Beyond the “English Learner” Frame: Transnational Funds of Knowledge in Social Studies

Dafney Blanca Dabach, Aliza Fones


Transnationalism is a phenomenon that has consequences for education, broadly defined. Even as youth engage in transnational practices that expand their knowledge across borders, immigrant students in U.S. schools are often framed narrowly as “English learners” and their forms of knowledge may be erased. Synthesizing literature at the intersection of transnationalism and education, citizenship education, and funds of knowledge, we argue for the necessity of recognizing immigrant youth’s transnational funds of knowledge. We draw from a qualitative study to illustrate how a high school social studies teacher created space for students’ transnational funds of knowledge in the classroom, focusing on a Pakistani student’s return visit to his country of origin. The teacher’s orientation toward students’ transnational funds of knowledge served to counter assimilationist discourses while teaching U.S. civics. This article contributes to understanding how immigrants’ transnational experiences can widen narrow visions of citizen-building in formal schooling and build upon their assets for a more inclusive society. 


transnational students, immigrants, teachers, citizenship education, social studies

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