11: Cultural Differences

Student participation in class is a very important part of the U.S. classroom. International students often report that the amount and type of interaction expected of them in the U.S. is different from their classroom experiences at home. Students in the U.S. are expected not only to know the content of their courses, but also to think independently about it, come to their own conclusions, and express their own perspectives and opinions. Professors even welcome disagreement and differing opinions. Openly disagreeing or expressing your opinion can be challenging for students who are accustomed to listening and taking notes rather than speaking up.

Why is participation in class important? Participating in class helps enhance the learning process. Also, students’ knowledge, experience, and opinions are valued in the U.S. Your participation helps a professor determine what you are learning and how well you understand the concepts. At first, you might find it difficult to comment or think of a question fast enough to respond in class. So, one piece of advice is, prior to class, think of questions you might want to ask.

In addition, professors will often put students in small groups to discuss a class topic or work on a group project together. It may be difficult to adjust to this approach, but you will get used to it and probably enjoy it.