Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Philosophy (Ph.D)


Education Specialties

First Advisor

Aly McDowell

Second Advisor

Rachael Helfrick

Third Advisor

Joseph Rumenapp


As the English language learner (ELL) population in the United States continues to grow and the number of non-native speakers entering institutes of higher education increases, there is a growing need to shift the paradigm on how universities serve ELLs. While there is a body of literature to support K-12 literacy, there is little to support college ELLs. As if the lack of research was not enough, ELLs are suffering on standardized tests, college placement tests are waning, and ELLs are not receiving proper advisement, thus suffering in standard English composition courses and failing out. Drawing upon the framework of culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP), this study explored ELLs’ perception on their level of preparedness to complete college courses taught in English. Secondary research questions explored the factors that ELLs perceive as the non-academic and academic influences on their academic performance. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) laid the methodological framework for the data collection and analysis of six participants, who were college level ELLs at a four-year public university and recruited through snowball sampling. Data analysis found the following themes which helped to answer the primary and secondary research questions: preparedness, belonging, perseverance, relationships, and resources. The study built upon the extant CRP research to help educators better understand ELLs and develop curriculum and classroom strategies that are inclusive and facilitate motivation and acquisition of literacy skills. In addition, institutes of higher education may draw upon the findings to develop student support services for ELLs.

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