Classroom “Comparative Culture” Study

This is a paper my sister wrote while at Xavier and I thought posting it here would be a good idea since she is a great writer. So read on and comment.

Classes at Xavier can be referred to as micro-societies that are the building blocks of the much larger Xavier community or institution. Every class like a society has its own culture that includes the rules, leadership style, and norms of the class. In this study, three such classes are going to be looked at to examine their cultures and if those cultures have an impact on the lives and attitudes of students and what those impacts are.

Firstly, we will look at classroom A, a language class, with the “leader” professor A. This class is a group of students who, for the most part, have some background in studying the language. Students are seated around a long oval table in the center of the room. The rest of the class is seated in the same oval pattern behind. This is a more closed-in face-to-face sitting arrangement. It kind of makes the class less formal which facilitates discussions and chatting in the language being studied. Groups are easily formed for group work as students sit close to each other. There is mixed female and male seating pattern and students are close to the teacher. The class is usually very informal and relaxed. As a language class, students get to talk about more personal and day-to-day activities they were involved, as a means of oral practice. Students tend to be more respectful and compromising to other students’ incompetence probably due to the fact that there is a general notion that this is a foreign language, and as a result, students are more relaxed and easily display their incompetence with the language without much shame. Moreover, professor A encourages all to speak a frequently. This encourages more class participation. Some class rules are that students are required to complete assignments and reading before class, complete all quizzes and exams and attend class regularly. These are the more formal rules. Some informal rules are that all electronic devices should be turned off in class and that all students are suppose to respect each other by being attentive and quiet when another student is expressing himself or self in the language.

Professor A uses markers and the white board to write, the required text, music, films and the projector in lesson presentation. She is very enthusiastic about the subject and engages students in a lot of informal discussions. She mostly wears a smile and encourages students to be alive and active. She poses direct questions to students and is patient with the pace of students in answering.  Students are very comfortable in this class and share a lot of personal details. Student comfortability is very high and accordingly professor productivity is high too.

Secondly, let’s look at class B, a philosophy class, with teacher B. This class seems to be more tensed, hence a relatively quiet class. There is less student participation, and students who participate are the same ones almost every time. Sometimes class room atmosphere becomes tensed due to touchy ethical issues brought on the board for debate. Students sit further from the professor in an elevated rows pattern, that is, students in the front row are lower than those that follow right behind them.  There is a mixed sitting pattern in regard to female and male students. Professor B is further away from the student in the front. He paces to the left and right and sits in the middle of his desk, when teaching. He uses the blackboard a lot and writes down key points from one end of the board to another. He uses handouts for class presentation. He likes to play the devil’s advocate to challenge students to think. He throws in random jokes and bad words to get students’ attention, to get them to relax. That can be a little distracting too as students may lose their train of thought. He uses hand gestures and intonations and voice fluctuation for emphasis. He tries to make the subject practical and relevant to students’ character in the society. Students are generally not very comfortable in this class. Student tend to have to raise their voices more as the class is widely distributed, and students are father away from the professor. Also due to the nature and complexity of the subject, students tend to be mostly silent and mostly pass questions on to other students.  Some rules are that student read materials twice or more before class, complete quizzes and assignments and come to class regularly. Some more informal rules are that students come to class early, pay attention and contribute to class discussion. Also students are not allowed to uses electronic devises during class time. Student confortability is low and productivity is quite average.

Last but not the least, is class C, a science class, with professor C. This class is usually a lecture by professor C using slides and the blackboard in lesson presentation.  The class is usually quiet, as it is suppose to be as there are no class discussions. Students tend to listen and take notes during the lecture and occasionally ask questions. Some students look at the clock a lot and some decide to sleep. Lecture tends to be a lot of information being given to students continuously with no pause for discussion or input by student. Students are seated very far from teacher, especially those in the back of the class. Rows are elevated gradually from the front seat to the back seat. Class population is large; contains about fifty students. Teacher presents the subject in a practical and applicable way to make science relevant to the student. Professor C uses the blackboard to explain things that cannot be done using the projected slides. He uses handout which are the printed versions of the slides that he uses. Professor C makes demonstrations with his body or descriptive mind pictures to carry information across and is pretty enthusiastic about the subject. The basic classroom rules are similar to that of the classroom A and B. Professor C encourages students to come to him during office hours and to take notes during class sessions. Student comfortably is quite average and productivity, according to Professor C, is quiet low.

Comparing these three classroom cultures, there are a couple of similarities and differences that surfaced. I noticed that in classroom A where the sitting arrangement are closely space and students are close to the professor, the class tends to be more relaxed and informal. Class participation is encouraged and student comfortabily and productivity is high. Other factors such as the enthusiasm of the professor about the subject, and the fact that the class is a language class; could be attributed to the culture of the class and its impact on students. Unlike classroom A, classroom C is larger, more formal and students are seated very far from the professor. There is no discussion and very little class participation because of the nature of the subject and the presentation style of Professor C. Students sleep in class and watch the clock a lot and productivity is not very high.  In classroom B, the sitting arrangement may not favor easy class participation although it is highly needed in this subject. Teacher is moderately father away from student and so they would have to raise their voices to contribute, which a lot of students are not comfortable with.  Moreover, professor B sometimes throws in random words and jokes that completely veer off the topic on the board. This may distract students and delay their thought process or completely change their thought process and disenable them to promptly and actively contribute concrete arguments and suggestions, which are much needed in the class.

In conclusion, looking at the study we can say that classroom culture definitely has an impact on the lives of the students. Although, other underlying factors which were not mentioned may be contributing factors as well, the culture of a class which is primarily controlled by the leader, which in this case is the professor, impacts the productivity of the students, the interpersonal skills and friendships that the students develop, and the student interest in the course. Students are not likely to make friends in classes where there are no or very little group discussions or relations with fellow classmates. Also students’ interest and productivity in a course that they have no say about will tend to be low as it becomes irrelevant and boring to the student. As college is the training ground for future executives and professionals, classroom culture and its impact on students’ lives and attitude, can be a zoom lense through which the larger picture of the productivity and attitudes of large corporate professionals can be examined.

written by Ethel Nelson

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