Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Shana J. Haines


Research shows that partnerships between families and school professionals can be an important factor in student educational outcomes and that such partnerships exist less for families with refugee backgrounds than for native-born Americans. There are gaps in the literature around linguistic factors and advocacy styles that could influence the relationship between families with refugee backgrounds and school professionals, especially for Arabic speakers. The purpose of this study was to deeply analyze one Iraqi family’s interactions with school professionals in the U.S. to answer the following research question: What linguistic factors and advocacy behaviors facilitate and impede the formation of a partnership between an Iraqi family with a refugee background and school professionals in New England? This case study research drew on 12 interviews with family members and school professionals, observations, and field notes conducted over a four-year period. Data analysis was ongoing, and I conducted numerous member checks in Arabic while interacting with the family. Challenges to forming a successful partnership between the Iraqi family and their U.S. schools included expressions of anger and frustration, discrimination, and a lack of information. Additionally, using children as translators in advocacy was seen as risky. Overcoming these barriers required for families to have effective advocacy behaviors, continuous support for their children's education, and positive experiences with advocacy efforts. Understanding language proficiency, including language pragmatics, was also essential for fostering trust and effective communication between families and school professionals. Implications of this research include the importance of families and school professionals proactively establishing a relationship based on trust and partnership in order to advocate for the children effectively. The study also highlights the significance of Iraqi parents' pragmatic competence when advocating for their children in American schools. Through explicit instruction in English classes for adults and in schools, pragmatic competence can be improved. In addition, school professionals should be trained in pragmatic differences, and educational systems should consider teaching pragmatics to Iraqi families, engaging families in the educational process, revising the EL program, investigating patterns of discrimination, developing a plan to combat bullying, and facilitating a road map for professionals from immigrant or refugee backgrounds to become school professionals. By implementing these recommendations, school professionals and policymakers in New England can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for Iraqi families and students.



Number of Pages

139 p.