American Classroom Culture

You may find American culture to be more casual than that of your home country. This will probably extend to the classroom as well. Keep in mind, however, every professor and class is different.

Active Participation is Expected
Except in very large lecture hall situations, professors generally expect and encourage questions and lively discussion. If the class isn’t structured for questions during class time, make sure you have your questions ready to ask your professor after class, during office hours, or before the next class. There is no shame in not understanding something.

Independent Thinking is Highly Valued
As you pursue your studies, you should critique theories, evaluate options, formulate models, and challenge yourself. Bring your conclusions and questions to class and share your insights with your classmates and professors. Unlike some other cultures, U.S. culture encourages people to stand out from their peers (rather than blending in with them) through their achievements and independent and creative thinking.

U.S. Education is Learner-Centered
In the U.S., many professors will want the students themselves to be the main focus in the classroom. That means that the instructors are not the main focus, and class time will not be entirely devoted to a professor’s lectures. Instead, many professors may ask the students to work together in groups in and out of class and to freely voice their thoughts when a question is posed. It is encouraged for students to ask questions and voice their thoughts in class.

Respectful Disagreement During Class Discussion is Accepted
Always be prepared to present and defend your ideas. Always do so with respect for the ideas presented by your professor and your classmates.

Informality is Normal
Students may dress casually. They may eat or drink during class if permission has been given by the instructor. Some may be allowed to address certain professors by their first names. None of that behavior reflects a lack of respect for the professor or the classroom experience.

None of the above is a sign of disrespect of your professor or classmates.

Important Perspective on Academic Honesty
Honesty is a critical requirement of American academic culture and ACU standards. Universities across the country operate on an honor system based on a simple principle of academic honesty: each student’s answers or written submissions must reflect his or her personal understanding and work.

Cheating (having someone else write your papers, take your exams or give you answers during an exam) and plagiarism (submitting someone else’s work as your own) are unacceptable. Using English language translation services to complete your work is also dishonest since your language proficiency is a requirement of your studies.

Infractions of the standards of academic honesty, no matter how minor, are unacceptable and carry serious consequences ranging from a failing grade on a paper or exam to suspension or removal from the University.

When you learn for the sake of learning, explore to develop a deeper understanding, and challenge yourself to think independently, you will find that academic honesty flows freely and naturally from that process.