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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Language and literacies pedagogies in a language introduction program in Sweden : lessons from teachers and youths Smith, Michelle B.


In 2015, 39,000 youths between the ages of 16 to 18 years arrived in Sweden, primarily from Syria, and Afghanistan, but also Iraq, Somalia and Eritrea (Migrationsverket, 2015). The Swedish National Agency for Education (i.e., Skolverket) reported that enrollment in Language Introduction Programs (LIPs) of youth seeking asylum and refuge climbed from 10,200 in 2014 to 23,100 in 2016 (Skolverket, 2014, 2016). Challenges to meet the mandated requirements to exit the Language Introduction Program and successfully graduate before youth age-out of upper secondary school at age 20 are immense, particularly for those students from refugee backgrounds with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE). This qualitative study sought to understand what four experienced language teachers in a Language Introduction Program perceived as the needs and challenges (particularly in English) of SLIFE and the most promising pedagogical responses. The study also explored the potential of a translanguaging/semiotic pedagogy in an identity-text project (two units of study) to draw on the everyday literacies, experiences, and interests of the youths (n=7) for identity affirmation and investment in language and literacy learning. The theoretical frameworks draw from Crosslinguistic Translanguaging Theory (CTT) (Cummins, 2021), the Academic Expertise Framework (Cummins, 2001), and conceptions of identity and investment (Darvin & Norton, 2015), plus related translanguaging/semiotic pedagogies (Cummins, 2021; Cummins & Early, 2011). Data were gathered through field notes, focus group interviews with the teachers, student artifacts and texts, recordings of classroom interactions, and exit-interviews with the youths. The data were analyzed using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2012). Findings from educators’ perceptions of the challenges of working with SLIFE suggest three interrelated themes: educational challenges (predominant), structural (organizational and legal) stresses, and social-emotional challenges. Upon reanalysis, educators’ dilemmas around “what” to teach and “how” to teach SLIFE are also reported. The findings from the study of the identity-text project contributed to better understandings about the potential of translanguaging/semiotic pedagogies with youth from refugee backgrounds to support identity affirmation and investment in language and literacies learning, including the youths’ dilemmatic perceptions. Implications for pedagogical practices are discussed, plus limitations of the study, and directions for future research.

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