Running head: C
San Diego State University
Research & Writing
November 29, 2012
is concerned with the research paradigm and methodology employed
the lived experiences of Iraqi refugee students in postsecondary education.
includes a description of the research site, how participants were selected, collection
of data and analysis procedures and the researcher’s observations.
context to the
collection and analytic procedures used in this study the
purpose statement and research
questions are restated in this chapter.
Purpose Statement and Research Questions
The purpose of this study is to explore the experiences of Iraqi refuge
e students in the
community college system. More specifically, this research will investigate the process by which
Iraqi refugee students adapt to new educational institutions as well as a new homeland, hereafter
referred to as dual adaptation. The goal of
this study is to enhance understanding of the barriers
and support mechanisms that affect Iraqi refugee students’ college adaptation process. It is the
intent of the researcher that study findings will be used by campus administrators to implement
ies, programs, and policies which enhance the success of Iraqi refugee students. Bearing
this in mind, the primary question
guiding this study
What are the transition experiences of current Iraqi refugee students in the community
do these students face?
What factors contribute to their success in college?
researcher seeks to
of Iraqi refugee students in post
through the lens
of a research paradigm
and theoretical framework
is explained in the following section.
A research paradigm is a theory or system of belief that
guides the c
areas of consideration
: ontology (What is
reality), epistemology (How do you know something?) and methodology (How do you go about
finding out?). These constructs allow
to develop a universal view of how
lation to this knowledge and the methodological means
create new knowledge.
ntology is a set of beliefs
the nature of reality.
Some of the main questions
about ontology are
what exactly exists and which categories they can be found
meanings of being and their various modes of being
in qualitative research
questions such as
who is known rather than
is known. The researcher
identity of the known subject is being assumed
, what concepts are being approached through and
govern these concepts and
to which paradigm
those concepts belong to.
It is simply
not about establishing theory limits but consideration of an individual’s
(Vasilachis de Gial
Webster dictionary is “something that is neither
derivative nor dependent but
For something to be real its existence must be
confirmed by some means of direct or indirect interaction, measurement, and observation.
Different fields of discipline
such as Physics, Philosophy, and Sociology,
theories of reality.
ial construction of reality in the social sciences states that individuals
and groups interacting in a social system
over a time period create concepts of each other’s
actions which ultimatel
y translate into reciprocal roles played by the actors in relatio
n to each
These roles when offered to other members of society to participate
process creates meaning in society.
Knowledge and people’s belief of what reality is becomes
part of the institutional fabric of
eality is t
hen believed to be socially constructed (Berger & Luckmann, 1966).
reality as a law of nature waiting to be discovered, the critical realist
example views the world as structured,
differentiated and changing
position as a human being influences what is being measured, and the
relativist supposes that knowledge is a social reality and comes to light by means of individual
that critical realists are involved with identifying causally
echanisms are lasting and
are concerned more with explanation instead of
of what one thinks
(intransitive dimension) and one’s thinking of it (the transitive dimension)
Social reality consists
of social constructs that exist independently of the diverse ways in which they can be broadly
constructed and unde
rstood by social scientists and other social actors situated in a varied range
historical situations (Reed 2001).
Critical theory holds that reality is constructed over time when society, politics, economy,
gender, ethnicity shape str
uctures that are perceived as normal
. Individuals are co
nnected to their
environment which influences their knowledge of reality.
For example language constructs
reality of a person.
Epistemology is a set of beliefs about knowing.
It is concerned with w
hat is knowledge
and how do people know whether they
and what provides a justification of that
are some of the principal questions
Our beliefs about knowledge,
establishes our beliefs about learning. It is our
perceived relationship with the knowledge we are
and if we are part of the knowledge or external to it. One’s perceptions will
structure the interaction with what they are researching and is dependent on their ontological
knowledge and carry out
research. It is
a more strategic approach, rather than the use of techniques and data analysis
Disciplines are generally guided by particular paradigms
he epistemology I will
adhering to is the Social Constructivist world view
Social constructivism refers to meanings
formed through interactions with others and through historical and cultural norms that occur in
individual’s lives (Creswell, 2009).
The Social Constructivist
paradigm is based on the
assumption that individuals seek to understand the world they live in and work. They acquire
subjective meanings of their involvements which are derived from social contexts (e.g., spaces,
interactions, processes, approaches, syst
ems). The diverse and numerous meanings are then
viewed by the researcher. The goal of the researcher is to depend mostly on the participant’s
views of the situation under study
what has the participant persona
the adjustment process to a new environment and
a new system of education.
