Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

John Liontas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Janet Richards, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Phil Smith, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sara Smith, Ph.D.


augmented reality, ideal L2 self, learning experiences, learning goals, ought-to L2 self, visual arts based research


While the ‘travel ban’ immigration executive order, ‘build a wall’ proposal, and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids under the Trump administration are still hot-button issues, the United States (US) is urged to maintain its leadership in addressing a rising global refugee crisis with over 65 million (70.8 million updated from United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR)’s website,, as of April 2020) individuals displaced all over the world (Khurma, 2017). Millions of refugee families have fled from life-threatening conditions in their homelands, making perilous journeys to reach host countries in search of a better life. While settling into a new environment, refugee students face challenges including emotional, social, and economic struggles as well as ‘language barriers’ (Lee & Walsh, 2015). Despite these challenges, they often are a forgotten population at schools even when they have extreme needs such as academic support, social integration, and financial aid (Dryden-Peterson, 2015). In the present dissertation, I employed Dörnyei’s (2005, 2009) tripartite Second Language (L2) Motivational Self System (L2MSS) as a theoretical framework and Visual Arts-Based Research as a guided method to explore how five secondary (grades 8 to 12) refugee students (ages 13 to 17) perceived their L2 motivational selves (i.e., their ideal L2 and ought-to selves) using visual representations. Through the study, I sought to gain a better understanding of this group’s learning goals and their peak learning experiences in various learning contexts (i.e., at schools and tutoring sessions). Over a 10-week period, I collected the data through the students’ drawings and photographs enhanced by their self-selected videos along with informal interviews and observational field notes. Regarding data analysis, I used thematic coding to identify significant themes emerging from the image- and language-based data (i.e., students’ drawings, photographs, avatars, self- selected images and videos, along with their written and oral descriptions from interview transcripts). Discoveries of the study indicate a strong correlation between the students’ L2 self visions and their learning motivation. The more vivid these images are, the higher level of intended effort and motivational behavior the students display toward their L2 learning. The study, therefore, has contributed to the pertinent literature on how to motivate L2 refugee students by helping them visualize their various second language selves (i.e., actual, ideal, and ought-to L2 self) as well as describe their peak learning experiences through arts in two educational settings (i.e., at schools and tutoring sessions). In addition, educators and tutors of refugee students can have a better understanding of the adaptive journeys of this particular group so that they find suitable ways to not only boost their students’ motivation but also make timely accommodations to meet their affective, cognitive, and linguistic needs. With these accommodations, the students will hopefully gain a clearer vision on how to bridge the gaps between their current and future selves and effectively implement the action plans to achieve their learning goals. Last, visual arts including drawing, and proper integration of technology show educational potentials in breaking ‘language barriers’, especially for those who find it hard to articulate or express themselves in words.

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