Addressing Korean immigrant students’ experience in the Social Studies classroom

| January 13, 2012

The Social Studies program at Teachers College is pleased to announce the publication of Yoonjung Choi’s article “Marginalized students’ uneasy learning: Korean immigrant students’ experiences of learning social studies” in the current issue of Social Studies Research and Practice. A Ph. D. candidate in Social Studies Education, Choi is excited to share her research, centered around recent Korean immigrant students, with a larger audience.

In their article, Choi and her co-authors consider how Korean immigrant students’ unique social, cultural, and educational backgrounds shape their experiences in American schools.  The article looks at what researchers have identified as three major challenges that Korean immigrant youths experience in social studies classrooms and offers suggestions for creating more meaningful and culturally relevant social studies learning for these students.

Yoonjung Choi’s interest in this topic was born out of her experience working for a research project titled “Research on Korean early-study-abroad youths’ adjustment: A multiple case study in the United States” in 2009. The study, addressing the academic and cultural experiences of recently arrived Korean immigrant students in American schools, drew Choi’s attention to the significant challenges newcomer students faced upon their arrival in the US. Specifically, their academic achievement and engagement in social studies seemed to suffer more than any other school subject. According to the study, 30 out of 43 Korean immigrant students identified social studies, particularly US history, as their least favorite school subject. Thus, Choi decided to take a closer look.

Once she took on an exploration of the issue, Choi’s understanding of the community she was studying grew a great deal. “I did not have a personal connection to the Korean immigrant student population when I first started the research. However, I was able to meet the students throughout diverse Korean ethnic communities, such as churches, after-school programs, and weekend schools with tremendous support from community members.”

Yoonjung Choi expresses her deep gratitude to her co-authors, Jae Hoon Lim and Sohyun An, for their limitless contribution and support. Feeling as if she’s just scratched the surface, Choi looks forward to further study in this area. “I have so many other stories to tell about the newcomer Korean immigrant students and their schooling experiences. These research experiences enabled me to deepen my inquiries in teaching social studies to newcomer, English language learner students and commitment to culturally relevant social studies pedagogy for culturally and linguistically diverse learners. I hope to expand the line of inquiries in the future.”