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U.S. Classroom Culture. Presented by International Student & Scholar Services Florida International University Modesto Maidique Campus Adapted from NAFSA’s U.S. Culture Series: U.S. Classroom Culture by Michael Smithee , Sidney L. Greenblatt & Alisa Eland. Agenda.

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u s classroom culture

U.S. Classroom Culture

Presented by

International Student & Scholar Services

Florida International University

Modesto Maidique Campus

Adapted from NAFSA’s U.S. Culture Series: U.S. Classroom Culture

by Michael Smithee, Sidney L. Greenblatt & Alisa Eland

  • Overview of U.S. System of Education
  • The University’s Academic Structure
  • The U.S. Classroom Learning Environment
    • Dominant pedagogical approach: learner-centered
    • Interaction in the classroom
    • Interaction with faculty
    • Methods of evaluation
    • Academic writing in the U.S.
  • Academic Advisors and Other Resources
  • Standards of Academic Conduct & U.S. Cultural Values
overview of u s system of education1
Overview of U.S. System of Education
  • Both private and public schools tend to be governed by a decentralized system
    • Many decisions regarding curriculum, university structure, etc. are made at the local level
  • However, public institutions are affected by state legislatures (budget)
    • FIU is a public Florida state institution
    • Florida residents have some priority and pay lower tuition rates for this reason
the university s academic structure1
The University’s Academic Structure

Faculty and instructors differ in rank and length of contract.

  • Full professors: Tenured faculty, hold a doctoral degree
    • Tenure: on a permanent contract with the school until they retire
  • Assistant professors:Usually have been in their position less than seven years
  • Adjunct professors:May be temporary employees of the university
  • Graduate Assistants or Teaching Assistants (TA’s):Play an important role
    • Teaching
    • Grading tests and papers
    • Meeting with students
the university s academic structure2
The University’s Academic Structure

Administrative components

Course offerings:

  • You may not be able to take a course in the semester you want
    • Limited availability of faculty – not always offered
    • Lockstep programs – offered fall but not spring, etc.
  • Limited space in the class
    • Register early
    • Pay attention to schedules, deadlines, plan ahead

The U.S. Classroom Learning Environment

Important U.S. cultural values that impact the classroom learning environment:

  • Personal responsibility
  • Freedom of expression
  • Independent thinking
  • Community engagement
the u s classroom learning environment1
The U.S. Classroom Learning Environment

Before coming to the U.S., some international students may have little experience with the learner-centered style and must adjust their behavior in certain classes to succeed.

the u s classroom learning environment2
The U.S. Classroom Learning Environment

Interaction in the classroom

  • Class Participation is important (may be big part of your final grade)
    • Check syllabus!
  • Tips (if you think this will be difficult for you):
    • Spend time before class thinking of comments to share, write them down
    • Start with a question
    • Talk to your prof about your discomfort
  • You will be expected to:
    • Think independently
    • Express your opinion
    • Even disagree with the instructor at times
    • Back up your opinion with evidence

The U.S. Classroom Learning Environment

Interaction with faculty

  • Faculty in the U.S. may be less formal
    • Variation among individual faculty members
    • Some professors may go by their first name
    • Faculty may dress informally
    • You may see students that dress VERY informally also (pajamas)

Relaxed dress and posture should not be confused with relaxed standards; high standards in academic performance are still expected.

  • Faculty-student relationship:
    • Is a professional one
    • Should not share your personal life
    • Or take up professors’ valuable time with issues not related to the class
    • Visit faculty during office hours
the u s classroom learning environment3
The U.S. Classroom Learning Environment

Computer-based instruction

  • Depending on course offerings, you may have to take certain classes online
  • In-person classes: Professor may use certain online resources:
    • Learning Management System (LMS) such as Blackboard, Moodle, etc.
    • turnitin.com
the u s classroom learning environment4
The U.S. Classroom Learning Environment

Evaluation: Typically students are evaluated in many ways

  • The instructor’s evaluation methods will be indicated in the syllabus and may include:

Exams: multiple choice, short answer, essay

Papers, lab reports

Oral presentations, group projects

Participation in class discussion, attendance

  • Multiple-Choice Tests: popular in the U.S. – you may need to get used to them
    • On most multiple-choice tests, there is only ONE correct answer for each question; make sure you understand the format, answer questions appropriately
  • Academic work throughout the semester is cumulative:
    • You may have many assignments that will all count as part of your final grade (not just one final exam)
resources outside the classroom
Resources Outside the Classroom
  • Center for Excellence in Writing (GL 125): can help you with the entire process of writing – style, content, structure
    • NOTE: Some international students struggle with academic papers because they have learned to write in a very different style
    • Important to include citations in the correct format (APA, MLA, etc.) – consult syllabus or professor
  • Center for Academic Success (GL 120):
    • reading & learning strategies
    • mathematics, statistics tutoring
  • Graduate Research Center (MARC 430): helps undergraduate and graduate students in research-based programs apply for and obtain external funding
resources outside the classroom1
Resources Outside the Classroom

Academic Advisors

  • A critical resource for students to draw upon
  • Make a plan; visit often to check progress and update your plan
  • Check your Panther degree audit: my.fiu.edu
  • Also monitor your grades, low GPA can affect your progress
  • Undergraduate Academic Advising Center: PC 249
  • Transfer and Transition Services (if transferring credits from another institution): PC 237
resources outside the classroom2
Resources Outside the Classroom

Understanding the Grading Scale Used in the U.S.

  • Academic Advisors may also help to explain if you have questions
  • 4 Point Scale (A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0)

To calculate GPA (Grade Point Average), add the grade points earned for each course (depends on the grade received and the number of credits for the course) and divide by the total number of credit hours attempted

  • Info and guides are available online on sites such as http://gpacalculator.net
resources outside the classroom3
Resources Outside the Classroom

Freedom of choice and personal responsibility

  • YOU have the freedom to choose courses, research topics, etc. - your academic advisors and professors will NOT choose for you
  • With freedom comes responsibility
    • YOU must know the choices and make informed decisions
    • YOU must ALSO know deadlines, required forms, procedures for payment, etc. – check Academic Calendar at onestop.fiu.edu
  • Administrators, advisors and instructors are there to guide you
    • You don’t have to know all the answers, but it is your responsibility to ASK for the information
standards of academic conduct
Standards of Academic Conduct

Ownership of knowledge

  • Academic rules, and U.S. laws, protect the individual’s right to own his or her words and ideas.
  • Original ideas, words, and knowledge: what is already written must be cited:


journal articles

unpublished manuscripts

web or other internet-based sources

spoken words from a formal speech

  • Plagiarism: using ideas or words of another without giving proper credit to the author
    • Professors may use turnitin.com to detect
standards of academic conduct1
Standards of Academic Conduct

Academic misconduct

  • Suspicion of plagiarism or cheating may lead to an official charge of academic misconduct
  • Processed through the school’s disciplinary committee
  • Even if not charged, professor usually gives a failing grade on the assignment or a failing grade for the course
  • Repeated offenses will lead to expulsion from the university
in conclusion some advice
In Conclusion: Some Advice
  • Identify fellow students who can help you adjust
  • Look for opportunities and don’t be afraid of change
  • You are here because of your past academic successes – be confident!
  • Invest time and effort in developing relationships with instructors and academic advisors
    • Direct and regular communication with them is often the key to success