la joie de vivre

From California to Lyon, France: living & studying abroad…and coming back!

Cultural Differences in the Classroom

It was my first week in the French uni, and it was CRAZY!

But some differences were already very, very clear.

You can see them in two different types of classes: 1) classes in which there is very little teacher-student interaction and the teacher is just talking at your face; and 2) classes in which there is a lot of teacher-student interaction, and they expect lots of participation.

1) Lectures

From the start, it doesn’t look too different. The paper here looks more like graph paper, but since us foreigners live here that’s what we have to buy, too!

But then the teacher starts talking.

If French students aren’t furiously typing away on their computer, they are constantly switching out tools in their handy-dandy pencil case: black pen, blue pen, yellow highlighter, pink highlighter, ruler, etc.

Basically if I see a ruler, I know that the student is probably French.

On the other hand…

If a student has a notebook--even a French notebook--they're probably foreign. And yep, I use a notebook, & I love it :)

From what I’ve seen, typical American students get bored a lot more easily. I don’t know if we’re just habituated to have a shorter attention span or what.

But I’ve seen no doodling on the margins, no paper passing, no Facebook checking, no sudoku-solving in the classroom.

I think I must look like this little dude in comparison!

One weird thing: I’ve seen some of the French students talk during class. And not whispers: actual talking. This was only during an intro of a class, and it seems to have been an anomaly (so far, at least!)

I remember one time when I was back in the States, one of my professors stopped mid-lecture and said: “You know, this isn’t TV. I can see and hear you talk!”

2) Participation

People only have to wait a couple of seconds for silence to be uncomfortable (read more about this here).

Or that’s what I thought!

In the translation class I went to, the teacher asked for an extreme amount of participation, something that is very, very unusual in the French university system. So when he’d ask questions, a silence would linger.

I noticed it would make me so antsy that I’d try to jump in to fill it.

But once I waited, it seemed like I waited forever. The other students were avoiding eye contact to the max and pretending to look at their notes. We waited and waited and the teacher just had to eventually call on someone!

See that girl in the beige? I WISH people had that much enthusiasm! (or at least every once in a while!)

Image credits:

Doug: http://thebingingartist.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/doug-from-up-the-movie/

Classroom: http://www.civitasschools.org.uk/

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This entry was posted on January 28, 2012 by in Student Life abroad and tagged .
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