Date of Award

Spring 1-8-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Gertrude Tinker Sachs, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ouyang Huahua, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Susan Ogletree, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Joseph Feinberg, Ph.D.


In the late 19th century, China’s education policies and curricula began to change in response to global economic issues. The addition of English language courses opened opportunities for expatriate teachers in China. Expatriate teachers are widely perceived as linguistic experts regardless of their qualifications and experiences. However, differences between the expatriate teachers' cultures of learning and the local cultures of learning call attention to the challenges of cross-cultural education in local school settings. This narrative inquiry (Clandinin, 2012) explored the expatriate teachers’ approaches to cross-cultural teaching, connections to local culture, and observations on school-based practices as they navigated their new environments in China. A conceptual framework based on Vygotsky's genetic domains was used to analyze the expatriates' experiences. Data included discussions with expatriate teachers about their educational backgrounds, their previous cross-cultural teaching experiences, and their reflections on navigating the tensions of teaching in China. Excerpts from the researcher's journals describing the tensions she encountered teaching in a local secondary school and adapting to a new cultural environment were used as triggers for the discussions. The findings indicated that connections to local culture, teacher education, and cross-cultural experiences contributed to the teachers’ approaches to teaching. Additionally, knowledge of the students’ L1 and previous experiences teaching English as a foreign language facilitated their ability to adapt to their new environments. This study contributes to understanding the complexity of teaching English as a foreign language when the teacher and students have different cultural backgrounds. Awareness of the need to nurture intercultural competence can inform the curricula and practices of teacher education programs as well as the development of professional learning programs and school learning policies. Furthermore, the teachers’ contributions can be useful to school administrators in developing teacher recruitment strategies, hiring practices, and new-teacher orientation programs.


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