Date of Award

Fall 12-16-2022

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Timothy Reagan

Second Committee Member

Susan Bennett-Armistead

Third Committee Member

Dylan Dryer

Additional Committee Members

Tammy Mills

Ming-Hsuan Wu


A large percentage of the international secondary students in the United States come from Asian countries. Their enrollments are closely connected to the cultural, curricular, and extracurricular diversity of their American schools. Despite their contribution, stereotypical depictions of these students and deficit-informed research still abound in educational settings, leaving serious consequences for the social and academic well-being of the students.

These problematic educational framings about Asian international students and the majoritarian narratives about them are mutually informative. Therefore, to counter the dominant discourses, this multimodal critical narrative study set out to recruit stories from a group of Asian transnational adolescent students to illustrate an alternative reality. Specifically, five transnational youths attending high schools in Maine shared their perspectives and experiences of identity construction and transformation as well as language learning and use in the context of navigating across their communities of practice (CoPs), i.e., the social, academic, and extracurricular communities they belonged to.

With narrative inquiry guided by methodological pluralism, I collected a series of found and produced narrative artifacts as data from the five core informants and analyzed the data set through the following approaches: narrative positioning analysis, Labovian analysis, visual/multimodal analysis, portrait analysis, and thematic analysis. The outcome of these analyses are findings presented as a series of positioning profiles and thematic connections.

Overall, the findings indicate a connection between these adolescent students’ social networks, CoP participation, and personal transformations. They position themselves as multifaceted, dynamic, dilemmatic, and oftentimes, in relation to the other members in their CoPs. In terms of language socialization, there is a shared understanding of communicative competence as multimodal and situated, and of CoP participation as conducive to the acquisition of the symbolic capital of English. When examined in context, these findings, though not meant to be one-size-fits-all, yield significant implications for educational research and practice targeted at this student population. Specifically, educators need to acknowledge the unequal access to participation and learning among students with different identity configurations. They will also benefit from tapping into the students’ CoP practice as well as transnational funds of knowledge as symbolic resources. This will allow them to develop a more diverse conception of competence, which in turn helps them provide affirming educational experiences to the transnational adolescents.

Despite some limitations and barriers resulting from COVID-related circumstances during the data collection phase, this study is significant because the processes of the adolescent students’ storytelling in different modalities added complexity to the stories told by them and ended up being as important as the stories themselves when it came to illustrating an alternative reality of Asian transnational adolescent students’ identities and language socialization.