Voice, listening, and learning in American higher education
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This study is about the intersection of discussion and learning in the lives of three Chinese doctoral students in American higher education. Surprisingly, little research has been conducted to study Chinese students' ways of knowing in discussion-based classes. Given the primacy of discussion-oriented approaches to instruction in the United States, it is no wonder Chinese students are misunderstood as passive learners in these spaces. This work challenges traditional western assumptions about the centrality of talk/voice to learning. Narrative inquiry is applied to studying these women's experiences of class discussions as stories and their ways of knowing and being in these spaces. Employing a Critical Race Theory lens allows for re-visioning a learning theory in ways that are more inclusive/reflective of Chinese women's lived experience. Participants' stories reveal the complexities of what it means to talk and listen in class discussions, the complexities of the impacts of the diverse interpretations of talk and listening on class discussion performances, and the complexities of interpretations of self as knower and ways of knowing in discussion-oriented classes. I argue, in order to realize democratic aims of discussion-based practice, the question is not about whether or how Chinese students' cultural heritage, their English language proficiency, or personalities, impact their performances in class discussions; but about whether or how the host classrooms create facilitative environments where learning occurs through talk and listening.