Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction



Major Advisor

Stan Steiner, Ph.D.

Major Advisor

Eun Hye Son, Ph.D.


Diane Boothe, Ph.D.


Diane Boothe, Ph.D.


Gail Shuck, Ph.D.


The purpose of this study is to examine how Chinese transnational adolescents (CTAs) negotiate their identity based on their cultural knowledge and experiences through book discussion in Freirean “culture circle” (Freire, 2000, p. 120). This study is an interpretivist qualitative study of community-based action research (Glesne, 2010). The participants were seven American-born Chinese, two current Chinese and Taiwanese, and one Chinese adopted adolescent. Within the culture circles, CTAs responded to seven selected multicultural children’s literature which represents Chinese immigrants’ stories in the United States. The topics of the books included (1) who am I, (2) relationships with extended family I, (3) relationships with extended family II, (4) Chinese immigrants’ histories in the U.S., (5) holiday celebrations in the U.S., and (6) dream pursuits. This study was followed by the interweaving of Rosenblatt’s reader response theory (Rosenblatt, 2005), Holland’s psychoanalytic response- Defense, Expect, Fantasy, Transformation (DEFT) model (Holland, 1975), and Bleich’s literacy community formation (Bleich, 1986) in the culture circle setting. A variety of literacy activities (i.e., literary responses, group discussion, graphic organizers, and videos, etc.) were also incorporated in order to enrich interactive dialogues and investigate how CTAs (re)construct their identity through a critical lens. The culture circle meeting took place for two hours on Saturday afternoons over the course of six weeks. Data sources included video records of culture circles, participants’ literary response journals, artifacts, and researcher’s notes. The data analysis proceeded with transcription, pattern coding, and triangulation.

The data showed that two primary stages occurred over the six weeks of the culture circles. The first stage was an invitation, that is, CTAs and I made our life experience connections. The CTAs were involved in conversation through generative themes including shared communal experiences, building knowledge together, recognizing living in bi-cultural contexts, juxtaposing and negotiating Chinese immigrants’ history and stories of the literature, and reconnecting cultural heritage and roots. The second stage was the process of identity (re)construction: critical inquiries and responses to the texts, examination of social perception and parents' expectations, and identity negotiation. In the continuous process of the culture circle meetings, CTAs formed their unique literacy community around these two stages in the culture circle over six weeks.

The findings showed that the collective identities that the CTAs formed as Chinese American+, Taiwanese American, and Chinese resulted from their collective responses to the books and mutual feedback with their bi-cultural life experiences and cultural values. CTAs gained a deeper understanding of and appreciation for their intercultural fellows. Also, they spoke up for themselves and detached from the social stigma of the Asian model minority stereotype. Regarding CTAs’ personal stance (inner identity), the recurring data demonstrate that CTAs became more aware of their ontological existence and critically thought about the environment and context that they were situated in. They came to understand that as long as they continued to explore their identities, they will find who they are in different aspects of life. To conclude, this study may be of importance in explaining the inter-cultural group of Chinese transnational students’ identities, as well as in providing school teachers and the community with a better understanding of how Chinese transnational students’ beliefs and perspectives of living in a bi-cultural context (Chinese family and American society) affect their ever-changing identities and relationships with themselves and others.