, allowing the participant to construct meanings and encourage dialogue and
involvement with other people. By developing open
ended questions the
researcher will be able
to gather insight into the participant’s life situations in and out of college and enable the
researcher to gain a deeper understanding of a social and cultural phenomenon. These subjective
meanings are influenced by social and cul
tural norms and historical factors. For example social
and cultural norms include constructs such as family, religion, language, art, life settings, etc.
and historical factors include political changes, wars,
The importance of culture and c
ontext in understanding occurrences in society and
constructing meaning out of these experiences form the basis of Social Constructivism
. Many contemporary theories are based on this perspective such as the
es of Vygotsky and Burner, and Bandura’s social cognitive theory
This paradigm allows the researcher to focus on the specific contexts in which people
operate and observe how their interpretation
influenced by participant’s personal, cultural
and historical experiences. The researcher’s intent is to seek meanings and inductively develop a
theory or pattern of meaning.
The specific assumptions inherent in social constructivism is based on reality,
and learning. The construction of reality is through human activity. The properties of the world
are invented together by the members of a society
. Social constructivists believe
reality does not exist prior to its social invention
and cannot be discovered. Knowledge is
considered to be a human byproduct which is constructed through social and cultural means
Prawat & Floden, 1994)
. Meanings are fashioned by individuals as
they interact with each other a
long with the environment they live in
. As such, learning is viewed
as a social process and meaningful learning takes place through an individual’s engagement in
Social meanings are created by intersubjectivity among individuals when
communications and interactions involve ideas of the world. Intersubjectivity refers to the
Gillespie & Cornish, 2010)
of the world are based
upon a social basis, social patterns and linguistic rules
and usage (Ernest, 1999). Social meanings and knowledge are constructed through
intersubjectivity among individuals. These constructs evolve through the
process of negotiations
within communicating groups. Personal meanings are formed by way of these experiences and
are influenced by the intersubjectivity of the community to which the people belong
1997; Prawat & Floden, 1994).
y offers the basis for communication and aids in
understanding of newly acquired information and activities among group members
Knowledge is derived from collaborations between people, their
environment, and their placement
(McMahon, 1997; Shunk, 2000).
of knowledge is based on intersubjectivity formed by the historical and cultural factors of the
community. This makes it easier for members to comprehend new information and activities
The next section leads into the
theoretical framework that will be utilized by the researcher
. Theoretical frame works
the skeleton of the research and brings the researcher’s perspective into the study.
Bourdieu’s notion of habitus and forms of capital
framework for this research
Bourdieu’s concept of habi
tus refers to class
based ideas of one’s
place in the world
ndividuals belonging to the oppressed class,
According to Bourdieu (1977), schools add to the reproduction of existing power
relations in society by favoring the dominant class of students. Bourdieu
conclude that schools commit symbolic violence to underserved student populations
esteeming the culture and values of the dominant class. Most refugees in higher education are
English as Second Language
who often face additional challenges compared to
their native English speaking students
. These challenges are often a
ttributed to the
linguistic capital which is necessary for achieving educational success. For educational
institutions to be able to impose symbolic violence to underserved students it is necessary that
perceptions of inferiority as
Symbolic violence" is a term first coined by
Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist, anthropologist, and philosopher. Symbolic violence
involves a misrecognition of actions. Individuals and groups are regularly marginalized and
dominated in society
. In cases where this violence is symbolic, the subjugated individuals see
their domination as natural. By viewing different social constructions as natural, the dominated
agents participate in their own subjugation. Symbolic violence is perpetrated by bot
dominator and dominated subconsciously through the use of classification systems, gift giving,
nd participation within society (Symbolic violence
ESL students and internalize this violence by
acknowledging the importance of English
competence in U.S. higher education.
Bourdieu’s concept of habitus provides understanding of the processes of social change
and analysis of power in development. “Habitus” refers to “socialized norms” that shape thin
and behavior. It is a social process that creates lasting and transferrable patterns from one context
to the other but also transfer to specific contexts over time. Habitus is not permanent and can
change under unanticipated circumstances spanning ext
ended historical time periods
. Habitus is constructed by interplay of free will and structures over a time period, shaped
by past events and structures and influenced by current practices and structures (Bourdieu 1984).
Habitus is transmitt
ed within the home and is a set of attitudes and value
and determines the
actions of the members of the class
. Higher education is valued positively by the dominant class
which results in upper class students persisting successfully in the education syste
working class students are more apt to drop out of the education system.
