Classroom Culture

You may find the American classroom culture to be more casual than that of your home country. Keep in mind, however, that every professor and class is different so be sure to pay attention to the standards that each of your professors set. Professors will list their office hours in the syllabus, a specific set of time each week that they are available for student meetings. It is common for students to attend office hours in order to form a connection with the professor and to address questions in the course content or concerns about the course.

Consistent and respectful communication with your academic advisor is essential. Academic advisors will assist you in registering for courses and staying on track for graduation. They can also work with you to change your major or add majors/minors if you are interested in doing so.

We encourage you to use academic resources such as Global Student Success, the Writing CenterTutoring Services, and English as a Second Language Programs as often as you need. Please visit your individual college websites for program-specific tutoring programs and resources.

Active Participation

Active participation is expected in most American classrooms and is generally a portion of the student’s final grade. Students are expected to contribute to class discussions, such as making comments or critiques on assigned readings. Lack of participation can be interpreted as disinterest in the material or a lack of preparation for class. Regular attendance and arriving to class on time is expected. Absences or late arrivals can also result in the lowering of your participation grade. We recommend you read the syllabus of each course closely to determine how many absences are allowed in each of your courses. Come to class with all assigned readings and coursework complete and be ready to verbally share your thoughts. Get to know your professor’s style and expectations as they may vary from class to class.

Independent and critical thinking

As you pursue your studies, you will be asked to critique theories, evaluate evidence, identify assumptions in an argument, consider likelihoods, and challenge your own opinions. This style of knowledge acquisition is often referred to as “independent” or “critical thinking” and is a resolute expectation in American universities. Students are expected to form and share their own opinions and present a supporting argument. Disagreement is allowed and even invited as long as class discussion remains respectful.

Academic integrity

The culture of the U.S. places a strong focus on individualism, meaning that Americans value independent scholarship and original thought. Therefore, we have a conception of the “ownership” of academic thoughts that is very different from other cultures. In U.S. academic writing, it must be clear with whom an idea originated. References to other people’s work require citations within the assignment and on a reference sheet. Handing in written work that is not properly cited or directly copied from another source is referred to as plagiarism in the United States. Each instructor has different expectations regarding citations, so students should make sure to understand the expectations of their individual instructors.

For more information about academic integrity and avoiding plagiarism, please click here.