Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Rachel Heydon


Studies with immigrant and refugee youth highlight challenges, school failure and early push-out rates (Anisef, 2008; James, 2012; Roessingh, 2010). There is limited research about how immigrant students especially from continental Africa negotiate their identity at school for positive outcomes. The goal of this qualitative case study was to explore literacy learning opportunities afforded by the school for African youth who were learning to become literate in English as an additional language in a Canadian secondary school and the implications for the students’ communicative and identity options.

The study utilized ethnographic tools, i.e., interview, classroom observation, mapping literacy activities and artefacts, students’ out-of school and school literacy practices across migratory ecologies over a period of three months with six students, two teachers, and a social worker at the school. Perspectives of literacy as social practices (Barton & Hamilton, 2000), multiliteracies theory (NLG, 1996), and critical post-colonial perspectives (Bhabha, 2004) provided a lens to explore the intersection of place, voice, identity, language and literacy learning.

Study results highlighted students’ aspirations to a promising future in Canada and the nature of the school curriculum in responding to the aspirations, funds of knowledge, and the contextual challenges encountered by the students. The agentive role of choice artefacts to communicate interests, experiences, and knowledge of minoritized students. The study recommends that schools and community agencies map students’ experiences across migratory ecologies to adequately plan relevant supports. Reimagining school curriculum and high stakes testing to draw on minoritized students’ funds of knowledge, and intercultural learning and scaffolding to foster co-construction of knowledge. The study contributes to the knowledge base about literacy education for minoritized groups that draws on asset models rather that deficit ones, and advances equity and social justice in education and society.