Yanan Fan

Faculty Member
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Faculty Profile

Yanan Fan, Professor in the Department of Secondary Education, Graduate College of Education

My research focuses on the education of linguistic minority students and English language development of immigrant school children. These interests come from the facts that I myself learned English as a foreign language in secondary school, taught school children and prospective English teachers in China, and later studied immigrant students’ learning experiences in Midwest inner city schools, and worked with teacher candidates in the US.

Learning a language is a fascinating process. To me, it means more than acquiring linguistic units and correct grammar; instead, it takes place in the culturally organized and ideologically charged contexts of school and society, where students negotiate language resources, expectations, and identities. My earlier research addressed the relative absence of sociocultural and critical analyses of schooling of immigrant children in secondary schools. Since I joined the faculty at San Francisco State University in 2006, my research projects have sought to document and analyze effective practices that connect second language literacy of immigrant students with pre-service teacher education. My most recent publications investigate how pre-service teachers learn to understand immigrant students’ language learning experiences through service learning and community-based professional development activities.

I use qualitative research procedures to examine the nature of English language learning among immigrant students and learning to teach English among pre-service teachers. I conduct ethnographic case studies to explore the complex process of language learning as my focal students interact, employ, and interpret language opportunities in various school settings. I use ethnographic case studies to investigate many layers of institutional and pedagogical practices that impact how students learn. Through an inductive data analysis process, I examine language events – activities organized by way of using language with diverse kinds of participants in a given situation – in order to develop thematic categories and assertions. Such a process of developing, articulating, testing, rephrasing, and retesting assertions offers insights into the nature of learning and teaching with a critical orientation of inquiry.  

I started my career in 1992 as a foreign language teacher in Beijing, China, before pursuing my doctorate in Michigan State University’s Curriculum, Teaching, and Educational Policy Program. During my five years of doctoral studies in Michigan, I taught methods classes and supervised candidates in urban schools. At SFSU, I teach credential courses on second language development and effective teaching, supervise candidates, and advise master’s and Ed.D. students.