Refugee students in
their dual adaptation process
by the concept of habitus
as they come in greater contact with the culture of their new homeland and
institutions. It is in th
that their habitus changes
as they socialize to the
their new environment
es their thinking and behavior
Educational institutions are considered to b
e the field for
Since habitus can be altered and reshaped
the social identity of
education may become influenced
process of interaction with
main stream culture
The second important concept of
there are three forms of
cultural, or symbolic capital
eu’s concept of s
prestige, honor , attention
perceived as sources of power.
and social capital can be transfer
economic capital a
through the education system.
As noted by Bourdieu
(1986) cultural capital is connecte
d to economic capital which refers to money and property,
symbolic capital refers to status and legitimacy, and social capital relates to networks and
can be further categorized into three
types, which are the embodied
the objectified state, and the institutionalized state. The embodied state involves the work one
does for oneself. This entails personal cost and time investment.
This form of capital cannot be
transmitted instantaneously and the social conditions
of this transmission are more latent than
This embodied state is often referred as symbolic capital because often times it
is not viewed as capital
Cultural competence in education institution
and utilization of campus resources.
The objectified state is a type of capital that is transferable by legal ownership for
instance ownership of a
and other cultural products.
people view social order as “cultural products” which include education systems, language,
judgments, values, and daily life undertakings and ways of classification leading to unconscious
acceptance of social differences and hierarchies while creating one
’s sense of the world.
The final type of cultural capital is the institutionalized state such as academic
Academic qualification enables one to achieve a certificate of cultural
is the total of t
heir potential resources that are
connected to a lasting network of
institutionalized relationships of mutual connections and
recognition. One’s association with this group
owned capital. The volume of the social capital held by a person
is relevant to the size of the
network of connections that can be accessed effectively.
It is important for refugee students to
acquire cultural capital
gain the ability to adapt and
work with people in their new environment.
According to Bourdieu these various forms of capital are transferable across generations.
includes a whole range of cultural behavio
r and influences non
aspects as well such as accent,
life styles in general. Those who have ownership of
of economic capital.
Bourdieu notes that
social capital is the
aggregate of resources actual or
belong to an individual or group
who possess a
strong network of
institutionalized relationships that consist of mutual acquaintance
(Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992)
explains economic capital as a principle of domination in capitalist society.
Economic capital is related to cultural capital which enhances th
e wealth of a particular class and
relates to command over economic resources such as cash assets.
Social capital refers to resources based on group membership, relationships, networks of
influence and support.
Bourdieu’s theory on different forms of capital focuses on how structures
and institutions play a part in producing inequality.
itutions also play a role in
reproducing inequality by favoring the dominant class.
According to Bourdieu the education
unction in ways that legitimize
class inequalities. In
order to attain post
on individuals need to possess the cultural capital
class habitus. Refugee students lack all forms of capital such as social, cultural,
capital and are subject to class inequalities in educational attainments.
Bourdieu states that
educational credentials promote inequalities as higher
class individuals are seen to have the right
to their place in
Educational credentials provide the means
through which wealth and power are transmitted.
students lack linguistic capital and social competency in their dual adaptation
. These are major barriers on
their path to higher education.
A third important concept of Bourdieu is the idea of ‘fields’ which represent various
social and institutional grounds wherein people express and produce their dispositions and
compete for the different forms of capital
. A field comprises a
structure or sets of relationships which could be intellectual, religious, educational, cultural, etc.
(Navarro, 2006). People experience power based on which field they are in at a given moment.
The final important concept of Bourdieu is that o
f ‘doxa’ which combines both orthodox
and heterodox norms and beliefs. These comprise of unstated and taken for granted assumptions
that base how we make distinctions. Doxa occurs when we cling to relations of order as they
structure the real world and the
thought world inseparably and is accepted as self
Bordieu’s theories encompass an extensive body of sociological research. This spans a wide
range of social issues which he accepts as a method which is a part of social change.
Immigrant and ref
ugee students who achieve academic success and make their way to
flagship universities continue to face challenges that native speakers do not experience due to
their linguistic challenges. They try to conquer their linguistic challenges by studying harder
putting in a lot of extra effort but found dealing with nonlinguistic barriers was much more
difficult. These nonlinguistic challenges are institutional constraints that apply to ESL students’
lack of finances, and their unconscious acceptance of thei
r social differences that leads them to
eliminate themselves as full members of the university.
