Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Tricia Kress

Second Advisor

Patricia Krueger-Henney

Third Advisor

Esta Montano


This ethnography seeks to identify the strengths that students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE), a unique subpopulation of English Language Learners (ELLs), possess and explore how those strengths may be utilized in the secondary classroom. This research aims to shift the focus from "eliminating deficits" to working with students' strengths in designing appropriate instruction.

This study was conducted in an urban high school Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) English Language Arts classroom during a unit on digital storytelling. The seven students ranged in age from fourteen to twenty-one. These students were identified as having gaps or limitations in their schooling prior to arriving in the United States. Data collection methods include digital storytelling, participant observation and field notes, classroom artifacts, digital recordings, and memos. In order to avoid analyzing students from a deficit, a theoretical bricolage was used including Critical Literacy (Walsh, 1991), LatCrit (Reyes, 2011), Community Cultural Wealth (Yosso, 2005), Critical Pedagogy (Freire, 1993), Culturally Responsive Teaching (Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 1995), Resiliency (Condly, 2006; Garmezy, 1991; Werner, 1989) and Funds of Knowledge (Moll & Gonzalez, 1994). Findings support the literature on a culturally responsive classroom for culturally and linguistically diverse students. Findings also demonstrate a pattern of failure mutually helped and hindered by students' resiliency. Finally, this study analyzes likeability as a spurious concept.


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