This thesis explores the cultural expectations that underlie, shape and inform interactions between a professor and his students in an American college classroom. Drawing primarily on the theories of ritual proposed by Arnold Van Gennep and Victor Turner, I view the classroom in modem educational institutions as a ritual setting. The two key questions which I answer in this paper are: (1) What are the rituals that compose classroom interaction; and (2) How do these rituals serve as vehicles for cultural transmission in American society? This study is based on interviews with students and a professor, as well as three months of participant observation in a science class in a small, midwestern liberal arts college. During this study, I observed classroom rituals, such as hand-raising, orientation day and testing, which function to transmit and reinforce a number of cultural values. I found that the cultural expectations students and teachers possess reflect underlying assumptions about equality, creativity, competition, and status, differences. People from around the world come to the United States to attend its quality institutions of higher learning. The implication for my study is that American liberal-arts colleges, although they are some of the best institutions of higher learning in the world reinforce values which will be obsolete or problematic in the approaching decades. Presently, the classroom model enforces isolation and individuality. In an ever shrinking global community, a classroom model which stresses collaborative problem solving and effective communication seems much more feasible.


McConnell, David


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

Available for download on Thursday, January 01, 2150

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© Copyright 1994 Susan M. Gearhiser