Publication Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (Master of Arts in TESOL)

First Advisor

Leslie Turpin, PhD


Although many organizations offer free “beginning” English classes for adult refugees and immigrants in the U.S., most of these classes depend on written worksheets and other print materials – therefore requiring students to be familiar with the English alphabet in order to follow along. The lack of accessible beginning literacy classes for adult refugees and immigrants puts students with limited or interrupted formal education and those whose language(s) don’t use the roman alphabet at a stark disadvantage. Additionally, most literacy coursework is designed from a Western perspective whose historical, political and social foundational structures hold English literacy and Western funds of knowledge as superior to others. In this thesis, the author explores the question of whether it might be possible to decolonize English literacy instruction, why this is important, and how instructors can shift away from the imperial influence inherent to Western teaching methods. Additionally, the author outlines some key considerations for English literacy instruction that have proven effective for adult refugees and immigrants. This includes expanding upon the ways in which adult refugee and immigrant students’ prior knowledge, wisdom and personal motivations might be integrated into beginning English literacy curriculum. The paper concludes with a collection of practical teaching recommendations and sample materials.


Adult and Continuing Education | Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Curriculum and Instruction | Language and Literacy Education