Generation 1.5 learners: Using an arts-informed, grounded theory approach to understanding how these students managed their undergraduate studies in a Perth-based, public university in Western Australia over an academic year
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Education
The International Organization for Migration’s World Migration Report (2020) estimates the number of migrants worldwide to be approximately 272 million. In an era of demographic scarcity and globalisation-driven uncertainties, asylum seeker, migration, and refugee re-settlement programs are now a worldwide phenomenon. Major English-speaking, immigrant-receiving countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America (USA) face associated educational, political, and social repercussions.
Rumbaut and Ima (1988) introduced the term ‘Generation 1.5’ in relation to a distinct cohort of immigrant youth, English as second language (L2) learners studying in San Diego, California in the USA. This term signifies learners neither part of the first generation in an immigrant-receiving country, nor part of the second generation of children born in that country. North American-based research finds these learners are generally not fully proficient in either their first language or their L2. While typically possessing well-developed basic interpersonal communicative skills, learners are less skilled in terms of the cognitive academic learning proficiency levels that are essential for academic achievement. Additionally, they may lack discrete language skills, the rule-governed areas that include grammar, phonology, and spelling. However, the crucial academic L2 variables relate to immigrants’ age-on-arrival and length of residence in their host countries.
In Australian tertiary education, the implications of having increasing numbers of university students meeting this learner profile remains under-researched. This study investigated how six participants meeting the Generation 1.5 learner profile managed their undergraduate studies in a Perth-based, public university in Western Australia over an academic year. This arts-informed study used an interpretivist paradigm, with symbolic interactionism as the theoretical position, and grounded theory (GT) methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Semi-structured, in-depth interviews and written responses to research questions comprised the major data-generation methods. Data analysis used GT open, axial, and selective coding in conjunction with memo-writing and Resource Journal commentaries. The iterative process of data analysis and literature access that included arts-informed, non-technical, and technical material collectively informed the study findings.
As the ‘grounded theory’ driver, ‘wanting-it-all-regardless’ dominated the data findings, within which the core category, the Academic Highway Journey, and the five major categories were identified. These major categories comprised academic, coping, identity, immigration, and learning systems. In using an astronomy metaphor, the core category or newly-discovered planetary force has five major categories or satellite systems orbiting within its sphere of influence. These GT-generated components resulted in developing the Wanting-It-All-Regardless Theory (the Theory). This Theory explained how the research participants, in ‘misframing’ their Academic Highway Journeys, managed the barriers, breakdowns, and breakthroughs experienced along the way.
Making an original and important contribution to Australian-based Generation 1.5 learner research, study findings highlighted major pedagogical policy, program, and practice implications. As evidenced in this study, high school is no longer considered the educational ‘finish line’. The participants in this study, either as high school graduates, university preparation courses attendees, or as having limited, formal L2 instruction, were inadequately prepared and supported during their academic journeys. Paradoxically, for these participants, university acceptance and course enrolment were conflated with having the L2 academic resources necessary to succeed educationally. In an increasingly uncertain and unstable globally connected and interconnected world, major immigration-destination countries such as Australia must urgently address the Generation 1.5 learner area as a significant impact of increasing demographic scarcity.
Serventy, E. J. (2020). Generation 1.5 learners: Using an arts-informed, grounded theory approach to understanding how these students managed their undergraduate studies in a Perth-based, public university in Western Australia over an academic year. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/2375