American Teaching Styles

Perhaps because of the high cost of tuition at American universities, Americans typically view students as customers and schools as businesses. As such, teachers will attempt to cater to the needs of their students – if a certain process doesn’t interest the customers (students), the teacher will change it in order to keep the customers attentive.

During their classes, if American teachers notice that students aren’t paying attention, they will often include several amusing anecdotes that they tell throughout the class to keep their students’ focus.

For example, during a physics class, it would not be uncommon for an American professor to stop the lecture to talk to students about how Herman Weyl (one of the early proponents of group theory) had an affair with Erwin Schrodinger’s (the physicist who’s best known not only for his quantum mechanics equation but also for his potentially dead cat) wife, or how Murray Gell-Mann (who won the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics) was so narcissistic that he once warned his cab driver not to cash his check, because he believed that his signature was worth more than his cab fare had been.

American teachers will also include anecdotal stories from their own lives if these stories have any relevance to the subject matter.

Zero Tolerance

Americans typically prefer rules that are very specific, but not meant to be followed to the letter. Nevertheless, recently in response to a lot of complaints about inconsistencies in disciplining misbehaving students, many American school systems have started adopting strict zero tolerance policies.

These policies typically state that any student committing a wrongdoing will receive the same pre-determined punishment, no matter what the specifics of his/her offense are.

Schools have had quite a bit of trouble implementing these policies, and statistics have shown that the rigid rules have actually led to elevated dropout rates and an increasing number of suspensions. This is largely because American students are used to having a little “wiggle room,” and weren’t accustomed to the strict enforcement policy.

Wiggle room – permission to slightly bend a couple of rules, as long as most of the rules are followed.

Business Majors

Business has long been a cornerstone of American culture. The American Dream is typically associated with the ability to start with almost nothing, and through the virtues of business, to rise to great wealth and social stature.

Although the U.S. is no longer the country with the largest rate of social mobility in the world Americans still hold business savvy and an ability to rise in social stature in high prestige.

The most popular major for American university students is business, with approximately 22% of graduates. Science and engineering are the least popular majors, with approximately 5% of American students choosing engineering, and only 1.4% choosing physical sciences.

As a result of this business prestige, in every American engineer you’ll find a businessperson – someone who’s always looking to get the best for less, and will never consider quality without also considering the cost necessary to achieve it.

Prussian Reforms

Much of what is Germany has its roots in the Prussian reforms of the early 19th Century. Napoleon‘s rapid defeat of Prussia in 1806/07 led to a deep-dive analysis of what went wrong, of what required reform. The Germans radically changed their agricultural system, their business laws, their military training, and most importantly their system of education.

Public eduction for all was introduced. The universities adopted the Humboldt education philosophy, which stressed free and independent inquiry and teaching. Knowledge quickly became the foundation of a modern Prussian economy and state, in many ways for contemporary Germany.

The Prussian Reforms also addressed state institutions. A system of professional civil servants and a bureaucracy was instituted. Bureaucracy then stood for efficiency and professionalism. The tax laws were simplified and made transparent. The state should function more efficiently and become a motor for positive change.

Germany today remains a rather bureaucratic country, with its scores of civil servants, rules and laws. It is a country where one simply cannot do as one pleases. From the perspective of other societies this is a limitation on freedom. Germans, though, view it as a sign of security and stability. Doing things the right way, punctuality, reliability, predictability, following the rules, bureaucracy. Germany has a 200 year history of these. They are who the Germans are as a people.

“I’d give it a B+”

August 10, 2015. 8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. National Public Radio (NPR). The segment is Marketplace. 

Stating that many students (pupils from elementary to high school) are returning to school, the announcer reports that school-related consumer shopping – supplies, clothes and electronics – is down 5% or more.

An expert is interviewed briefly. He is asked to give a grade for the disappointing results thusfar. His voice is low, unanimated, sounding a bit depressed: “I’d give it a B+.”

B+ is only half a grade from an A. And an A is considered to be excellent.

