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Understanding international students' adaptation motivation and behaviours: Transformative, strategic or conservative?

posted on 2018-01-01, 00:00 authored by Hoang Trang, Ly TranLy Tran
International student mobility has formed a growing phenomenon around the world. Understanding the adaptationive behaviours patterns of adaptation that international students display, as well as the motivation driving such adaptive adaptation behaviours, is important for involved stakeholders to enhance the support for international students. This paper uses the narrative review technique to summarise and interpret findings from recent research on international students’ adaptation behaviours. Findings from relevant literature were evaluated and selected using the rigorous Critical Appraisal Skills Programme Qualitative Checklist. The paper aims to map out the forms of adaptation among international students when they engage in education mobility and make attempts to learn about and integrate into the host environment. Drawing on Tran’s (2011) and Kiley's (2003) conceptualisation of international student adaptation and F knowledge from needs-based theories of human motivation and behaviours, we identified four typologies of international students: the transformative student, the flexible strategist, the surface strategist, and the conservative student. Certain abilities of international students such as English language proficiency, prior learning, and coping abilities are linked to their adaption and decide the typologies. Simultaneously, positive and negative aspects of international students’ motivation also impact on the adaptiveion behaviours. The findings highlight the dynamics and complexities of international student adaptation but also reveal the lack of reciprocal adaptation between international students and other related stakeholders. In many cases, the institutional discourse expects international students to bear the main responsibility for adaptation. In other cases, it is international students themselves who believe that the one-way adaptation from them is inevitable and natural. Thus, the potential benefit of reciprocal learning seems to be largely compromised in the current discourse of international education. We argue that to embrace reciprocity in adaptation and reap its potential benefits requires a commitment to recognise and build on mutual respect and understanding, empathy, equality, awareness of one’s own cultural biases and a willingness to share the responsibility to learn productively and mutually from the encounter of differences.


Title of book

Educational reciprocity and adaptivity: international students and stakeholders


Routledge research in international and comparative education

Chapter number



62 - 82



Place of publication

Abingdon, Eng.





Publication classification

B1 Book chapter

Copyright notice

2018, Trang Hoang and Ly Thi Tran




Abe Ata, Ly Tran, Indika Liyanage

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