Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language

First Advisor

Diane Belcher

Second Advisor

John Murphy

Third Advisor

Gayle Nelson

Fourth Advisor

James Simpson

Fifth Advisor

Elaine Tarone


The present study examined the language and literacy practices of one ethnolinguistically diverse family literacy English classroom for women who recently migrated to the United States as refugees, and whose access to formal, school-based learning was interrupted prior to migration. More specifically, this study investigated how institutionally-valued practices socially positioned the women in class, and how the women discursively negotiated and claimed new or different positionings for themselves. Overall, this study draws on social positioning theories (Davies & Harré, 1990; Harré & van Langenhove, 1999), to attempt to address the relationship between English language education for women and notions of social inclusion (Allman, 2013).

Designed as a linguistic ethnography (Copland & Creese, 2015), data were collected over the course of two years and included eight months of thrice-weekly classroom-based participant observation; classroom audio (105) and video recordings (39); photographs (1038); audio and video-recorded semi-structured interviews with the focal teacher (4), three focal students (2 each), and the main administrator (1); and document collection. Data were transcribed and analyzed utilizing thematic (Saldaña, 2012) and micro-ethnographic discourse analysis (Bloome et al., 2006).

Findings show a range of institutionally-valued language and literacy practices and diverse accompanying positionings. Some practices served to socialize learners into specific “storylines” (Harré & Moghaddam, 2003) related to socially-preferred ways of “doing” language and literacy both inside and outside the classroom, particularly in relationship to the learners’ positions as mothers. Other practices served to position learners as legitimate co-authors and community members, affording them ways to use English to “write (and speak) themselves into” the times and places of their surrounding communities (Trend, 1994, p. 226). The findings further illustrate that learners used language and other multimodal means (i.e., photographs, video, social media) to make inter(con)textual, intercultural, and transnational connections for both academic and personal purposes—and to draw others into those connections with them. These connections positioned learners as academically, technologically, and relationally resourceful transnational women. Implications for pedagogy, programming, policy, theory, and recommendations for future research are discussed.