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More than Meets the Eye: Immigrant and Refugee Adjustment, Education, and Acculturation in Canada Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Georgis, Rebecca
Supervisor and department
Rossiter, Marian (Educational Psychology)
Gokiert, Rebecca (Faculty of Extension)
Examining committee member and department
Klassen, Rob (Psychology in Education)
Mehrunnisa, Ali (Early Childhood Studies)
Kirova, Anna (Elementary Education)
Mayan, Maria (Faculty of Extension)
Department of Educational Psychology
Psychological Studies in Education
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
How well immigrants and refugees adjust to Canadian society is critical for their well-being and integration. Using an acculturation development framework and emphasizing a process-oriented and strength-based approach, this dissertation reports on three papers related to immigrant and refugee adjustment, education, and acculturation in Canada. In the first paper, I drew on ethnographic methodology to examine the school engagement of newcomer Somali parents and the ways in which engagement was facilitated in a school-based transition program. I collected multiple types of data including field notes, meeting notes, 19 individual interviews with program stakeholders (teachers, after-school staff, cultural brokers, program leadership, and representatives from immigrant serving organizations), and one group interview with 13 Somali mothers. Results showed that parental engagement was limited due to language-related barriers, dissimilar cultural and educational expectations, practical, resettlement, and social barriers. These barriers were successfully addressed in the program through various strategies including cultural brokering services and parent information meetings. In the second paper, I used the same ethnographic methodology to examine the school adjustment experiences of recently arrived Somali and Ethiopian adolescents with limited formal schooling. Field notes were recorded and interviews were conducted with 11 adolescents, 8 of their teachers, and 12 after-school/settlement staff working closely with the adolescents during their early transition years. Results highlighted the social-emotional, acculturation, and academic needs of newcomer adolescent refugees, as well as their strengths. In the third paper, I used a method of interpretive description to compare the bicultural experiences and competencies of first- and second-generation immigrants and refugees who have lived in Canada for a longer period of time and have experienced positive acculturation outcomes. Focus groups were conducted with eight first-generation and eight second-generation youth and adults. Results showed that both generations experienced acculturation challenges and developed similar bicultural competencies; however, the second generation experienced unique challenges within family and heritage peer networks. Together, the findings highlight some of the difficulties immigrants and refugees face when navigating two cultures and the need for educational supports that take into consideration their social-emotional and acculturation challenges and acknowledge their cultural capital, aspirations, and pre-migration knowledge.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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