The American Classroom

The American classroom is very unique. Many international students have never seen anything like it.

Lectures —

There are different types of university classes. That is, they are taught in different formats. At larger universities, the most common format is a lecture.

  • A lecture is a speech delivered by a professor.
  • The speech is relevant to the class topic.
  • The lecture is different in each class.
  • Lectures are delivered to large classes.

Take notes during lectures. They will help you prepare for exams later.


Smaller colleges have fewer lectures. Most of their classes are seminars. A seminar is based on class discussion. That is, the professor will present a topic. This topic might be taken from the most recent reading assignment. She will begin a discussion and the students participate.

You’re encouraged to speak up in a seminar. You are allowed to disagree with someone. You can say so, as long as you say why. Ask questions. Creativity is encouraged.


Professors have office hours. These hours are good times to receive academic support. These are blocks of time when students can visit professors. This is a good time to discuss classwork with professors. It is also a good time to ask for help if you have concerns or struggles.

Office hours might conflict with your classes and activities. Your professor can still help you. You’ll need to schedule an appointment to see him. Your professor should provide his contact information at the first class. This is usually found on the syllabus. (A syllabus is a list of assignments for the semester.)

Get to know all your professors. Even if you don’t need help, introduce yourself. It is a good relationship to have in the future.

Remember: You must go see professors on your own. They will rarely invite you to meet. If you have something to discuss, take the initiative to schedule a meeting.


When you participate in discussions, remember a few things:

  • Don’t interrupt. Allow someone to finish his or her point before you make yours.
  • Be respectful.  Consider the backgrounds of your professor and classmates. Americans are very sensitive to comments about:
      • Age
      • Ethnicity
      • Gender
      • Race
      • Religion
      • Sexual orientation
  • Be original. Build on remarks made by others. Don’t just repeat them.

You should take notes in seminars. These will help you prepare for exams. They will also serve as a reference when you write papers.

Be sure to note which remarks were made by others. You can use other people’s comments as a reference for papers. But you cannot treat them like your own ideas. That might be considered plagiarism.