Becoming learners in U.S. schools: A sociocultural study of refugee students' evolving identities
Each year tens of thousands of refugee children from all over the world come to U.S. schools with their unique life histories and academic and psychological strengths and needs. Learner identities provide information about refugee students' behaviors, motivations, emotions, and interpretations in the cultural worlds of U.S. schools. The concept of identity can provide an understanding of how refugee students, as active agents, innovatively and improvisingly respond to social and economic conditions in U.S. society and transform themselves as well as their social environments. The present study aimed at investigating how newly arrived Muslim refugee students formed their learner identifies through their participations in an English as a Second Language (ESL) program and general education language arts classrooms at an urban U.S. school. The study focused on the figured worlds in the school and Ahiska families. The figured worlds in the school were polluted by deficit-oriented cultural models and paradigms. The refugee students excluded from the general education language arts classrooms were placed in an ESL pullout program. The program had an autonomous approach to language acquisition and included rote, repetitive, teacher-oriented practices. The ESL placement put the students one step closer to special education programs. The figured worlds of families had rich cultural narratives about their children's adaptation and success. The collective narratives revealed they expected schools to provide accountable and challenging academic practices. There were three cultural strategies that guided Ahiska students. Those were sticking together as a group, adapting without being assimilated, and engaging in multiple literacies. Those important cultural strategies were not utilized by the educators. Teachers did not tie academic practices into the cultural practices of the students.
Lastly, the study focused on positionality context of identity formation. The first theme regarding positionality was about the students' development of mastery over pivotal cultural tools without appropriation to claim positive social positions that were not available for them. The second theme was about the effects of acts of inclusion/exclusion for Ahiska students and their teachers. The last theme indicated how the students used discourses and personal narratives as resources to form their identities.
0529: Special education
0625: Personality psychology