Pursuing higher education : a case study of successful language learners in U.S. public schools.


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Students experiencing language differences in U.S. public schools face significant challenges to their college matriculation. These students must acquire an additional language while also learning the academic content required within their course work. Further, language learners also must navigate the differing and complex worlds of their home communities and the school community – each with its own set of linguistic patterns and cultural traditions. The purpose of this narrative, multiple case study was to provide insight into the lived experiences and perspectives of three immigrant language learners and provide factors of their successful college matriculation and how they navigated their disparate linguistic worlds. Participants for this study were purposefully selected with a criterion of having entered the U.S. between the ages of ten and twelve, having attended the same middle and high school, and having experienced success. For the purposes of this study, success is defined as high school graduation and college matriculation. In order to better understand the experiences of the participants and the complex factors of success, semi-structured interviews were conducted with the participants and their parents. Additionally, a former teacher was also interviewed as a means of triangulating the data. Thematic coding, analytic induction, and pattern matching were used to analyze the data collected from interviews. The data was analyzed based on the sociolinguistic turn in literacy and linguistics (Bloome & Green, 2015; Freire, 1983, Gee, 2015). Results from this study revealed three major themes in relation to college matriculation. Positive adult influences, overcoming linguistic barriers, and the ability to develop dual identities all emerged as significant findings from the data. Positive adult influences, both parents and teachers, had the most significant impact according to the participants. Additionally, the ability to overcome linguistic barriers, often with the support of the others, and the participants’ ability to navigate their two worlds and develop dual identities also contributed to their success as defined by this study. The researcher provided implications and recommendations based on the results of this study for teachers, campus administrators, and even district leadership. Finally, possible future areas of research are discussed by the researcher.



Language learners. Public schools. College matriculation. Positive adult influences. Linguistic barriers. Dual identities.