Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

H. Gerald Campano


This multiple case study results from an ethnographic immersion in a local public high school, focusing on English language learners (ELLs) in content area classrooms. The primary goals were to 1) explore the language and literacy practices of ELLs within this setting, 2) gain an understanding of the complexity and multiplicity of the learners' schooling experiences, and 3) discuss implications pertaining to practice and research. Four focal students, each from a different country and each with different home or first languages, are discussed to provide a nuanced perspective of immigrant and refugee students. Importantly, the theoretical framework of "hyphenated reality" and interlanguage contributed to uncovering the ELLs' subterranean layers. The study was informed by qualitative research methodologies, including critical ethnography. Data collection namely included field observations in classrooms, interviews with students and teachers, and student work. Within-case and cross-case analysis was conducted through a general inductive analysis approach.

Major findings include the need to view ELLs as theory constructors, who form sophisticated notions regarding second language acquisition and the linguistic features of the English language, given their unique position as learners of another language and their heightened metalinguistic awareness. ELLs also theorize schooling and act as rational agents within the structure of school. They enter school with a logical agenda and, according to their observations and experiences, adjust themselves and devise strategies for performing school. Finally, the concept of the micro-macro dialectic grew empirically from this study, thereby building upon existing scholarship. The micro-macro dialectic calls for intentionally juxtaposing a larger, contextual layer to understanding ELLs, such that their personal narratives become enriched by "official" facts and vice versa. This framework also complicates dichotomies that have been established to categorize students, academic fields, and pedagogical ideologies, such as the notion of ELLs compared to bilingual/multilingual learners. These supposedly irreconcilable differences exist in the academy and in theory but do not hold up in the hyphenated experiences of learners.