First Advisor

Micki M. Caskey

Date of Publication

Spring 5-26-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Curriculum and Instruction


Curriculum & Instruction




Intercultural communication, Refugees -- Burma -- Ethnic identity, Middle school students, Multicultural education



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 263 pages)


The largest refugee group entering the United States in recent years is from Burma. Refugee students face a daunting set of challenges, from language and cultural differences to living in poverty, in becoming successful in their new homes. To be successful in schools and gain cultural and social capital, refugee students must learn and internalize the specific norms of their classrooms. In middle school, students are particularly reliant upon their peers for support, making peer interactions especially important. In multicultural settings, students have ample opportunities for intercultural interactions, which can help refugee students navigate their new settings and become more successful. Unfortunately, there has been little research on the experiences of Burmese refugee students in classrooms in the United States.

I used a qualitative, transcendental phenomenological approach to study how three female Burmese refugee students experienced multicultural middle school classrooms in the United States, especially their intercultural interactions, through interviews, observations, and stimulated recall.

The participants reported wanting to understand what they were learning, stay on task, and be kind to other students. Those traits developed from their experiences in their countries of origin and combined to create a picture of what a good student should be. In observations, students acted out their ideas of what it meant to be a good student. Their intercultural interactions in class reaffirmed their identities as good students.

Implications based on the findings include setting up intentional intercultural interactions with a diverse group of students in classrooms with multicultural approaches and that researchers examine the experiences of various groups of marginalized students while accounting for the context in which they learn and acknowledging a multifaceted view of adolescent identity development.


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