What can schools do to meet the social and emotional and academic needs of immigrant-origin students?

In a research study conducted in the United States and in Europe, a team of researchers led by co-founder of Re-Imagining Migration, Carola Suarez-Orozco, identified several promising educational practices. A number of the practices they identified are beneficial for all students, while others are more specific to children of immigrants.

The research team grouped the educational practices into seven categories including:

  • Curriculum
  • Pedagogical approaches
  • School structures
  • School climate
  • Assessment strategies
  • Educational supports and enrichment outside of class
  • Preparation for high education and the workplace

According to the team, “Other practices were very specific to the needs of newcomer students and second-language learners, serving to ease their negotiation of the cultural transition and learning a new language.”

We adapted the findings from the study to provide a checklist to use as a starting point for a discussion about the ways that schools can meet the socio-emotional and academic needs of newcomers in schools and society.

Meeting the social and emotional and academic needs of immigrant-origin students

Educational practices that are beneficial in meeting the socio-emotional and academic needs of ALL students include:

  • Rigorous Curriculum
    • Teaching critical thinking
    • Posting complex problems with multiple solutions
  • Relevant Curriculum
    • Promoting global awareness & issues
    • Developing collaborative skills
    • Working across difference
  • Innovative Pedagogy
    • Interdisciplinary
    • Teaching for differentiated learning styles
    • Mixed-level student groupings
    • Team teaching
  • Fostering relationships
    • Relationships between students and teachers/other school-based adults (e.g., advisory groups)
    • Relationships between school and parents (e.g., accommodating parents’ schedules for parent-teacher meetings; reaching out through parent liaisons, and parenting courses)
    • Relationships between students (e.g., collaborative projects, learning about identity and belonging and inclusion/exclusion)
  • Additional practices for supporting ALL students include providing specific academic supports including:
    • Tutoring and homework supports
    • Explicit college pathway knowledge

Educational practices that are specific to meeting the ACADEMIC NEEDS of IMMIGRANT ORIGIN students. These include:

      • Specific support to address gaps in education, literacy, and academic English
      • Language learning accommodations
        • Integrating new language skills in every subject
        • Code-switching to explain concepts
      • Accommodations for longer time needed to graduate
        • Providing additional learning opportunities
        • Longer school days
        • Summer school
      • Accommodations/extra time for tests and quizzes, including high stakes tests

Educational practices are specific to meeting the SOCIO-EMOTIONAL NEEDS of IMMIGRANT ORIGIN students. These practices include:

      • Recognizing and addressing cultural shock and transitions by providing:
        • Advisory groups that address issues of newcomers
        • Parenting classes
        • Students space to talk about challenges of immigration
      • Providing opportunities for maintaining cultural practices and heritage language
      • Making efforts to engage with the community and families in culturally relevant ways

For more information, see  Suarez-Orozco, CE; Martin, M; Alexandersson, M; Dance, L; Lunneblad, J. (2013) Promising practices: Preparing children of Immigrants in New York and Sweden. In R. Alba and J. Holdaway (Eds.) The Children of Immigrants in Schools: A Comparative Look at Integration in the United States and Western Europe.