Shawna Shapiro is an associate professor of writing and linguistics at Middlebury College, where she also directs the Writing and Rhetoric Program. Shapiro’s research focuses on college transitions and innovative writing pedagogies for international and immigrant-background students. Her work has appeared in Research in the Teaching of English, TESOL Quarterly, and the Journal of Language, Identity & Education, among others. Her first book is titled Fostering International Student Success in Higher Education (2014, TESOL/NAFSA). Her second book, a co-edited collection titled Educating Refugee-background Students: Critical Issues and Dynamic Contexts, was published in 2018 (Multilingual Matters).


The Role of Discourse in Educational Policies for Refugee-background Students

This presentation draws on research from educational linguistics to examine trends in media and educational discourse about students and families who have experienced forced migration and have resettled in North America, Europe, and Australia. I trade the theme of deficit discourse in news coverage and explain how this discourse in turn informs educational policies and practices. I argue that a focus on psychological trauma, low literacy, and gaps in education allows schools to avoid taking responsibility for educational inequity. While some of these trends have been discussed in other research, few scholars have identified alternatives to deficit discourse. I address this gap by presenting my “asset discourse” framework (Shapiro & MacDonald, 2017; Shapiro, forthcoming), which foregrounds three thematic threads: Aspiration, Critical Awareness, and Societal Contribution. I highlight examples of this asset discourse in practice, from school districts near Burlington, Vermont, the center of my investigations and community engagement work.

Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs
Robert A. Jones 59 House
148 Hillcrest Road
Middlebury, VT 05753