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U.S. Classrooms

US_class side-by-side.jpgClassroom expectations, assignments, projects and teaching styles may be different in the U.S. compared to your home country.

U.S. Classroom Culture

  • Your instructor may require you to actively participate in class discussions, work on group projects and make presentations. You are expected to contribute whether working alone or in a small group.

  • Depending on the course, you may have two different types of instructors. The professor is a faculty member of the university, has designed the course and often teaches in the lecture. The TA, or teaching assistant, is a graduate or Ph.D. student who assists the professor and may teach as well.  

  • You will receive a syllabus for each course. Be sure to read it carefully as it describes the requirements for the course. You are responsible for the assignments, deadlines and course policies on the syllabus, even if the instructor does not mention them in class.

  • Take advantage of the instructor's office hours. This is a time when you may visit his or her office with questions. Most professors will also see students by appointment and/or will accept email inquiries.

  • Academic integrity is taken very seriously in the U.S. Make sure you understand MSU’s policies regarding academic misconduct.

Interacting with Faculty

Faculty members may be less formal than what you are used to at home. It is not uncommon for professors to be on a first-name basis with students, but check with the professor before addressing them by first name only. In class, students and instructors often dress very casually and faculty may roam the classroom while talking or sit on the edge of a desk in a relaxed posture.

In the U.S., the faculty-student relationship is considered to be professional. While instructors are happy to help students with understanding course material and preparing for class assignments, they may not be as personally involved as teachers in other countries. 

Regarding communication, students are expected to be direct and specific with faculty. Instructors expect students to ask for help directly. You may have reservations about approaching faculty, but consulting with an instructor about your work is considered normal and is expected in the U.S. 

An Overview of Teaching Methods

Lecture is, as in most countries, a professor standing at the front of the room and presenting course material.

Discussion can be with an entire class or broken down into smaller groups of people. This helps students discuss and clarify what they have learned and is emphasized in most classrooms.

Practical application is used by an instructor when they encourage students to cite examples of a concept being used in various situations. Experiential learning such as a job or internship can also help students see theories at work.

Case studies and real world examples are used in class to give students practice in applying new knowledge and concepts.

Experiential or active learning can take place in a laboratory, classroom, natural environment or community. It is used to apply what students learn in a controlled environment in a real-world setting.

Computer based instruction is used in MSU's extensive online class system. This allows a professor to conduct a class outside of the classroom, allowing students to watch lectures and submit assignments online. 

For more information on U.S. classrooms, watch the videos below.

Formal Classroom Culture


Informal Classroom Culture