Academic journal article Adult Learning

Transitioning Challenges Faced by Chinese Graduate Students

Academic journal article Adult Learning

Transitioning Challenges Faced by Chinese Graduate Students

Article excerpt

Abstract: This literature review examines transitioning challenges faced by Chinese international students who pursue graduate degrees in the United States. Based on existing research on adulthood in U.S. and Chinese contexts and the features of Chinese graduate students, Chinese adults, and international students as learners in Western countries, the examination includes the adult learning environment in American graduate education, the demographic features of Chinese international students who pursue graduate degrees in the United States, and the challenges they are confronted with inside and outside the classroom. The emphasis is given to two types of transitions experienced by Chinese graduate students in the United States: learning to live into adulthood and learning to learn in an adult learning setting. Findings of this literature review shed light on understanding Chinese graduate students as a particular group of learners, provide practical suggestions for practitioners in the United States and other Western countries who teach or mentor Chinese graduate students, and inform future research on Chinese international students.

Keywords: Chinese international students, graduate students, adult learners, transitioning challenges

The higher education literature is increasingly concerned about how to better accommodate adult learners, who are becoming the "new majority in higher education" (Jung & cervero, 2002, p. 306). The changing demographics of students continue to challenge educators to modify their teaching strategies and create a learning climate to benefit different groups (Halx, 2010). U.S.-contextual adult education literature on student population diversity usually gives emphasis to race, socioeconomic class, and gender differences (Alfred, 2001).

The demographic features of international students receive less attention.

In recent decades, the growing number of international students to U.S. campuses further complicates the demographics of American higher education and challenges the assumptions of adult learners and approaches adopted by adult educators. For example, students from China constitute about 20% of the international students in the United States (Institution of International Education, 2009; Universities in the USA and Canada, 2010). A majority of Chinese international students pursue graduate degrees. In 2010, graduate schools had a 23% increase in admission offers to Chinese students (Council of Graduate Schools, 2010). The tension between American style of teaching and Chinese learners has received increasing attention in recent years. While American educators are unfamiliar with Chinese learners, Chinese students also struggle with unfamiliar activities and cultures in American higher education (Harris, 2012). Studies on intercultural learning experiences of Chinese international students in Western cultures have intensively addressed the social distance between American and Chinese cultures of learning. Most of these studies looked at the influence of Confucius cultural heritage and the Collectivism social context that promote obedience and discourages creativity (e.g., Holmes, 2004; Jin & Cortazzi, 2006; Nelson, Badger, & Wu, 2004).

The discussion about Chinese international students' cultural shock in the United States is an important means of understanding their academic performance (Parris-Kidd & Barnett, 2011). However, treating Chinese international students as a homogeneous group oversimplifies their nature as learners (Gu, 2011; Jones, 2005), providing limited information for teaching practices at different levels. The heavy reliance on cultural models made it easy to overlook other significant factors contributing to Chinese international students' struggles and challenges when studying abroad, such as individual differences in managing challenges, students' maturing process when studying abroad, motivation to learn, identity, and self-efficacy (Gu, 2011; Gu & Schweisfurth, 2006; Murphy-Lejeune, 2003). …

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