An empirical study of Chinese university student advisors’ dynamic identity construction in the context of individual consultation

Jing Chen and Xin Zhao


While extensive research has been done on pragmatic identity construction in various contexts by various social groups, little is known about how and why university student advisors may dynamically construct their pragmatic identity in their interaction with their students. Based on the analysis of naturally-occurring data about 5 student advisors’ consultation, this article explores the various pragmatic identities constructed by Chinese university student advisors as well as their underlying motivations. It finds that the identities constructed by the student advisors can be non-professional (such as a student, an individual, a friend, and a family member) and professional (such as an administrator, a tutor and a teacher). It suggests that their pragmatic identity construction may signify their effort to balance their various communicative needs in the educational contexts. Such balance may serve to meet their goal of constructing a new type of Chinese advisor-student relation characterized by equality, democracy, and harmony.

Publication history
Table of contents

A solidly established view of communicators’ identity in the field of pragmatics today is that it is dynamically (de-)constructed and exploited as participants’ resource for communicative purposes in and via discourse (e.g., X. Chen 2013, 2014, 2018, 2020, 2022; Feng and Chen 2020; Mao and Zhao 2019; Ren 2014; Shen 2019; Yuan 2020). Previous research concerning identity construction has been almost entirely focused on social groups such as department leaders (Ho 2010), college students (Enyo 2015), fans (Matley 2020), police (Feng and Chen 2020), doctors (Mao and Zhao 2019), medical consultants (Yuan 2020), and experts at defence meetings (Ren 2014). However, insufficient attention has been paid to how and why fluid and dynamic identities, termed “pragmatic identities” in this paper, are constructed by university student advisors, who play an important role in student development via their interaction with the students. As a response to these knowledge gaps as well as the proposal to study student advisors’ pragmatic identity in interaction from a pragmatic perspective (J. Chen 2017), the present paper reports on an empirical study of Chinese university student advisors’ identity construction in their real-life individual consultations with respect to both the types of pragmatic identities constructed and the underlying motivations.

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