Minhui M. Lu


Walker, Dana

Committee Member

Milian, Madeline

Committee Member

Franklin, Elizabeth

Committee Member

Romero, Deborah


Educational Studies


University of Northern Colorado

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Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





215 pages

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Born digital


This study explored how the learners-as-ethnographers (LAE) approach facilitated intercultural learning among American students learning Chinese as a foreign language. Two research questions addressed the effectiveness of the LAE approach and students' learning experiences in a non-immersion context. I designed six ethnographic tasks for the 15 university students who registered for the Elementary Chinese class in 2010. The students were required to complete four of the ethnographic tasks, write an essay for each, and report their explorations of the linguistic and/or cultural phenomena in the U.S. and a Chinese-speaking community. At the end of the semester, I conducted two focus groups and interviewed 11 of the students. A total of 56 students' essays and two interview transcriptions underwent thematic analyses. Results show that the ethnographic tasks created learning opportunities for students to recognize and evaluate cultural stereotypes, impacts of contextual or situational factors on cultural artifacts/practices/perspectives, culture-specific connotations or misunderstanding, and potential bias in the intercultural exploration. Moreover, the intercultural learning assignment added an important dimension to the foreign language course, motivating learners to notice, contemplate, and inquire into the taken-for-granted linguistic and cultural phenomena in their native community. Students became aware that culture was situational and contextual. Gradually, their intercultural communicative competence developed. These findings confirm the benefits of the LAE approach reported in the previous studies. Analyses of students' reflections upon their explorations yield five themes concerning (1) design of the intercultural learning assignment and ethnographic tasks; (2) accessibility to native speakers and validity of the interview information; (3) selection and use of the information from the Internet; (4) influence of having study abroad experiences; and (5) cultural representations. The five themes reveal the complexity of intercultural learning in a non-immersion context, particularly the difficulties of collecting and interpreting information. Discussions on the revealed issues point to directions for future researchers on intercultural education and propose suggestions for classroom practitioners to expand the benefits of the LAE approach.

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