The Academic Acculturation of Newcomer Teens in Iowa Schools: A Phenomenological Study
Friesen, Calle A. W.
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SubjectAcculturation--Teenagers--Iowa; Teenage immigrants--Education--Iowa; Schools--Immigration--Iowa
Problem: New Americans enter Iowa in record numbers (Grey, 2013), with higher multilingual student populations expected over the next 20 years (Grey, 2013; Immigration Policy Center, 2013). As a result, Iowa schools face a growing need to understand teenage newcomer academic acculturation. Procedures: This qualitative study explored the phenomenon of teenage newcomer academic acculturation through the lived experiences of 18 participants who entered the Iowa school system as refugee or immigrant newcomers during grades 7-12, representing 10 nationalities and 15 language groups. A grand tour question guided this study: What are the academic acculturation experiences of teenage newcomers in Iowa schools? Participants completed a narrative survey and engaged in focus group discussions with 3-5 other newcomers from various global origins. Data collection consisted of handwritten survey responses, verbatim focus group transcripts, and researcher field notes. Data analysis used an open coding approach (Creswell, 2003; Giorgi, 1997), appropriate for identification of key themes. Data were verified through member checks, triangulation, rich thick descriptions (Geertz, 1973), field notes, and reflexive journaling. Findings: Data analysis revealed realities of Iowa newcomer academic acculturation experience as influenced by family, culture, schools, and relationships. The essence of newcomer experience emerged in 33 secondary themes and 9 major themes: family, culture, school personnel, school academics, relationships, newcomer mistreatment, culture shock, fear factors, and newcomer extremes. Conclusion: Influences rooted in both the home society of origin and the school society of settlement impact newcomer’s transitional experience to Iowa school culture. School climates of rejection and mistrust were fueled by negative relationships with general education teachers and encounters with bullying, prejudice, and discrimination. Positive experiences emerged for students with strong family support and freedom to adopt bicultural identity. School climates of acceptance and trust resulted when diversity was embraced by the school culture, accommodations for language acquisition were provided, and newcomers enjoyed positive relationships with school personnel. Recommendations: Iowa educators should gain insight into personal biases that hinder acceptance of diversity and negatively impact newcomer student experience. Educators are encouraged to develop patience with newcomers through their English language acquisition and transition to Iowa culture . Teachers should monitor student assignment progress and completion until newcomers comprehend expectations of secondary contexts. Educators must learn about the cultural backgrounds of newcomer students. All content area teachers need to understand effective instructional modification and accommodations for language learners. School teams should consider flexible and innovative approaches to fostering relationships with newcomer families.