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Teachers for Immigrant Students: A Systematic Literature Review Across Hong Kong, Turkey, and the United States

by Crystal Chen Lee, Sibel Akin-Sabuncu, A. Lin Goodwin & Seung Eun (Sunny) McDevitt - 2021

Background: Diversity across the world is changing, given the growing number of immigrant children in schools. These increases in transnational mobility have teachers struggling to reconsider their everyday practices to accommodate many more newcomers in their classrooms. The need for teachers to become more responsive to changing social conditions and student populations is gaining urgency.

Purpose: Our purpose in this study is to gain insight into what the literature says about educating immigrant children through the lens of social justice in Turkey, the United States (U.S.), and Hong Kong (HK), as each context presents a distinct case of immigration.

Research Design: We conduct a systematic literature review on 87 articles, selected from teaching and teacher education journals. In light of documented inequities experienced by immigrant children, we conduct our review within a framework of teaching immigrant students globally within, versus parallel to, the field of teaching for social justice.

Findings: Through cross-jurisdiction inquiry, our findings reveal both examples and counterexamples of teaching for social justice, categorized in three cross-cutting themes: (1) Ways of Teaching, (2) Ways of Knowing, and (3) Ways of Seeing. Among the literature, we found a significant focus on language acquisition in the teaching of immigrant students. Another pattern was the ways in which teachers and teacher education value (or not) immigrant students’ funds of knowledge by building on (or rejecting) what students and their communities bring to their learning. Finally, our review demonstrated how teacher educators and teachers encourage, challenge, and teach preservice teachers and students to work against institutional and societal structures that are oppressive for immigrant students.

Conclusions: The global reality of superdiversity among immigrant students calls on teachers to be pedagogically adept to respect and support multiple ways of teaching, knowing, and seeing. Research on social justice education for immigrants needs to move beyond language acquisition/deficit as the primary lens for analysis to consider the assets that immigrants bring to classrooms. Despite the differences in the experiences of (im)migrant students in each of the national contexts, social justice must be embedded in teacher education to ensure inclusive and culturally responsive teaching for all.

In 2019, the number of international migrants reached 272 million; 33 million of them were children. Among the worlds migrants are nearly 29 million refugees and asylum seekers who have been forcibly displaced from their own countries. An additional 41 million people in 2018 were internally displaced due to conflict and violence, an estimated 17 million of whom were children.

(UNICEF, 2020, para 1.)

Diversity across the world is hardly new, but its nature is changing given the growing number of refugee and migrant children, placing increasing stress on schools to meet their learning needs (Public Policy & Management Institute, 2017). These increases in transnational mobility have teachers struggling to reconsider their everyday practices to accommodate many more newcomers in their classrooms, even while immigrant students lag behind their nonimmigrant peers academically (American Psychological Association [APA], 2012; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 2016; Sugarman, 2017). The need for teachers to become more responsive to changing social conditions and student populations is gaining urgency (European Commission, 2013b; OECD, 2010, 2016, 2019b), as recent reports (European Commission, 2013a) emphasize the support of children from low socioeconomic, migrant, or disadvantaged minoritized backgrounds. This highlights teacher supply and preparation as an urgent issue affecting immigrant education globally (Paine et al., 2016).

Our purpose in this study is to gain insight into what the literature says about educating immigrant children through the lens of social justice in Turkey, the United States (U.S.), and Hong Kong (HK). We selected these three sites deliberately given the perspective we each bring as insiders in each context, and given the distinctive case of immigration each context presents. We are all teacher educators and university researchers of immigrant students, teacher education, and social justice. Crystal and Sunny are teacher educators in the United States; Sibel is a teacher educator in Turkey; and Lin is a dean of education in Hong Kong. In addition to our scholarly research on teacher education and immigrant students, Crystal, Lin, and Sunny identify as first- and second-generation Asian immigrants, and Sibel has been a Turkish visiting scholar in the United States. As professional colleagues who cross international borders, we elected to review literature across all three contexts to better illuminate a global cross-sectional examination of teacher education, immigration, and social justice. If we are to think about movement and migration as inherent to the concept of immigrant, we must emphasize dialogue across borders for deeper cross-cultural understanding.


