Language Education Policy Studies
An International Network

LEP by World Region

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CONFERENCES (2017) Displaced & Refugee Students: Madison, WI (USA) 

INLEPS strives to have two conferences per year. This year's conferences were in two parts and dealt with the urgent issue of the currently at least 65 million who are refugees, displaced, economic migrants (including Native Americans and many displaced groups) and whose children must face the assimilative norms of schools. 

The conferences were funded by the Spencer Foundation. For the report of the second part in Paris, France, please click here

The INLEPS 2017 conference had two parts--the first part in Madison, Wisconsin (U.S.A.) March 15-17, 2017 and the second part in Paris, France May 22-24; with funding by the Spencer Foundation. at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin (U.S.); and the second part at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France. Researchers gathered from international locations at both places and shared discussions in a roundtable format so people faced each other and the presenter interacted with the audience. The topic was displaced and refugee students in western schools, and how the teaching of language and context of the media and curriculum and teaching practices may affect their identity.


The conferences were a success in terms of sharing research methods, learning of others’ work and experiences, and possible research questions.


Many educators, at least one administrator, community members & activists, and interested people were present from the field of Education (Special Education, Second Language Acquisition, and others), and also people gathered in fields such as Latino Studies, French; from locations in the U.S. (Wisconsin, Kansas, Indiana), and countries such as Canada, France, Spain, Colombia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Albania, China gathered.


The conference roundtables fostered implications for research methods. The following are methods that could be used for the issues discussed:

  • Policy analyses: national to local level; in addition to program evaluations.
  • Vertical case study: interviewing school administrators, teachers, students from one school. This could also be comparative if possible to visit two or three sites (in one region, different countries, etc.)
  • Interviews: teachers, students, families, school administrators, policymakers. A larger sample of one of these groups. For teachers: identify practices, attitude, background knowledge, experiences; students’ experiences; school administrators’ perceptions; policymakers concerns.

Some of the specific topics addressed were:

Technology & local: social media to connect with local support groups, using translation apps if necessary;

Communities: supporting community work and working to understanding the realities refugees face; considering life narratives of displaced students adoptees and experience with school and learning the language;

Teachers: analyzing teacher practices in terms of how she or he divides time between types of students; studying ELL classrooms—teacher practices and student or family experiences; a focus on pre-service and in-service teachers in bilingual and DLI programs, paying attention to the role of families and communities, and fostering a critical anti-racist perspectives, instilling in them the positive role that teachers can play; interviewing ESL teachers and observing their classroom

Policies: studying the changes in national integration policies vis a vis the number of displaced people; investigating the effect of economic policies on people’s language choices to consider if they really have a choice; comparing the U.S. to Canada and European countries; looking at policies in places like China that have large migrant populations.

Schools: interviewing school staff and the students themselves in schools with many migrants about the schooling experience; analyzing the effect of standardized testing, the role of tutors and private language schools; investigating special education programs to find out what categorizations are used and if marginalization by language is a factor in disability labels;

A book is in press, with chapters related to the same theme. The reference for the book is Harrison, Sadiku, & Tochon, (2018). Displacement Planet Earth: Plurilingual Education and Identity for 21st Century Schools. Blue Mounds, WI: Deep University Press.




One of the successes of the conferences coming soon Cool is another edited volume in the LEP series.

Harrison, K. M. (2017). Spencer Foundation Conference Report Part I: Madison, WI March 2017. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: http://www.languageeducationpolicy.org (access date). 
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