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Title:The life stories of 1.5 generation Korean American immigrant adolescents: examining their English learning and social experiences in school
Author(s):Pyon, Heekyong T.
Director of Research:Pak, Yoon K.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Pak, Yoon K.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Parker, Laurence J.; Pillow, Wanda S.; DeNicolo, Christina P.
Department / Program:Educational Policy Studies
Discipline:Educational Policy Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):1.5 generation Korean American students
Immigrant adolescents
Asian American students
Bilingual education and policy
Life history interview
Abstract:The lives of 1.5 generation Korean American immigrant adolescents are often misunderstood as they are viewed as successful, well adjusting, model students, while in reality they are going through various challenges with which they do not know how to handle. This study examines the life experiences, especially school experiences, of 1.5 generation Korean American adolescents who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s. This study explores how these immigrant adolescents went through their early immigrant years, how they lived through the U.S. secondary school system, how bilingual education programs and policies affected their lives, and how their experiences influenced them as they moved into their adulthood. I conducted life history interviews with eleven Korean American immigrants who came to the U.S. as adolescents and started their U.S. education in secondary schools. The informants were from six different states (Alaska, California, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, Washington), had been living in the U.S. at least ten years, and were in their twenties to late thirties at the time of the first interview. I have conducted two interviews with most of the informants. Because the informants resided in various geographic locations, I have conducted face-to-face interviews, and phone interviews were also completed in case it was impossible to conduct a face-to-face interview. However, each informant has taken at least one face-to-face interview. For many informants, the time they spent in school as secondary students was quite challenging; having to learn a new language and culture, developing and accepting their new identities as linguistic and racial/ethnic minorities in school, experiencing constant social distance and isolation from the mainstream student population, dealing with frustration due to linguistic and academic challenges and acknowledging their limited social participation in school all added to the distress they experienced in school and in their new immigrant lives. The informants’ stories also indicate that ESL programs were playing important roles in the informants’ social and emotional adjustments in school and they also provided the basic levels of English instruction for them. However, many informants shared their questions and concerns about the effectiveness of their ESL programs. They were disappointed that the programs did not deliver high quality and challenging English instruction and some felt that staying in the ESL programs was actually not helpful for their English learning. At the same time, the sheltered aspect of the ESL program, although it created a comfortable atmosphere in ESL class, resulted in separation between the ESL students and the mainstream peers in school. Focusing on adolescent immigrants, this study also sheds light on the diversity that exists within 1.5 generation Korean American population which has yet to be fully acknowledged by educators and researchers. This study has added more dimensions and complexity to understanding the experiences of 1.5 generation Korean Americans and how federal language policies become embodied through these students’ lives.
Issue Date:2010-05-14
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Heekyong Teresa Pyon
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-05-15
Date Deposited:May 2010

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