English as a Second Language Teachers’ Perceptions of Their Ability to Teach Refugee Students in Shelby County Schools

Allison Rogers Haynes


This research project investigated how English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in the Shelby County School (Tennessee) system perceive their ability to teach refugee students. Memphis and the surrounding region have witnessed an influx of refugee students in recent years. Studies have shown that refugee students require more attention and resources than other ESL students due to issues such as trauma, displacement, and limited educational backgrounds¹².One of the main goals in this project was to determine how to improve the ESL programs in Shelby County Schools (SCS) to give refugee students a better educational foundation. A questionnaire comprised of twenty-five questions was given to over forty teachers, and some of these teachers were interviewed later to strengthen my conclusions. Open-ended questions, basic demographic questions, and questions based on a Likert scale resulted in more comprehensive data analysis. Research investigating teachers’ needs in relation to working with refugee students is especially important as the refugee population in the United States continues to grow⁵. This research promises to shed light on the perceptions teachers have toward their refugee students, how refugee language learners are different from other ESL populations, and what professional development ESL teachers feel they need.  Results suggest that limited prior schooling and emotional strain associated with the trauma of displacement are important factors to consider in educating refugee students.


refugee; English as a Second Language; newcomer program

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