Teaching Styles

Don’t forget that somewhere in between all your new experiences as an international student in the USA you’ll have to actually go to classes. But when you get there, you may be a bit surprised at how they’re taught.  

Teaching styles in the USA may be different to those you’re used to in your home country. Here, courses tend to be somewhat interactive and are less dependent on rote memorization, with students encouraged to ask questions and discuss topics. 

If you’re used to going to class every day in a uniform or suit, you’ve come to the wrong place. Most faculty wear somewhat professional clothing, but students…let’s just say that jeans are probably too formal for most classes. The good news is that being a student lets you embrace your inner laziness about getting dressed (if you want it to).

In general, class sizes tend to be relatively small, though this depends on the course and the number of students enrolled at the school. Often, however, some first-year courses that cater to numerous majors or specialties can have dozens or hundreds of students. But if that sounds overwhelming, you’ll be glad to know that these large lectures may also have smaller sections run by teaching assistants or other faculty who review information and provide supplemental materials. Plus, professors often have office hours, where students can answer questions or receive additional help in a more individualized setting. 

Your grade in most classes will be based on your scores on tests, quizzes, and writing assignments. If courses require projects or presentations, your grades will be based on those, too. And finally, some professors might consider your participation in class as part of your grade. In fact, if your large lecture has a smaller discussion section, active participation may even improve your grade. The better the professor and teaching assistants know you and your work, the better they will be able to assess your progress. But don’t worry about any of this ahead of time – most professors will provide a rubric, which is essentially a breakdown of requirements and how everything will be weighted.

Last, but possibly most important: You must do all your work on your own unless otherwise specified in the instructions for an assignment. Though studying with fellow students is fine, collaborating with others on individual essays, exams, presentations, etc. when not authorized by your teacher is considered cheating. Likewise, quoting a text word for word without properly attributing the source is plagiarism. Cheating and plagiarism are grounds for failing a class or even expulsion from school.