Major Department



College of Education


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Fall 2018

Honors Major Advisor

Laurie J. Croft

Thesis Mentor

Aliza Fones


The purpose of my project was to explore the experiences of refugee English Language Learner (ELL) students. The importance of this topic is that refugees have unique needs based on past experiences. Also, teachers might not be experts on refugees and why they left their home country. Finally, we are experiencing an influx of refugees coming to America which makes it imperative to learn to create the best learning environment for these students. My research question is: What are the experiences of high school ELL students? To begin my research I first had to submit an Internal Review Board application. Once I received the approval, my mentor sought out an appropriate school setting to conduct my research. I then did weekly classroom observations for one period, over the course of six weeks, and held weekly meetings with the cooperating teacher for an additional period every week. A questionnaire was composed and distributed to gather data and seek out student who were refugees and would be willing to discuss their experiences in an interview with me. The cooperating teacher, my research mentor and I narrowed down the students who would be best to interview based on scheduling and anticipated experiences that would contribute to my research. I wrote questions and after receiving the approval of my mentor did a pilot interview. After the pilot interview I met with the students, interviewed them separately, transcribed and recorded the interviews. I coded the transcripts and used open and thematic coding to analyze my results. I found that the students came from very different backgrounds leaving their home country because of violence, starvation or possible political persecution. All students had kinetic refugee movements, where they did not have to leave suddenly and had time to prepare for their immigration. Students’ socioeconomic classes were all in the middle class, but each student fell into a different pattern of immigration. The big take away for teachers is the importance of getting to know your students, creating bonds between your students, yourself and the class to encourage a sense of belonging which has been tied to greater overall achievement for refugees in the classroom. Knowing your student’s experiences helps to create these bonds and contributes to best practice as a teacher.


Refugee, English Language Learner, High school

Total Pages

26 pages


Copyright © 2018 Gabrielle Ursula Chelette