Abstract 1-Volume 6, Number 3, Winter 2011

Marginalized Students’ Uneasy Learning: Korean Immigrant Students’ Experiences of Learning Social Studies

Yoonjung Choi
Teachers College, Columbia University

Jae Hoon Lim
University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Sohyun An
Kennesaw State University


This study explores how recent Korean immigrant students experience learning social studies and how their unique social, cultural, and educational backgrounds as new immigrants shape their experiences in American schools.  Based on survey and in-depth interviews with 43 Korean immigrant students in two urban and three suburban/rural areas, this mixed methods study examines Korean immigrant youths’ perceptions about the nature of history and social studies as well as their experiences of learning social studies in their everyday classroom contexts.  Our data analysis demonstrates that Korean immigrant students face varying difficulties in constructing meaning in US history and engaging themselves in social studies learning, which results in a negative learning experience and subsequent disinterest in social studies.  Researchers identified three major challenges that Korean immigrant youths experience in their social studies classrooms: (1) Lack of English proficiency, background knowledge, and American patriotism, (2) White, American-centered perspectives and marginalization of their country of origin, and (3) Teachers’ lack of care and disengaging pedagogies.  The findings of this study provide implications for creating more meaningful and culturally relevant social studies learning for immigrant students.

Download article as PDF