Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Suzanne Majhanovich


This dissertation investigated the role that funds of knowledge play in refugee students’ language acquisition and acculturation to the new school, and the support schools provided for their language learning.

This study explores theoretical frameworks related to student ecological environments, second language acquisition, and funds of knowledge that refugee students bring with them to the classroom. This qualitative research study presents a case study of four refugee students in both ESL classrooms and mainstream classrooms at an elementary school and a secondary school. Refugee students’ English language learning was scrutinized through research techniques which include participant observation, interviews, and documents. Through the profiles of the four students, this study further highlights the lived experiences of students related to their English language learning. Major findings include: 1) the need to prepare teachers more fully, such as drawing on funds of knowledge and develop a deeper understanding of the challenges and needs that refugee students face; 2) the need to enhance communication and cooperation between systems around refugee students; 3) the need to provide both linguistic and social support. This study concludes with reflections on current ESL practices for refugee students and recommendations for teaching refugee students.