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‘Roots’ or ‘Routes’: A Case Study of Immigrant Chinese Teachers of Mandarin in a Canadian University

Resource type
Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Jiang, Yujia
International immigrants often encounter tensions and struggles arising from differences between their home culture and their host culture. This thesis focuses on immigrant Chinese teachers in Canada and explores how they negotiate the relation between their ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ with reference to their feelings about Mandarin teaching, about their roles and authority in class, about their students in general, and about their pedagogical and social practices in the classroom. It also examines how the teachers position themselves and feel positioned within the university culture in interactions with their colleagues. A case study was conducted with five immigrant Chinese teachers of Mandarin at a university in Greater Vancouver, and data consisted of semi-structured interviews and classroom observations. The study produced a number of key findings: the teachers adjusted their roles and sense of authority with students after teaching in Canada; they interpreted students’ behaviours in cultural contexts and reacted to them adaptively; they purposefully and practically introduced Chinese cultural information to Mandarin classes; they practised student-centered pedagogies vigorously without diminishing their own teaching philosophies; they expressed dissatisfaction with the low status of language courses in Canadian universities and desired more support from the university administration; most of them saw their teaching profession as benefiting China and Canada concurrently; and they were all aware of their own changes along with their immigration but positioned themselves variably as to where they were and headed towards. The main conclusions drawn from the study are that immigrant teachers frequently negotiate their self-perceptions and practices at the junction of their roots and routes, and that roots and routes are reciprocal to each other, playing out in harmony or in tension, and are intertwined with the negotiation of immigrant teachers’ personal choices and their settings. I recommend that the links between ethnic identity and many other factors deserve further investigation and more inter-group and intra-group studies should be encouraged to enhance our understandings of the richness of immigrants’ lived experiences.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Toohey, Kelleen
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