Publication Date

Spring 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)




Robert Gliner


adolescent refugee youth, culturally responsive practices, literacy skills, safe learning environments, trauma informed practices, undocumented

Subject Areas

Education; English as a second language; Pedagogy


Studies on the academic achievement of refugee students cite continuous underachievement in literacy skills. Due to trauma from fleeing their countries of origin, limited school experiences, and language barriers, refugee students struggle with demonstrating progress in academic achievement. Learning challenges continue to take place when classroom teachers are not equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resources to support students with their unique learning needs. Through the use of a documentary research method, this dissertation investigated the experiences of five adolescent refugee students who attended afterschool programs as an additional resource for developing literacy skills.This study also explored how students perceived safety within the afterschool program environment. Due to the limited studies available based on the viewpoint of the students, this study described the most helpful strategies based on the students’ perspectives. Culturally responsive and trauma-informed practices were used as the conceptual lens for this exploratory study. The documentary film Creating Safe Learning Spaces in Turbulent Times was created to illustrate the findings from the research. Caring tutors were identified as a key factor that contributed to students’ positive experiences in and perceptions of safe learning environments.