Lectures are the primary form of instruction, especially at the undergraduate level. Although attendance may not be recorded, you are nevertheless expected to attend; however, it could count towards your final grade or towards classroom participation. Classroom discussion, recitations, reading assignments, and periodic written assignments supplement the lectures. Students are expected to contribute to the discussion in the classroom. American professors want students to respect their knowledge and opinions, but they generally prefer discussion and debate to respectful silence. Questioning or challenging the teacher is viewed as a healthy sign of interest, attention and independent thinking. Silent observation is often assumed to indicate that you are not interested in what is being said in class, or that you do not understand.
Although most faculty members encourage critical thinking from students, the manner which criticism is expressed is important. You can show respect by acknowledging your professor’s point of view and then offering yours for consideration. The teaching style of the professor can determine the amount of student participation in each class. Some instructors prefer a more formal style of lecture with a possible question and answer period at the end. Others prefer a more conversational style and encourage interaction throughout the class. You can get the ‘feel’ of the classroom expectations with the first few weeks of class or discuss classroom etiquette with your classmates or professor if you have questions or concerns.