We've heard many stories of what college and university classes are like: Heavy on the reading, wrote Chris, with assignments due all throughout the semester, added Mohammed, and a heavy emphasis on class participation and critical thinking. Lax in terms of classroom discipline, noted Anna, but with a real expectation that students take personal responsibility for their success.

But what about middle school and high school classes?

The AIED Council, a non-profit that connects schools in the U.S. to schools abroad, reached out to us through Twitter (where they are @AIEDCouncil) to share this story from Chinese student Meihan Zeng about her short exchange at a U.S. middle school.  This is what Meihan found about classes at her middle school:

In the Bishop George Ahr School classroom, I found it to be student-centered, emphasizing learning through practicing. Teachers did not teach too much; most of the time, they let students practice. Therefore, the students also have quite little homework, and the categories of homework were very varied, such as: reading, writing, doing exercises, experiments, observations, webpage, checking information, making exhibit pictures, skills training, interviews, investigations, and research report writing. The students' homework was not simple repetition of class. It was very interesting, very creative, close to real life.

In the United States, the examinations the students took were the same as what Chinese students might take. They include quizzes, exams, tests, section stages, preliminary and final exam college entrance examinations.

Meihan on her exchange in the U.S. (she's the one in the scarf)

There aren?t fixed classrooms for middle school students in the United States. They all go to a different classroom for each of their elective courses. They have five minutes to run to the right room between classes. Despite the hurry, they never pushed or made loud noises, they always walked towards the stairs, corridors or the right hand side. Regardless of getting in or out of the door, the people ahead held the doors for the person next.

It made a beautiful landscape and broadened my horizon. Indeed, American students have much freedom in class, which Chinese students don?t have.

Does this match your experience in a U.S. classroom? What things have you found surprising about academics in the U.S.? Share your experience in the comments or using the form below.