Risk and resilience in narratives of newcomer youth affected by forced migration and interrupted education : a Canadian educational setting
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This interdisciplinary dissertation is the result of action research to better understand the academic, social, and emotional needs of youth who arrive in Canada with experiences of interrupted education and forced migration. In the province of Saskatchewan, where there has been a dramatic rise in immigration since 2009, the infrastructure to meet the needs of newcomer youth with high emotional and academic needs remains undeveloped. By taking a youth perspective and employing anti-oppressive methodologies, this study serves to address the gap in research regarding the challenges that create barriers to successful integration into Canadian society as well as the factors that assist youth in living well despite tremendous obstacles. In an effort to employ a methodology that was compatible with an English as an additional language (EAL) classroom setting, narratives were collected in various ways. Eight students in a sheltered (EAL student only) Language Arts class wrote journal entries, reflective essays, illustrated children’s books, and photo essays. Students also engaged in peer interviews, in-class storytelling as well as personal interviews with the researcher. Three additional EAL students from various classes in the same school submitted personal stories and journal entries. Three teachers were interviewed regarding their use of storytelling as part of the academic program and to build rapport with students. The findings of this study highlight the factors of risk and resilience identified by the student and teacher participants. Factors of risk include pre-migration poverty, experiences of trauma, persecution, large gaps in first language education, and forced migration. Post-migration factors such as the need for appropriate educational programs, loneliness and lack of friends, as well as economic struggles were identified as significant barriers to wellbeing and integration. The youth also showed great insight into the factors that increased their wellbeing and identified the people, places, activities, and values that comforted them in times of overwhelming despair. Through their stories, the youth demonstrated the personal qualities that enhanced their resilience and shared words of wisdom for Canadian-born teachers and youth new to Canada. A secondary role of this inquiry was to explore the use of narratives in a classroom setting as way of opening conversations between teachers and students. EAL teachers often take on the role of counsellor and advisor despite having little training for such emotionally demanding tasks. Therefore, there is a great need to introduce teachers to methods of healing in culturally sensitive and familiar spaces. Regular classroom teachers are often unaware of EAL students’ challenging life stories, strength of character, and rich experiential learning. Narrative activities can work to mitigate cultural misunderstandings and build social capital. Storytelling is a viable strategy to encourage language learning, build community, and address emotionally difficult issues while serving as a research methodology to inform education theory and practice.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorBrooks, Carolyn M.
CommitteeDenis, Wilfrid B.; White, Judy; Jessen Williamson, Karla; Teucher, Ulrich
Copyright DateSeptember 2013