In the 2010/11 academic year, more than one fifth of international students in the American higher education institutions were from Mainland China. However, these Chinese students were often addressed by American professors as "passive listeners" or "inactive learners": they were quiet in the classroom and seldom asked question. In this paper, the investigator examined five Chinese graduate students in an American university on their experiences and perceptions on asking question in the American classrooms. A qualitative multiple case study was conducted with individual face-to-face interview as the major data collection instrument. The two research questions are: 1) What are the experiences of Chinese international students about asking questions in graduate level classes in the United States? 2) How do Chinese international graduate students feel about asking questions in the American classroom? It was found that the major issues influenced the participants' question-asking behavior were: 1) English deficiency, 2) cultural differences between China and America, and 3) the different educational environment between these two countries. Specifically, the participants' motivation and opportunity to ask question in the classroom was influenced by their belief that teacher should be respected, the value of question, and the Chinese concepts of thinking and speaking. The classroom environment in terms of the classroom behavior of American professors and other students also had impacts on the participants' question-asking behavior as an external contextual factor. Based on the findings of this study, recommendations were offered for American faculty members and staffs working with international students and incoming Chinese students. This study might help American professors better understand the unique learning styles of their Chinese students and inform institution administrators to improve the services for international students. The results may also help Chinese students adapt to the American educational community smoothly. Suggestions for further study were also provided for researchers who were interested to increase international/ Chinese students' classroom participation.
- Walters, Lynne Associate Professor