Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Zheng Zhang


The University of Western Ontario


In response to the scant literature on Chinese English as a foreign language (EFL) students’ identity and investment in language learning within private settings, this study employed exploratory case study to report findings regarding Chinese EFL learners’ identity and investment at a private educational company in mainland China. This study used the model of investment as the theoretical underpinning. Data presented in this paper were collected through three adult students’ learning materials in three different English learning programs and interviews with both students and three teachers who taught the students respectively. Findings reveal how students constructed identities as related to English learning and investment in English learning, as well as factors that would have influenced their investment such as class size and instructional purposes of programs. This study offers recommendations for teachers and program developers regarding English curriculum, pedagogy, and learning in informal, private learning contexts.

Summary for Lay Audience

This study explored how Chinese English as a foreign language (EFL) learners constructed identities as related to English learning, how they made investment in their language learning, as well as the factors that would have influenced their investment in English learning at a private educational company. There are three student participants and three teacher participants. The interview questions in teachers’ interviews focused on their interactions with the students in the classrooms and the pedagogy they adopted in the programs. The student participants’ interviews were about how students constructed dynamic identities in English learning programs and what factors shaped their investment in English learning. The findings reveal students' lack of confidence in productive skills (especially oral English) in English learning despite of their strong desire to be fluent English speakers. Moreover, the findings reveal different learning experiences within different sized programs and programs with different instructional purposes. The findings also reveal that the efforts which teachers made in classes were greatly affected by the class size.