Undergrads present research on supporting Syrian refugee students at education forum
Class project on helping teachers address challenges posed by newcomer students heard across Manitoba
Five Bachelor of Education students were selected recently to present their research on supporting Syrian refugee students in Manitoba classrooms at a provincial educational forum.
Students don’t typically present at the Manitoba Education Research Network (MERN) forums so this was a great accomplishment, said their instructor, Stephanie Yamniuk. Yamniuk also presented alongside her students from her Contested Spaces in Education class.
“I was just so excited,” said Yamniuk. “At least, at the MERN conferences I’ve attended, there haven’t been many students [presenting].” She was so pleased with the quality of her students’ project on refugees in early January that she spoke to the director of the forums and she agreed to give them a spot to discuss their work on Jan. 29 at the Winter Forum.
“They did some research, not just about refugees in classroom and accommodations from teachers, but they gave some very specific information about the theory of refugees, and I was very impressed by it.”
The students included Kiersten Hudson, Robyn Laramée, Daniel Militano, Douglas O’Brien and Lauren Prud’Homme.
“It was quite an opportunity for the five of us,” Laramée said. None of them had done a presentation for such a large group before. MERN conferences take place at the head office in Winnipeg but are broadcast around the province.
She said the project came about because her group decided that the current refugee crisis was a relevant topic to speak about classroom challenges and solutions, using the ecological theory.
“When we first started, we knew we wanted to talk about the Syrian refugee crisis because its’ so relevant right now. By the time we graduate and get out in the field we will be teaching a lot of these students.”
In the ecological systems theory, circles representing systems are placed inside of one another. In the centre there are students, schools, teachers and families; the next system outside of that circle is when two or more of those groups interact and then the outer layer is the rest of the world.
“In terms of the refugee issue—what we’re saying is maybe the student has different experiences and backgrounds than what we’re used to so how those systems interact is going to look a lot different than what we are expecting from our students or what we have experienced in our first practicum.
“Using that theory and how the systems relate can help create a positive environment for our students,” said Laramée.
The students’ project also included creative ideas and pointers for teachers to help them support newcomer students, including some cultural dos and don’ts (i.e.) in some cultures girls and boys do not study together; providing extra supports for teachers such as professional development about cultural diversity or hiring psychologists, etc. There were also helpful tips for teachers in terms of helping students fit in such as seating them beside students who are role models or introducing them to cultural centres they may attend.
Yamniuk also presented her research which she conducts on those attending Winnipeg’s Peaceful Village. She examines how families work together and work with schools to make sure newcomer families have a good experience in schools. At MERN she also touched on how researchers can be proactive.
The ability for teacher candidates to attend MERN as researchers will help them as they enter the teaching profession, said Yamniuk.
“It’s a good experience for them to be able to present their research outside the school setting,” she added.