Classroom Culture in the United States

The culture of the U.S. classroom may differ from what you are used to. There are some key differences you should be prepared for: 

Faculty Interaction

  • You should always address faculty as Dr. and then their family name, e.g. Dr. Smith, Dr. Jones. However, some faculty may ask you to address them by first name.
  • Faculty have office hours each week. You should plan to take advantage of these opportunities to visit faculty outside of class. Here you will have the chance to ask questions or get clarification of material. You can also take the opportunity to speak to faculty about other things, perhaps you are having health issues or you would like to have opportunities to apply what you are learning in a volunteer position within the community.
  • Some faculty may invite you to their office hours. This does not necessarily mean you are in trouble.


  • In most US classrooms a portion of your grade will be based on attendance and participation. American faculty often expect that students will have a position/opinion about the material they are studying and will ask for that during class. It is important that you come to class fully prepared and ready to discuss the material you have read or the homework you have done.
  • Many US classrooms include group work. You will be expected to be an active participant with the other students in your group. It is not enough to let the other students speak. In some cases you will have group assignments that you will need to do outside of class. It is important that you go to all the meetings your group sets up and that you do your share of the work.

Academic Honesty

  • Academic honesty is taken very seriously at US universities. Students have been dismissed for plagiarism and other forms of cheating.
  • The expectation is that the student knows the rules of proper citation, research techniques, and other academic honesty practices. If you are caught you can not plead ignorance. You must use resources such as the writing center, workshops, and the online information sources about academic honesty to familiarize yourself with the norms in US universities.

The Syllabus

The syllabus is your guide to the course and the professor’s expectations. You should take the time to read it carefully. It well tell you what you will be studying, reading and doing in the course, how grades will be determined, what the expectations are for attendance and participation and where to find the professor during office hours.

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