A Narrative Inquiry of Chinese Immigrant Students' Educational Experiences in the United States: Language, Culture, and Identity.

Yuwen Deng, Purdue University


In this dissertation research, I examined the overall educational experiences of Chinese immigrant students, particularly their educational experiences in the United States. Using narrative inquiry methodology in my study, I portrayed the stories of six Chinese immigrant students, including four undergraduates and two graduates in a Midwestern university. I focused on exploring the interplay of language, culture, and identity that influenced these students’ formal education experiences, as well as those learning experiences that occurred beyond classrooms, schools, and universities. I searched for and interpreted the in-betweenness (Ellsworth, 2005; He, 2002, 2003, 2010) concerning physical, emotional, social, cultural, linguistic, and ethnic aspects that Chinese immigrant students experienced with regard to the interaction of English language, heritage language, cultural differences, and ethnic identity. I explored multiple places of learning (Ellsworth, 2005) and the potential third space (Gutiérrez, 2008; Wang, 2006) where shifts, transformations, and new possibilities may occur. Findings of this research indicated that Chinese immigrant students’ linguistic in-betweenness was reflected through the contrasting learning environments in ESL classes and regular mainstream classes, language practices and policies enacted in classrooms and schools, their acquisition and maintenance of varieties of the Chinese languages, and their ability to use and balance Chinese and English. The cultural in-betweenness of Chinese immigrant students manifested through their intercultural contact and acculturation in cross-cultural lives, their involvement in school and campus cultures via student organizations, and their perceptions of cultural differences in educational systems in U.S. schools versus those in China. In addition, I found that Chinese immigrant students’ senses of identity in-betweenness were reflected by the differences in self-perceived and other-perceived identities, their individual identities, and the stereotypical identity such as model minority. The research findings suggested that Chinese immigrant students were exposed to a third space and entered different places of learning by studying in classrooms, engaging in student associations, learning to adjust to the school environment, and participating in a larger society beyond schools and college campus. In addition, cultural centers and various programs were places of learning, providing cultural experiences for students and playing important roles in creating a culturally relevant/responsive/sustaining campus.




Phillion, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|English as a Second Language|Multicultural Education|Ethnic studies|Higher education

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