Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Cheryl Magill


In this study, the researcher explored high school English language learners’ perceptions of risk factors and protective factors present in their academic and social lives. The researcher also explored how these students negotiated risk factors and used protective factors to be academically resilient. Therefore, the study was designed to examine academic resilience from the students’ perspectives, allowing them to share their story about their success in high school. The following research questions guided this study: (1) What risk factors are present in high school English language learners’ academic and social lives? and (2) Which protective factors do high school English language learners use to be academically resilient? The researcher collected and analyzed qualitative data using key characteristics of focus group analysis. Nine students voluntarily participated in three different semi-structured focus group meetings. The findings revealed that risk factors such as lack of English language ability, low expectations of teachers, inability to form new relationships, stress, and inattentiveness prevented students from being successful. In addition, the students discussed how several protective factors like learning English, establishing and maintaining positive relationships, establishing and implementing good study habits, and possessing certain inner qualities helped them be academically resilient. Two themes that emerged were students (1) choosing to be academically resilient and (2) actively seeking sources of help. Based on this study, suggestions for educators are as follows: (1) consider providing more language support for newcomers; (2) include and build upon parent-school and teacher-student relationships; (3) encourage and provide ways for students to form relationships with others through school-based programs; (4) foster and continue to support the growth of the students’ academic skills; (5) find ways for students to become more involved with community-based services and programs; and (6) stress the importance of holding all students to high standards, regardless of students’ English language proficiency levels.


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Is Part Of

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Is Part Of

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Date of Submission

May 2014

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