Acculturative experiences of Korean-Americans: Exploring self-concept, learning style, and the identification of giftedness at the microlevel and the macrolevel contexts

Date of Completion

January 2004


Anthropology, Cultural|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Special




This study sought to link both cultural macrolevel explanations and microlevel interactions to account for Korean American students' psychosocial adaptation and academic achievement through their acculturative experiences. To examine acculturation characteristics and ethnic orientations, the Korean American Acculturation Scale and the Ethnic Orientation Scale were administered to 466 students and 197 of their parents in the New York City and Chicago areas. Students and parents were divided into four acculturation style groups by the median score on two factors in the EOS (Korean orientation and Other-group orientation): (a) assimilation, (b) integration, (c) marginalization, and (d) separation. Students also completed the Domain-Specific Self-Concept Scale and the Learning Styles Inventory-III (LSI, Renzulli et al., 2002). To survey teachers' perceptions about Korean American students as gifted, the revised Scales for Rating the Behavioral Characteristics of Superior Students (Renzulli et al., 2002) was used. Seventy-nine teachers participated in this study. In addition, GreatSchools.net was used to collect contextual school data (e.g., school program, student-teacher ratio, school SES, and Asian student enrollment percentage). Ultimately 407 out of 466 students from 30 schools were analyzed by using a Hierarchical Linear Model (ELM) with two levels. ^ Data were analyzed using a Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (MANCOVA) to assess the significance of independent variables on dependent variables. For gender and generation effects on acculturation characteristics (behavior and cultural value), females were characterized by a slower behavior acculturation rate into the mainstream culture than males. The more recent generations were more behaviorally acculturated into the mainstream culture. However, the adaptation process in cultural values was slow and depended on the generational status of Korean Americans. Korean Americans have adapted to the mainstream society by incorporating and changing selected cultural values. For gender and acculturation style effects on self-concepts (Academic, Appearance, Popularity, and Sensitivity to negative expression), female students showed lower Appearance self-concept than male students. Among four acculturation styles, integration style students showed higher Academic and Appearance self-concept than any other acculturation style groups. In terms of learning style preferences, female students preferred Peer teaching to male students. There were differences among acculturation styles in Direct instruction and Projects. However, there were no significant differences in most learning styles between integration style and separation style students. For the effect of acculturation style on teachers' perceptions of Korean American students as gifted, there was no the significant effect. Rather, there was the significant effect of GPA. ^ The macrolevel (school-level) contexts have effects on the microlevel (student-level) in using a HLM. This study provided a “holistic” understanding of how Korean American students translated their experiences, thoughts, and feelings into school adaptation and academic achievement. ^