Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Kristen Perry


Chinese international students comprise the largest group of international students in U.S. universities. To better support international students to be successful in international higher education, Chinese students’ reading comprehension in English deserves attention. Using a qualitative research design, this study analyzed Chinese international students’ perceptions about their English reading comprehension in academic literacy, and how exposure to an English-speaking environment contributed to their reading comprehension development. There were 8 participants involved who have different genders (males and females), education levels (undergraduates and graduates), exposure time (less than one year and more than one year), and majors (chemistry, engineering, arts, etc.). Data sources included interviews, reading comprehension assessments, and documents analysis. Initially, participants felt that 1) they had general language barriers, 2) they faced academic challenges, and 3) they had anxiety and lacked confidence regarding general English and academic reading. Second, students’ initial perceptions changed over time, as 1) their general English ability improved, 2) they felt more comfortable with English, and 3) they built self-confidence in using English. Some students’ perceptions related to their English reading comprehension matched their actual performance, while others did not match. Last, students believed the authentic English environment helped them by being 1) an application environment, 2) a rich and valuable resource, and 3) a safe and supportive environment. Implications for educational institutions, instructors and students were also provided.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by the Arvle and Ellen Thacker Turner Research Fund of the University of Kentucky in 2020.