Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education




International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

Sedique Popal

Second Advisor

David Donahue

Third Advisor

Melissa Ann Canlas


The purpose of this study was to comprehend the motivations and learning experiences of Chinese Heritage Language Learners (CHLLs) who study in Chinese programs in California public high schools where Chinese American students are under-studied and their voices are not heard. The study used Gardner’s Socio-educational Model, Fishman’s Reversing Language Shift (RLS), and Asian Critical Theory (AsianCrit) as the theoretical frameworks for the investigation. The methodology of this study applied the mixed-methods sequential explanatory design, starting with an online survey data collection and following up with interviews with CHLLs and language teachers. The researcher then conducted classroom observations to support the quantitative and qualitative findings. A total of 165 students, including CHLLs and non-CHLLs, participated in the survey at four California public high schools in the East Bay, San Francisco, and Santa Clara. The results demonstrated that the Integrativeness positively motivated CHLLs and non-CHLLs to study Chinese the most. However, CHLLs differed significantly from non-CHLLs in the Cultural Heritage factor for learning Chinese. The qualitative findings supported the quantitative findings that CHLLs enrolled in Chinese language programs in California public high schools to communicate with family members whose primary languages are Chinese. The findings indicated that subgroups of CHLLs (whether in a regular or a heritage classroom) were more alike than different in their motivations and learning experiences for studying Chinese. Although CHLLs differed significantly from non-CHLLs in their listening proficiency, writing was challenging for CHLLs because they grew up in a limited Chinese literacy context. CHLLs who had exposure to a non-Mandarin-speaking family may not have had the same advantage in studying Chinese as CHLLs from Mandarin-speaking backgrounds. The findings demonstrated that the linguistic competency and motivations of CHLLs were significantly unique from non-CHLLs studying Chinese. Nevertheless, CHLLs were put together in the classroom with non-CHLLs learning Chinese as a foreign language for most practices in California public high schools. Offering a separate track for CHLLs in a Chinese language program in California public high schools was strongly suggested to school administrators, language teachers, and parents. The research filled a gap in the scholarly literature that has focused primarily on the motivations and learning experiences of Chinese learners at the college level.