Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Sarah J. Noonan

Second Advisor

Kathleen M. Boyle

Third Advisor

Chien-Tzu Candace Chou


This qualitative case study explored how native Mandarin Chinese teachers experienced and adapted to the linguistic, cultural, and pedagogical differences in teaching Mandarin Chinese to English-speaking students at four-year higher education institutions in the United States. Drawing upon the interviews of 11 participant teachers, the researcher applied theoretical frameworks of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK), pedagogical reasoning and action (PRA), and Confucianism to interpret the findings.

Findings from the research revealed that Chinese instructors prepared themselves first as students and adopted effective modes of teaching to teach Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language in U.S. higher education. Findings from the data showed that Chinese instructors faced and coped with four challenges in teaching college level Mandarin Chinese to American students. The challenges included: (1) professional insecurity, (2) understanding and meeting student needs, (3) teaching Chinese language skills, and (4) engaging and motivating students. The corresponding coping strategies adopted by Chinese instructors included: (1) acting at an individual level to maintain and increase intellectual vitality of Chinese instructors, (2) optimizing class time, creating opportunities for students to practice and use Chinese in and outside class, and tailoring teaching content and approaches to the diversified situations and needs of students, (3) employing communicative approach and student-centered, task-based pedagogies to teach language skills, and (4) making teaching content and approaches flexible, relevant to student life, and able to optimize student creativity, and utilizing technologies and jokes to engage students; creating opportunities for students to realize learning Chinese was useful and interesting to motivate students.

Findings from my analysis demonstrated that to become effective Chinese instructors in U.S. higher education, native Mandarin Chinese teachers accumulated and integrated knowledge of Chinese language (and culture), pedagogies, and technologies to engage students in a cycle of comprehension, transformation, instruction, evaluation, and reflection and new comprehension. The research findings also support Confucian emphasis on adjusting teaching approaches according to student aptitudes and characteristics.

Based on the findings, my recommendations focused on strategies Mandarin Chinese teachers and university administrators could adopt to ensure and enhance effective teaching and learning of Mandarin Chinese in U.S. higher education.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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