Refugees when moved to new countries are subject to symbolic violence
and lack not
only material assets but are deprived of social,
cultural and linguist
ic capital. This is often
in their dual adaptation process in which they adjust to their new homeland and
make their way into post
Qualitative research deals with complex interpretations of the huma
n experience and their
relationship with social and cultural systems. It is highly interpretive in nature and is concerned
with understanding of a natural world. As stated by
(Denzin & Lincoln, 1994)
research focuses on multimethod means that
are interpretive and naturalistic. The multimethod
means combine multiple ways, empirical tools, perceptions and observations in a single study
which then can be used as a strategy that adds to the dep
th and breadth of other studies
qualitative research is a process of inquiry that seeks to understand a social and
human problem based on well
defined methodological traditions of inquiry. The research is
conducted in a natural setting and draws a holistic picture by analyzing words and
Gall, Borg, & Gall, (1996
defined qualitative research as the inquiry that is
established in the supposition that humans create social reality by constructing their own
meanings and interpretations which tend to be impermanent and c
al (2007) noted that qualitative research attempts to retrieve the human story and it will be
necessary to remember the human side of the work. Creswell (1998) categorizes five traditions
of qualitative research: phenomenol
ogy (exploring the life of an individual), grounded theory
(developing a theory grounded in data from the field), ethnography (describing and interpreting a
cultural and social group), and case study (developing an in
depth analysis of a single case or
tiple cases). This researcher seeks to study the essence of experiences of refugee students in
their dual adaptation process and will utilize a qualitative methodology based on
Guided by a phenomenological research design, the researcher pl
ans to conduct a study
that will examine the lived experiences of
. This calls for exploring and
understanding the meaning individuals give to social or human problems in and out of their
interactions with a human community (Creswell, 2009)
. According to Creswell,
phenomenological study consists of “Researchers search for essentials, invariant structure (or
essence) or the central underlying meaning of the experience and emphasize the intentionality of
consciousness where experiences contain
both the outward appearance and inward consciousness
based on memory, image and meaning” (
Phenomenological inquiry is deeply rooted in German philosophy and seeks to
understand the essence of lived experience. Researchers conductin
g phenomenological inquiry
focus deeply on the meaning of a specific characteristic of experience, with the expectation that
through dialogue and reflection the very core essence of the experience will be derived.
Language is the principal agent through wh
ich meaning is both constructed and conveyed
(Holstein & Gubrium,
. This methodology is particularly suitable for my study as it seeks
to understand meanings and perspectives of participants comprising of Iraqi refugee students. It
is concerned with h
ow the daily inter
subjective world is constructed
Knowledge is derived from experiences of research participants and therefore cannot be
ascertained as absolute fact
The core of phenomenologi
cal inquiry is
to understand how a
This research process involves developing questions, procedures, data collection, and
analyses that move from specific
to general themes. This utilizes an inductive method which
includes making a general inference from specifics. The researcher’s focus will consist of
interpreting the meaning of the data collections and focus on individual meanings of refugee
The major form of data collection for eliciting the inner perspective
of refugee students will be by interviewing these students. Patton (1990) stated that the rationale
for interviewing is to find out what is the inner subjectivity of a
person i.e. what are the
perception of lived reality of these individuals.
This study will be conducted in
located in San Diego East County.
is the third largest community college district in
serving approximately 20,000 students. Students are diverse and 45.1% of
students are White, 24% Hispanic, 12% Asian/Pacific Islander, 7.7% Black, 11.2%,
Approximately 55.6% are female
and 43.5% are male
(California Community Colleges
The vision of
concerned with changing
the college is to afford
learning opportunities that pre
pare students to
of the community
of a complex, global
istrict fulfills its mission by providing
that result in
certificates, associate degrees
career and technical education programs
that prepare students for workforce entry and advancement; Comprehensive student development
and support services that help students succeed in meeting their educational goals; Engaging
es that meet learners’ needs in basic skills, English language proficiency, and
lifelong learning; and Responsive social and economic development programs and community
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, 2012)
study will be incoming Iraqi refugee students in their first year at
College who immigrated to the US and have received no formal
To participate they must be
18 years of age
ed by the Institutional Review
Board at SDSU
to protect youth who are considered minors
Since this researcher aims to study
the dual adaptation process of refugees in postsecondary education and their new environment, it
will be important to interview
students who are new to the U.S. education system in order to
understand their unique experiences.
ECCC is committed to providing leadership by promoting
learning opportunities that prepare students to meet the needs of a complicated democracy and a
is committed to providing an outstanding learning environment that empowers
diverse people to follow their hopes, dreams,
and reach their full potential and evolve into
enlightened leaders and effective citizens for
local and global
Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, 2012)
Refugee students are also
part of the ECCC
community and can benefit from the mission and goals of the campus.
