Assignment Week 1: Chapter 4, Exercise 4.1 (page 77)
In recent years, American universities have seen a huge number of mainland Chinese students travelling to the U.S. to attend college. For centuries, Chinese culture has highly valued education, and with the economic growth and openness of the past 30 years Chinese universities are becoming world-class centers of study. My research would use participant observation to seek an answer to the question, “What draws Chinese students to American universities, as opposed to attending Chinese universities?
The scene of my research would be nearby university campuses with a sizable Chinese student population, such as the University of Oregon or Portland State University. I would contact the university to negotiate access, and contact gatekeepers such as Chinese student associations, as well as personal contacts I might have.
Exercise 4.1 is a “Self-identity audit,’ which seeks to provide me (the instrument/researcher) a greater understanding of my own identity prior to undertaking the study. This allows me to better understand how my personality and other demographic traits might affect the observations I make.
The questions in the exercise are:
- What are my demographic markers? In the case of the Chinese student survey, the two most obvious and relevant markers are that I am older than them and Caucasian. Because of these differences, they may not relate as well to me, and may, due to cultural reasons, change the way they communicate with me based on these facts. Being a male may also affect how participants (male and female) communicate with me.
- What are my social attributes? Anecdotally, and from limited observation, many Chinese students here come from wealthy homes in China, and possess a higher social status. My social status is not high, nor am I wealthy. However, because I am not Chinese that may not affect my ability to learn from and communicate with them. My education level is greater than theirs which may allow them to take me and my observations seriously.
- How do others describe my personality characteristics? While it might be better to ask my peers this question, I would like to think I am, polite and honest with a tendency towards light-heartedness. It is difficult for me to know how this will affect my research.
- What values do people ascribe to me and my body? Once again, my peers might provide more accurate answers to this question. Personally, I believe myself to be friendly, outgoing, occasionally jovial, clever. I am a little overweight, but not so much that it would be a distraction in my research.
- How might these identity attributes affect my involvement and reception in a specific research context? A) I feel as if my friendly and honest demeanor would in turn allow me to gather factual and honest information from participants, whose trust I would hope to gain. B) Being male, older and non-Chinese might be filters that prevent me from obtaining all available data. Participants might not trust me, or fail to relate enough to me to feel comfortable being completely honest.
- In performing a self-reflexive evaluation, I must note that I have some familiarity with Chinese culture, and speak some Mandarin Chinese. By making this known to participants, it might allow me to overcome other obstacles, such as the age and gender difference, and most importantly the ethnic differences. I also have been a foreign student studying abroad, and while the question I seek to answer isn’t informed by my experience, I can relate in some ways to a student studying at a university thousands of miles from home.