Date of Award

Spring 2018


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Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA) in English: Teaching English as a Second Language




In the 21st century alone, millions of refugees have been displaced from their homes, often through compounded traumatic experiences. Many of these refugees have resettled in foreign countries where they are forced to quickly learn a new language in order to survive in their new home. As teachers of English in the USA seek to assist refugees in adult language learning or K-12 contexts, it is critical to consider what traumatic experiences students may have encountered or are encountering, what the potential effects of these traumatic experiences on students’ language learning processes might be, and how an awareness of these events and their potential effects might inform a teacher’s pedagogical practices. In this thesis, I address these concerns by identifying types of traumatic experiences that refugees may encounter (pre-, during, and postmigration), how effects of these traumatic events might manifest themselves in a classroom, and what teachers can do to most effectively support refugee language learners through a safe learning environment. My discussion of this topic draws on research from current published sources and my five interviews with Spokane professionals (four teachers and one school counselor) who have worked with refugee language learners.