Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Education Theory and Practice

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 286 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Alandeom Oliveira

Committee Members

Reza Feyzi-Behnagh


Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy, Curriculum, Emergent Bilingual, English as New Language, Equity, Narrative Writing, English language, Second language acquisition, Narration (Rhetoric), Multicultural education, Bilingualism in children

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Language and Literacy Education


Much has been said about the drawbacks of “teaching to the test” in K-12 public education in the U.S. When it comes to English as a New Language (ENL), however, few studies have explored the ways in which ENL literacy and education is framed and conceptualized in the New York State Next Generation Learning Standards (NGLS), which, in turn, decisively shape ENL curriculum and instruction at schools. Considering the issues of deficits perspectives, context and pragmatics in Second Language Acquisition, mechanical approaches to writing, and narrative and agency, this study intends to reframe narrative writing around students’ lived experiences. In doing so, it moves away from deficit-oriented and hegemonic pedagogies and contributes to culturally sustaining research in the field of second language acquisition, which explores the efficacy of narrative inquiry as a vehicle of contextualizing language use and developing a sense of agency and autonomy in emergent bilinguals.Drawing upon culturally sustaining pedagogy, critical curriculum theory as well as perspectives on multicultural education, and narrative inquiry, the conceptual and empirical framework of this study posits education, literacy, and the construction of meaning as holistic, socially mediated practices, and seeks to foreground the social contents of curriculum, instruction, and literacy as well as the lived experiences of emergent bilinguals in the process of second language acquisition. To traverse the epistemological complexity of such multiple contexts, the methodological core of this study is guided by a two-pronged approach to ENL education in which each phase informs and is shaped by the other: namely, practitioner inquiry and ethnography. This qualitative study, therefore, was informed by a five-month ethnographic inquiry to explore the pedagogical, curricular, and discursive practices of eighth-grade, stand-alone ENL as well as integrated ENL/ELA classes at a public middle school. During this phase, the data sources included observations of participants’ classes, field notes, analytical memos, and interviews. At the same time, drawing on a two-month-long practitioner inquiry, this study attempted to propose an alternative approach to eighth-grade ENL writing by implementing a particular mode of narrative inquiry invested in developing narrative competence and cognitive mapping. Data sources in this phase included participants’ narratives, semi-structured interviews, and whole-class reflection sessions. The ethnographic phase of the study produced the following key findings: (a) the limitations of the Language Experience Approach (LEA) and phonics-based instruction in ENL stand-alone classes; (b) the ideological slant of the curriculum in ELA/ENL integrated class; (c) inequitable distribution of resources; and (d) institutionalization of difference and discourses of “othering.” Likewise, four themes emerged from the data analysis of the participants’ narratives during the practitioner inquiry phase: (a) perceiving and mapping spatial dimensions, (b) perceiving and mapping temporal dimensions, (c) connecting the personal to the social, and (d) regaining voice and agency. Finally, the analysis of the participants’ reflections on their narratives produced three key themes: (a) “I felt important, not embarrassed”; (b) “People in the stories were like us; we are the stories!”; (c) “I wish this was all we did in all other classes.” The findings of this study seem to suggest several points of possible intervention for practice, theory, and research: namely, recentering the marginalized voices and lived experiences of emergent bilinguals; narrative inquiry as intercultural mediation and a holistic approach to language development; decentering monolithic, monological, and ideological perspectives; contextualizing and historicizing models of ENL curriculum and instruction; and cultivating plurality of narratives, literacies, identities, and modes of epistemological inquiries.