Refugees in American Schools; Examining English Language Learning of Adolescent Refugees

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date

April 2017

Faculty Sponsor

Casey Keck, Gail Shuck


Refugees are an understudied demographic within the field of applied linguistics. Little research has been done with adolescent refugees learning the target language of their host country. To address this gap, the present study will examine adolescent refugees with recent interrupted schooling learning English in a newcomer high school program in the Northwest region of the United States. Using a case study methodology, I will explore how identity and investment changes over time for refugee language learners. Methods of data collection will consist of classroom observation, interviews with refugee high school students, and their teachers, and collection of classroom artifacts (e.g. writing samples, homework). For data analysis, I will draw on Bonny Norton’s concepts of identity and investment in language learning. Norton has made the case that learner identities are not static and change over time in response to the environment. With language learner identities this can impact their investment in learning the target language. This presentation will describe different perspectives on identity and investment in an adolescent refugee newcomer context and implications for ESL education. Ultimately, this research can help scholars, teachers, and the target community better understand how to help refugee students with learning English at school.

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