Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


The purpose of this study was to more fully understand the language and literacy goals and values of a linguistically diverse Southern Sudanese refugee population residing in the Upper Midwest portion of the United States. The linguistic and cultural demographics of the area's major school district changed consistently and dramatically over a twenty-year time span. Five participants who were parents of young children were interviewed for this study from a metropolitan community with a population of approximately 200,000. Fourteen percent of the English Language Learners (ELL) in the public schools were Sudanese.

Qualitative research methods included an ethnographic approach in order to access the population for potential participants. The ethnographic components of this study took place in church settings attended by members of the Sudanese community and the researcher. Additional qualitative research methods used were participant and setting observations, formal interviews, and written and recorded data collecting when permission was granted.

Issues that related to goals parents held for their children, as well as languages and literacies used in home, school, and social settings, surfaced during this study. Each participant's story was told individually using a narrative format that described (a) background information, (b) language use in the home, school, and social settings, and (c) language and literacy goals and values. Five themes emerged from this study: (1) Male participants had higher levels of formal education than female participants and actively pursued educational advancement and support for Sudanese located in the USA or Sudan. (2) All participants were multilingual, most were multiliterate, and all used multiple languages in the home. (3) All participants in this study wanted their children to be competent in English language and literacy. (4) Most participants in this study wanted their children to maintain the family's tribal language as part of their culture. (5) Participants in this study varied in their use and acceptance of the Arabic language.

The study concluded with suggestions for further research, as well as implications for teacher education, for schools, and for classroom practice.

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Psychology Commons