“Almost everyone gets an A”

A comment by a German with extensive experience at the university level in the U.S.: “I think the real issue here is not how grades are officially classified but that there is a much stronger tendency of grade inflation in the U.S. 

Almost everyone gets an A, whereas a B already feels like a failure even though it’s officially considered “good”. 

Germans – at least at university level – are much more likely to give a student a C and think that she/he did a good job. When professors give a B they think the student’s paper is great. A basically means a professor could have written this.”

Rankings

Rankings – or standings – are particularly popular in the U.S. Where an individual, team, organization „stands“ is always in competitive comparison to other individuals, teams, organizations.

Examples of college and university rankings include US News and Business Report, Princeton Review College Rankings, College Prowler Traditional College and University Rankings. Subjects of rankings include Liberal Arts Colleges, National University, Research, Student Satisfaction, Diversity, Alumni Networks, among others.

Business school rankings are found in BusinessWeek, Forbes, US News Business School Rankings, Princeton Review Business School Rankings, Wall Street Journal Business School Rankings, Poets&Quants, the Economist. Subsets include region, country, specialization, composite, and endowment.

Law School rankings are found in Vault, LLM Guide, Princeton Review Law School Rankings, US News & World Report, Gourman Report, Hylton, Leiter, National Law Journal, QS World University Rankings, and Judging Law School Rankings.

Corporate rankings are found in Fortune 500, MarketWatch, Most Ethical Companies Rankings, Netweek Green Rankings, Careers.org Company Rankings, Forbes Company Rankings, SEO Company Rankings. Subcaterogies include revenue, ecologically friendliness, ethical behavior, innovation, size, industry, sector, social media presence, pay, employee satisfaction, and career development.

„What’s the Point of a Professor?“

The New York Times online pubished an opinion piece by Mark Bauerlein, Professor of English Literature at Emory University in Atlanta, on May 9, 2015, entitled „What’s the Point of a Professor?“

In it Bauerlein – clearly an American of German descent – writes: „In 1960, only 15 percent of grades were in the A range, but now the rate is 43 percent, making A the most common grade by far.“

The auther further states that faculty members’ attitudes are kindly, too. In one national survey, 61 percent of students said that professors frequently treated them „like a colleague/peer,“ while only 8 percent heard frequent „negative feedback about their academic work.“ 

According to the survey more than half leave the graduation ceremony believing that they are „well prepared“ in speaking, writing, critical thinking and decision-making.“

„You can’t become a moral authority“, writes Bauerlein, „if you rarely challenge students in class and engage them beyond it. If we professors do not do that, the course is not an induction of eager minds into an enlarging vision. When it comes to students, we shall have only one authority: the grades we give. We become not a fearsome mind or a moral light, a role model or inspiration. We become accreditors.“

Scoring System

Superlative: Of, relating to, or constituting the degree of grammatical comparison that denotes an extreme or unsurpassed level or extent; surpassing all others, supreme; of very high quality, excellent; excessive, exaggerated. The superlative form of nice is nicest, bad is worst, of interesting is most interesting.

The American academic system – high school, university respectively – uses the following scoring: A excellent (high school), 4.0 (university); B good, 3.0; C satisfactory, 2.0; D pass, 1.0; F fail, no credit.

Grade inflation occurs when higher grades are assigned for work that would have received lower grades in the past. The American academic community has attempted time and again to address the problem of grade inflation, but have yet to establish workable standards.

Grade inflation

It is getting more and more competitive to get into a prestigious university. One must be a straight A student with a high SAT score to even get into a prestigious public university, such as the University of Washington.

In 2012 the Seattle Times published an article which stated that the average GPA of incoming freshman at the University of Washington in fall 2011 was 3.75. This points out an interesting problem, which is the inflation of grades.

If students need to get better and better grades to get accepted to college, it will eventually devalue the GPA. Furthermore, it could create added stress for young students if they receive a grade that is not an A, such as an B or C. This type of grade inflation could influence the grading scale in a negative way.