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Teaching Concerns of Asian American Students

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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The posting below is an excerpt from the article, "An Exploratory

Study of the Teaching Concerns of Asian American Students," by

Christine A. Stanley, Texas A&M University Stephanie V. Rohdieck and

Li Tang, The Ohio State University that appeared in the Volume 10,

Number 1, 1999 issue of the Journal on Excellence in College

Teaching, pp.107-127. Copyright 2000, Miami University, reprinted

with permission

The excerpt focuses on the implications for teaching Asian American

students and is based on the authors' study that:

"... explored some elements of the teaching and learning concerns of

Asian American students at a large Midwestern state university. The

authors conducted focus group interviews of 22 Asian American

students of various ethnic identities (Filipino, Laotian, Korean,

Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indian) to explore issues related to their

experiences inside and outside of the classroom, their relationships

with instructors and students, the effect of their identity on

teaching and learning, and their experiences with being viewed as the

"model minority." The authors present the results of this

exploratory study,l suggest areas for further research, and discuss

implications for college teaching."


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Trade-Offs to Obtaining Teaching Experience Prior to

Becoming a Professor

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning


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Implication for teaching

This study demonstrated that Asian American students, like many

ethnic minority students, vary greatly in their identities and

experiences in the college classrooms. However, we were able to

derive some recommendations for instructors and their teaching from

the students with whom we talked. The following recommendations need

to be interpreted within the particular teaching and learning context

in order to be applicable.

1. there are many Asian ethnicities, all distinct from each other.

Students appreciate when instructors make an effort to be sensitive

to their ethnicity. Identity is very important for students, and to

categorize them as "Asian" denies them their identity and may affect

their academic work.

2. People of Asian descent in the U.S. have various citizenships -

they may have recently arrived in the U.S. as refugees, they may be

visiting students, they may be American citizens, or they may have

any number of other connections with the U.S.

3. Students of Asian descent are not spokespersons for their ethnic

groups. This assumption stems from the belief that these students

think and share similar social, life, cultural, and academic

experiences. As the students in this study indicated, they represent

various ethnic groups, nationalities, and citizenship.

4. Not all Asian-looking students in the classroom are visitors or

foreign students. This assumption insults those students who are U.S.

citizens or permanent residents. Similarly, assuming that all

Asian-looking students in the classroom are Asian Americans prevents

instructors from recognizing the teaching and learning support needs

that international Asian students may bring to the college classroom.

Asian students recently arrived in the U.S. not only have language

and cultural barriers, but also come from different educational

systems that value different learning methods and styles of teaching

than what they encounter in U.S. classrooms.

5. Not all students of Asian descent work well together in groups or

are friends with each other. As the students in this study suggested,

some prefer to work independently under certain circumstances, and

some are hesitant to work with students from other Asian countries.

Additionally, they have concerns stemming from differences within and

between their histories, languages, religions, and the like.

6. Not all Asian American students fit the model minority stereotype.

As the students pointed out in this study, instructors - Asian

American instructors and TAs in particular - should avoid placing

undue pressure on Asian American students. High expectations based

singularly on students' Asian descent may cause them to feel

inappropriately singled out.

7. Not all Asian American students are high achievers. Some students

may need assistance with learning tasks. To assume that Asian

American students do not require learning assistance denies it to

those who might require it or inhibits those who want to seek help.

As teachers, we may be contributing unconsciously to these students'

anxiety by assuming that they are high achievers.

8. Not all students - or Asian American students, in particular -

share similar learning style preferences. The literature and this

study suggests that instructors should use a variety of instructional

approaches when teaching to accommodate a range of preferences and

models of learning.

9. Asian American students may find it difficult to approach

instructors outside of class, even if they require help. Instructors

should make an effort to reach out to them by building rapport,

increasing communication, and being flexible so that students do not

perceive themselves as being academically deficient if they need to

seek help.

10. Instructors should work toward learning more about the

development and teaching of multicultural courses and curricula. An

inclusive curriculum values the contributions of multiple voices and

perspectives. Asian American students feel that the ethnicity and

scholarship of their cultural heritage are often omitted from many

class discussions and course-planning decisions.

Conclusions and Further Research

This exploratory study serves as a springboard for discussion among

college teachers who face challenges to teaching in a diverse

classroom. It helps us understand better the teaching and learning

needs of Asian American students in higher education. However, it is

unproductive to generalize the study's findings across all

institutions and across similar Asian American student populations.

Although our recommendations make some generalizations across groups,

this is difficult to avoid if we hope to stimulate discussion around

the issues raised by the students in the study. It also should be

emphasized that the participants in this study were from a major

research university with a large population of international

students. Whereas the results of our study are confined to this one

institution, they suggest some important ways in which college

classrooms can be made more responsive to the teaching and learning

needs of Asian American students. Of greater importance are the !

implications for how smaller universities and colleges that are less

likely to have a large enrollment of Asian American students can work

toward improving the classroom climate for all students.

The dialogue begun in this study a good first step. Further work

needs to be done, however. We need additional studies across campuses

- studies that include more Asian and Asian American students;

studies that include Asian students whose identity is interwoven with

differences in age, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, or other

demographic characteristics; and studies of the attitudes of other

ethnic minority groups toward Asian American student populations.

With more attention to these issues, the dialogue can only grow

richer, and it can eventually help us to enhance the classroom

experience in ways that will benefit all college students and