Participants will be recruited from the Educational
Opportunity Programs and Services
at ECCC. This is a feasible approach for contacting the students
of the refugee student population is part of this program. The Chair of the department will be
r recruitment purposes
and proper procedures followed
iverse range of students will be recruited from differing age groups, gender, and
levels of education achieved prior to their arrival in the U.S. so that diverse perspecti
derived. Students have to be currently enrolled at
. The dual adaptation process of Iraqi
refugee students adapting to the community college and their adjustment process in their new
homeland will be examined which involves environmental, soc
ial, and cultural factors.
Maximum variation sampling seeks representativeness
by including wide range of
This sampling form is also
sometimes referred as
maximum diversity or maximum
is a special
kind of purposive sample.
Purposeful sampling involves
the selection of cases which are rich in information for
t is useful
when the sample size is very small and when no population information is available.
g involves the purposeful picking of a wide range of variation on dimensions of
and covers unique or diverse variations that emerge in adaptation to different conditions.
Common patterns that cut across variations are identified
in this method of sampling
. This researcher seeks to study the lived experiences of refugee students in higher
education and will need to interview
Iraqi refugee students from different education levels, work
experience, previous levels of e
ducations achieved and the like.
Convenience sampling will be
used by recruiting t
refugee students for interviewing purposes from the Educational
Opportunity and Services Department
Most of the refugee students are part of the EOPS
ission will be sought by contacting the chair of the
ment prior to
Rich and meaningful data from participants will be gathered directly from the interview
process. The researcher will establish trust and rapport with
each refugee student by creating a
threatening environment. As a qualitative researcher it is vital to establish a rapport building
process from the very beginning so that participant disclosure maybe facilitated in a comfortable
e & Renzetti,
state that in research interviews, the intensity and
frequency of self
disclosure may differ according to the sensitivity of topics
(Acker, Barry, &
state that qualitative research entails reciprocity between the researc
her and the
participant as they share facets of their experiences with each other.
Bearing this in mind this
researcher will share some personal adaptation processes that she underwent when she
to this country. This researcher also
secondary education in the U.S.
similar experiences in the process of acculturating to both a new home land and
different education system
this reciprocal sharing of experiences
contributes to the dept
h and quality of the data collected.
that they may ask any questions before the interview began
Data collection will involve one to one interview and will be conducted in
a room at the
. Each participant selected for the study will be asked to tell their
particular story based on previously prepared questionnaire. Permission will be obtained from
participants to audio record to preserve the conversation.
Students will be assured
will be confidential and their names will not be mentioned.
The taped session will be transcribed
and the tape will be destroyed after completion of transcription.
These students will need to
understand and learn the mission, the culture,
the expectations, the skill levels, attitudes and
behaviors expected of them to be successful college students in the community college system.
Instructional faculty including ESL instructors, counseling faculty and basic skills math
instructors will be c
ontacted as to their perceptions and experiences in serving
The researcher will also contact
Institutional Research Division
concerned with demographics of the students served.
be transcribed and then analyzed using a software called Saturate. The
transcription literally transforms spoken words into a printed copy by capturing the words of the
participant in a precise manner
The researcher will listen to the
interview tapes several times to familiarize with the data each
time they listen.
Data analysis will start with open coding and emerging main themes will be grouped into
categories. Selective coding will be used to explore relationships between codes and
compared to theory and existent literature. These codes will be further categorized to reflect
different aspects applicable to the research (Charmaz 2002). Analytic memos will be created
after data is analyzed to the point of saturation.
Positionality of the Researcher
The researcher’s interest in this study sprang from her experiences as
Counselor in a
lifornia Community College.
As a general
she works with a diverse range of
students from different ethnic, socioeconomic an
d educational backgrounds and helps them
educational goals which include
personal counseling, basic skills, career and
transfer education planning.
Many of the students
recent refugee immigrants
eded help in planning their educational goals but in the process
many issues related to acculturation, adjustment and personal issues
surfaced. These students
face tremendous barriers in their path to
. They lack language skills,
deal with issues related to war and
suffer from post
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
and other mental health related is
They arrive at a time of economic crisis in the state
California and resources are scarce both at the community colleg
e level and in the employment
sector. The researcher assumes that resources could still be utilized
enable this population to succeed in their educational pursuits and become productive and
contributing members of their new homeland.
There has not been much research conducted
regarding the needs and obstacles faced by these
refugee students in
their pursuit of
acquiring education and
to their new homeland.
Therefore this researcher plans to
provide information that will provide insight
refugee students experiences in higher
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