The Faculty

Faculty members range in rank from full professor to associate and assistant professor to instructor. In addition, teaching assistants, who are graduate students employed as part-time instructional or research assistants, are involved in classroom teaching.

Several myths persist about the quality of instruction at large universities like Penn State. One is that you never see a professor in the classroom; another is that large classes and poor instruction are synonymous.

To address the first myth, some of a first-year or sophomore student's instruction is given by teaching assistants; but as you move into your major, more instruction is provided by professors.

First-year students and sophomores are more likely to be enrolled in introductory survey courses. In courses at this level, professors usually deliver the lectures and teaching assistants (TAs) lead smaller discussion or lab sessions—called recitation sessions—for the same class. Courses you take during your final two years, however, are more likely to be in the major and taught by a professor, although he or she may be assisted by a graduate student.

The quality of instruction in large classes depends on the skill of the faculty member, the subject matter, your interest in the course, the enthusiasm and interest of your fellow students, and classroom interaction. In addition to the time spent in class, faculty members have office hours during which you may ask questions. Some classes also hold extra review sessions where students with questions can seek answers or additional faculty contact.