Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Zeena Zakharia

Second Advisor

Tricia Kress

Third Advisor

Peter Kiang


This qualitative interpretive study explored how former newcomer English Language Learners (ELLs) in Boston Public Schools (BPS) made sense of their transmigration experiences through a digital storytelling project. The study fills a gap on transmigration experiences in the context of English-only learning environments, with a particular orientation toward the value of students’ home languages, and in turn, cultures within an urban school setting. The immigrant student population in BPS continues to increase and teachers must be able to understand and plan for newcomers’ specific needs. To this end, my conceptual framework drew on four areas: general educators and their urban students, with sections on teachers’ habitus and the hidden curriculum; cultural relevance in urban education; identity, including social identity theory and transnational identity; and school adjustment, with sections on student voice and social integration. Set in a community center in Boston and drawing on ethnographic methods, the study explored participants’ unique educational experiences in moving from Haiti to different academic programs in BPS.

The overarching research question was: How do former newcomer ELLs make sense of their transmigration experiences through a digital storytelling project? I used a combination of methods--interviews, participant observations, photography, and digital storytelling--to gather and analyze artifacts. Data analysis highlighted issues related to the process of conducting the digital storytelling project, as well as issues emerging from the participants’ narratives of transmigration. Analysis of the research process revealed a distinction between how teacher preparation and teacher preparedness might be understood for educators working with newcomer ELLs. Analysis of participant narratives suggests that language holds central importance to the transmigration and social integration experiences of newcomers. Furthermore, digital storytelling, as a pedagogical process, may serve as an effective tool for working with newcomer ELLs, both as a means to facilitate meaning making and to give significance to their transmigration experiences. It may also serve as an effective means to support language development.

Adding to the body of immigration literature on how newcomers fare, the study’s implications include the role of language in social integration, ways of understanding teacher preparation and preparedness, and the utility of digital storytelling.