Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Gord Doctorow

Committee Member

Jonathan Feinn

Committee Member

Lynne Schrum


English language learners, Karen Refugees, Refugee Families, Students with Interrupted Formal Education


In the U.S. the population continues to diversify as refugees find residence within its borders. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Refugee Resettlement Statistics (2012) of those refugees fourteen thousand and twenty identified themselves as Karen refugees from Burma. In the context of education, teachers are confronted with the language development of English Language Learners (ELLs). At the researchers school site the ELLs population include; immigrants, refugees, and Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE). Although it is known that refugee students have limited formal education, which creates difficulty for them to access content and develop their English language proficiency (Decapua, Smathers, & Tang, 2009), there was a paucity of data of the cultural differences of Karen refugees’ parents experiences with formal education systems compared to those of other refugees. The researcher conducted an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) case study grounded in sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978) with the aim to analyze the personal experience of Karen refugee women who relocated to an urban city located in the northeastern United States as parents of students in the U.S. public school system. After the conclusion of the study following dominant themes arose: family, limited formal education, communication and cultural representation. One major implication constituted the need for inclusion of families’ and students’ cultural knowledge into school systems and curriculum. Considering the cultural gap, it is important that teacher training programs and administrators prepare teachers with strategies for incorporating culturally responsive teaching practices into their pedagogy. Another implication of the study was communication between multilingual refugee families and American schools. Institutions working with refugee communities should prioritize interpreting and translation.

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