In this study, I investigated the critical-thinking experiences of seven Chinese international and five U.S. students attending a large public university in the United States. I conducted a comparative analysis of these groups’ different experiences with critical thinking in this context, while closely following the twin methods of epoché and reduction in phenomenology to remain attuned to any personal biases. My results indicated that Chinese and U.S. students experienced critical thinking differently on the basis of the four universal existentials noted by van Manen (2016): lived experiences of relation (self–other), materiality (things), time, and space/place. Specifically, the Chinese students tended to view themselves as outsiders and/or newcomers to the United States and found that they learned to think critically by interacting with others (e.g., professors, peers, and teaching assistants). By contrast, the U.S. students developed and practiced their critical thinking mainly by completing homework assignments that were hands-on and practical. These findings suggest that familiarity with linguistic and educational practices may be a strong predictor for experiential differences between groups of students in a university setting.


critical thinking, college students, phenomenology, epoché, reduction

Author Bio(s)

Lu (Wendy) Yan, Ph.D., is a faculty member in the Ethnic Studies Department, Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include college student experience, diversity and inclusion, Asian American studies, and qualitative research methods. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lu (Wendy) Yan, 222J Morris Hall, Minnesota State University, Mankato, MN 56001. Email: lu.yan@mnsu.edu

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.