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Portraits of young refugee women’s identities, experiences, and beliefs in relation to college-going

Jennifer C. Mann (Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences, North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA)
Alison McGlinn Turner (Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 4 July 2023

Issue publication date: 31 July 2023

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Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to explore the stories of two young refugee women, Sue Mar and Amora, and how their adolescent identities, experiences, and beliefs, partially shaped by their English teacher, helped pave their paths to higher education.

Design/methodology/approach

This study is guided by the lens of critical literacy as “a way of being and doing” (Vasquez et al., 2019). The authors chose portraiture, a participant-centered methodology, as a response to the historical marginalization of refugees, to bring their voices to the forefront (Lawrence-Lightfoot and Davis, 1997). They draw from interviews conducted with Sue Mar and Amora, document analysis, and an interview with the English teacher.

Findings

In Sue Mar and Amora’s portraits, aspiration and determination are seen as primary factors in their college-going. In addition, Sue Mar and Amora were propelled by their English teacher’s support through the cultivation of a loving relationship, high expectations, and critical pedagogical practices. Their family and community fostered beliefs about the power and potential of education, and other refugees served as important role models.

Research limitations/implications

Researchers should explore refugee students’ experiences accessing higher education.

Practical implications

English educators should connect literature to the lived experiences of their students to show that they value their students’ knowledge and past experiences.

Social implications

Policymakers should consider the role that community colleges play in the lives of refugee students and should support programs including tuition reduction for refugee students.

Originality/value

As only 6% of refugees currently attend college (UNHCR, 2023), it is essential to understand factors that contributed to students’ college-going.

Keywords

Citation

Mann, J.C. and Turner, A.M. (2023), "Portraits of young refugee women’s identities, experiences, and beliefs in relation to college-going", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 368-380. https://doi.org/10.1108/ETPC-07-2022-0085

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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