Expert Advice| 权威建议

What a Great Student Looks Like from an American Professor’s Perspective

March 30, 2015 11:43 am | By Betty Wong

Do you have what it takes to be a great student in an America college? Depending on your background and your personality, this is really a tricky question, because what makes one a good student in one culture may makes one an awful student in another.

I have taught a number of undergraduate entrepreneurship classes at Baruch College, City University of New York, between 2003 and 2007. Baruch is one of the most ethnically diverse colleges in America, with students from 160 countries speaking 110 languages.* It stands to reason that I would teach a few Chinese or Asian students during those classes. Here are a few observations.

What I can say is that to be a great student in America requires one to be inquisitive and outgoing as well as studious and considerate. American professors like students to participate in open debate and ask questions in addition to handing in their homework assignments and papers. It isn’t enough for students to do their work – getting an A might require a more interactive approach. I suggest that in some classes, especially large classes, it is difficult for professors to know their students. But I will admit that those who speak up are often those most remembered. So if you want that A, be considerate of your professor – share your point of view, ask questions or provide answers to questions.

This method of interaction may not be what one is accustomed to, especially if one does not come from an environment where interaction is encouraged, where being silent is golden. Many students applying from schools overseas, where some classrooms may be very crowded, may believe that scoring well in an exam would be the best way to achieve academic success in America. This may be fine in the introductory courses even in America colleges, but once you move to advanced classes, this methodology is problematic.

To be honest, growing up in a Chinese household myself, I was not encouraged to speak up at the dinner table or express my point of view.  A bit shy myself when I was younger, my class participation was not always stellar. So I am empathetic to those who feel the need to sit at the back of the room or think they absolutely need to know an answer is 100% correct before shouting it out.

Lest you think this is a situation that only happens in undergraduate school, I have had an opportunity to be a guest lecturer at Columbia Business School, one of the premier graduate business schools in the country, where I also found myself encouraging Chinese and other Asian business students to speak their mind. I was delighted that the newest generation of students are more willing to interact with their instructors. The American education system does not  demands rote learning, but an environment that encourages and rewards interaction.

Betty Wong, founder of IntroAmericaTM, taught undergraduate entrepreneurship classes at Baruch College (CUNY) as a member of the Management Department during 2003-2007. She has also taught graduate and undergraduate marketing courses for University of Phoenix Online and has been a guest lecturer at NYU, Columbia and Sun Yat-sen University.

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