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A narrative inquiry into refugee students' high school experiences



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The increasing numbers of refugee students in our schools present under-prepared and under-resourced schools with particular challenges because of the students’ diverse cultural and educational backgrounds, language acquisition processes, and ways of knowing and learning. Refugee students’ stories are unique in their texture and context compared to other stories, with their themes of oppressive governments, war trauma, loss of home and family, loss of cultural identity, and diaspora. These narratives shape the stories they live by (Clandinin & Connelly, 1999, p. 4). According to Clandinin & Connelly’s (2000) notion of “four directions” (p. 50) when researching experiences, this narrative inquiry involved looking inward and outward, and backward and forward into students’ lived experiences. Listening to the refugee students’ narratives of their past lives, their present experiences in high school and in the community, as well as their hopes for the future provides educators, administrators and policy makers with a clearer picture of their complex lives. The students’ narratives in this research give educators an opportunity to reflect on the ways we inspire and give hope to refugee students in our classrooms. As the researcher, I have interwoven my personal experiences with war as a daughter and a mother along with my “personal practical knowledge” (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 3) as the students’ EAL (English as Additional Language) teacher together with the students’ narratives. The goal of this study is to provide participants with an opportunity to have their voices heard and attended to, especially in light of current teaching practices and proposed school transformation in their high school. This narrative inquiry identifies ways in which refugee students exist on the borderlands in high school and areas in schools that require attention. At the same time, it contributes an understanding of what needs to change to provide responsive educational practices in high school.



refugees, English as an Additional Language, immigrants, high school, English as a Second Language, secondary education, narrative inquiry, borderlands, othering



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Curriculum Studies


Curriculum Studies



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