline requiring a highly interactive classroom. Instruction is a dialogue between the instructor and student: The concepts, arguments and discussions in mathematics are complex, intricate and subtle, and should be presented with dialogue and active participation on the part of the students. ("Mr. T., I don't understand the algebra of that last step!" "Yo, Mr. T., can you give us another example of a derivative as a limit? I'm all confused about what a limit really is!") Conversely, the instructor needs this immediate feed-back if he/she is to succeed. I personally find myself in class attempting to balance a level of abstraction appropriate to the discipline itself with a level of concreteness suitable for student understanding; I need their help to achieve the balance. In a large "Mathematics 101" class, the dialogue isn't practical; the model of a lecturer speaking, and hundreds of students dutifully (passively) taking notes is unworkable.

Because of the variety of elementary courses taught, the number of students involved, and our desire to teach small to medium size classes essentially all regular faculty in the Department find themselves teaching a lower division course, and an upper division of graduate course, each semester (exceptions being made for administrative overload, chair-leave, and Sesquis, for example). The faculty alone do not cover the entire teaching appointment, the rest of our teaching responsibilities being shared with teaching assistants.

Teaching Assistants

How are our teaching assistants employed? First we use them to lead discussion/problem sections. (My own mid-size calculus breaks out into two discussion/problem sections, each of one hour, and led by two TAs. Their duties, which are typical, include assisting me in grading exams, going over homework problems, holding office hours.) Other TAs have greater responsibility, and actually lecture (in smaller lecture sections). For example, a TA may lecture one of the numerous sections of calculus 121 or statistics; typically the course will be coordinated by a regular faculty member who will select a text, make out a syllabus, assign homework, and oversee common mid-term and final exams. (The degree of autonomy of the TA admittedly does vary according to the faculty coordinators). No TA is used for undergraduate courses about Mathematics 225, differential equations, and there only as problem session instructors. Until very recently, the lectures of Math 131 and above were all taught by regular faculty; we are currently supplementing our teaching in 131 with a few senior graduate students.

First year graduate students in the Department will be assigned to lead two discussion/problem sections per week; they will have no lecture duties, unless they come with a master's degree or other advanced standing. After they have acclimated here a year, they will be given lecturing responsibilities, typically one lecture, and leading one problem section per semester. Again, their lecture sections will be "small", ideally less than 30 students. (At one point small was defined as 25, but pressures have pushed these numbers up in the past few years.) The Department, while utilizing the Teaching Resource Center, has instituted some teaching preparation activities for our TAs, which occur at the beginning and throughout the academic year. Beginning foreign graduate students have no teaching duties at all, and do not teach, until we (along with the Teaching Resource Center) are satisfied that they are comfortable and effective in the classroom. (It is not the case that mathematics is taught only in foreign tongues at Virginia. Contrary to the stereotyping that one hears, less than 20% of our graduate students are foreign--a figure which is significantly less than that at departments in comparable institutions.) Moreover, the TAs are monitored informally by the course coordinators, and by a regular student evaluation run by the Department. My reading of the evaluations, and the informal feedback that I get on our TAs is that overall, they do very sound, professional, and effective teaching for us. One does hear about other institutions, large lectures taught by unintelligible lecturers--the stereotype is out there--but such is not the case at Virginia. I would just add that the teaching of our TAs is very much an important part of their educational experience here.

How good are we at what we do?

There has been considerable negative reporting in the media on college mathematics education throughout the nation: mathematics at the University has not escaped this bashing. No doubt some of this criticism is justified. It is also the case that the discipline maintains high standards, and that for many students, the discipline is a struggle. It is unlikely that Mathematics will ever win the all-campus most popular major contest.

A recent college guide ranks our Department, as a place for undergraduate study in mathematics, in the mid-30s among all colleges and universities in the nation. One must understand that such a ranking is highly subjective. But Given the scale of our Department responsibilities, and the number of faculty and TAs that we have to meet these responsibilities, I believe the ranking to be qualitatively correct. Moreover, I believe that an appropriate emphasis is being placed on our lower division teaching effort.


The Department chair is responsible for coordination of offerings--usually about seventy courses per semester exclusively for undergraduates. Departmental caucuses meet twice a year to set the curriculum for the coming semester--to assure that the requisite number of courses at each level is offered, to avoid scheduling conflicts, and to utilize teaching talents most effectively. Virtually all faculty members teach courses at all levels--for first and second- -year students; history majors and other advanced undergraduates; and graduate students. Doctoral candidates, working under the supervision of their mentors as well as the instructors to whom they are assigned, serve as small-group section leaders in the larger lecture courses. Some faculty members also conduct discussion sections for their lecture courses. A few advanced graduate students teach their own seminars for history majors.

Four different types of undergraduate courses are offered by the Department:

1. 100-level courses are seminars limited to fifteen students. They are designed primarily for first-year students but often enroll second year students as well. Subject matter varies according to the interests of the instructor. (Sample titles: The American Civil Rights Movement; Postwar Japan; Women in Medieval Europe.) These seminars were conceived several years ago to provide the opportunity for first-year students to get to know faculty members in a small- group setting and to give them an intensive introduction to historical study. Faculty members of al ranks teach the seminars. The Department offers several of these seminars a semester. They are always oversubscribed.

2. 200-level courses are generally lecture courses introducing students to a broad field of history. (Sample titles: American History since 1865; Western Civilization to 1600; Colonial Latin American.) At least one 200-level survey course is offered every year in every field of History. These courses are taught by faculty members of all ranks. Many utilize graduate teaching assistants to lead small-group weekly discussion sections that supplement the lectures.

3. 300-level courses are more specialized offerings for advanced undergraduates. In a combination lecture and discussion format, these courses are taught by faculty of all ranks, generally in the area of their expertise. (Sample title: The Civil War Reconstruction; Twentieth-Century India; Tudor England.) For the first time this year. pm am experimental basis, advanced graduate students serve as apprentice teachers in some of the larger 300-level courses, conducting weekly discussion sections as supplements to the lectures.

4. 400-level courses are research seminars for history majors, limited to twelve students. All history majors are required to take one of these seminars in which they learn how history is actually written by writing a substantial research paper based on original sources. These seminars are taught by faculty of all ranks as well as by few advanced doctoral candidates selected for the suitability of their research to undergraduate projects. The seminar subject matter is generally chosen to fit the current research interests of the instructors so that the undergraduates are assured of the best instruction possible. (Sample titles: Southern Black Politics; Charlemagne; Disintegration of the Soviet Empire.)

In addition to these four levels of courses, students in the Distinguished Majors Program (the Honors Program) take a team-taught seminar in their third year and, in the fourth year, write a thesis under the direction of one member of the faculty. Finally, some students take directed readings courses on a subject of special interest to them. These are arranged on an ad hoc basis with individual faculty members.

The teaching load for History Department faculty of all ranks is two courses per semester. This load may be reduced in the case of persons holding administrative positions (such as chair of the department or director of graduate studies). Directed readings courses and the supervision of honors these (as well as M.A. thesis and Ph.D. dissertations) are teaching duties taken on in addition to the standard two courses.