We acknowledge the essentializing nature of these characterizations of immigrant, which simplifies the complexity of the phenomenon as it plays out in each context. However, our intention is to unmask the multi-layeredness of immigration and highlight the varied ways in which the concept of immigrant manifests internationally, using our cases as three specific examples. Turkey offers a case of involuntary immigration, primarily refugees displaced by war. The U.S. has had a long history of mostly voluntary immigrants motivated by pull factors such as economic and educational opportunitiespush factors such as political conflicts notwithstanding. HKs colonial past and subsequent reintegration with greater China offers a third case of immigrants who are ethnic minorities and established non-Chinese residentsa residual of British imperialism, imported workers, and migrants or new immigrants from Mainland China. Nonetheless, in all three cases, immigrant may beand often isconflated with cultural markers such as socioeconomic or minority status and may be commonly labeled at risk or disadvantaged. Furthermore, immigrant education is typically defined primarily as language acquisition, with lack of proficiency in the majority tongue perceived as a deficit.

Recent research on teacher education and teaching for social justice (Pugach et al., 2018) reveals that discussions around this concept are often silent about the teaching of immigrant students, especially within global and cross-cultural contexts. A majority of teacher education and social justice studies fall within multicultural education and diversity and equity discourses that do not forefront the needs of immigrant students (Goodwin, 2017). Conversely, a majority of teacher education and immigrant student studies fall within language teaching practices and ELL/bilingual literature that do not foreground teaching for social justice (e.g., Moore, 2018). Although such studies allude to social justice practices, direct connections between teaching immigrant students and teaching for social justice are lacking. Therefore, we argue for a framework to think about teaching for immigrant students globally within the field of teaching for social justice, which can offer immense possibilities for teacher education to address the holistic needs of immigrant students.

We use Cochran-Smiths (2010) six principles of teacher education for social justice that emphasize community assets, students knowledge, and social activism as conceptual lenses for our study. We define teaching for social justice for immigrant students as pedagogy that advocates for their culturally and linguistically diverse languages and lived experiences. This pedagogy aims to honor and respect the multiple voices and cultural identities, integrate culturally meaningful content into the curriculum, cultivate authentic and genuine relationships of care among families, communities, and schools, and teach immigrant students to enact social action in their communities.


Using a systematic literature review design (Feak & Wales, 2009; Kennedy, 2007), we examined scholarship in teaching and teacher education literature from the U.S., Turkey, and H.K., given the unique insights each context can offer into teacher preparation/development for pupils who are immigrants. Systematic literature reviews are a method of mapping our areas of uncertainty and identifying areas where new studies are needed (Petticrew & Roberts, 2006, p. 2). Defining boundaries of the three contexts as cases, we sought to make sense of existing empirical studies and to identify future directions for research and practice in teacher preparation/development for educating immigrant students.

We selected literature from 2015 through 2019 as a period of unprecedented global mobility and immigration (UN Refugee Agency, 2018), encompassing the height of the refugee crisis in Syria, events that heightened attention to the education of immigrant newcomers. Through our review of teacher education literature, we aimed to gain insight into educating immigrant students and what seems to be emphasized (or absent) in pre- and in-service teacher development and practice to support immigrant learners in these three contexts. In doing so, we ask the following question: What does current teacher education literature say about educating immigrant students through the lens of social justice in Turkey, the United States (U.S.), and Hong Kong (HK)?

We examined each jurisdiction as an individual case and also engaged in cross-case analysis, illuminating how immigration experiences internationally are not uniform, yet wrestle with some common issues. While we make some comparisons in an effort to unearth patterns or explanatory commonalities in the education of immigrant students, we do not suggest in any way that they are comparable, especially given that Turkey and the United States are countries, while HK is a special administrative region of China. Indeed, each stands alone as a particular manifestation of immigration that is distinct, but taken together, the three provide a more nuanced perspective on immigrant students and the teachers needed to educate them. In this way, we are able to provide a broader, more global view on teaching and teacher education for (im)migrant students, provide a window into the knowledge and skills teacher educators need to emphasize in their preparation, and offer lessons for and across different national settings.


Data collection involved isolating journal articles through criterion sampling (Patton, 1990), that is, focused on teaching and teacher education for educating (im)migrant children, using region-specific labels and by assessing titles, abstracts, and keywords. We identified key teaching and teacher education journals that focus on diversity and equity and that are internationally recognized by brainstorming together to come up with journals and consulting the scope of each journal on its website (see column 1 in Table 1). While we acknowledge that articles in a variety of education journals offer insights into educating immigrant students, we purposefully selected articles in teaching and teacher education journals because we wanted to explore how the field of teacher education addresses the work of teacher education and immigrant students.

We began our initial search within the journals we identified as shown in the first column in Table 1. Any mention of concepts or pedagogies associated with migration, immigration, refugees, newcomers, and so on, triggered a full read of the article for addition (or not) to our list of articles. For example, the word immigration in the title of the article by Buchanan and Hilburn (2016), along with the keywords listed, such as undocumented immigrant youth and counter-narratives prompted us to read the abstract. The abstract informed us that the article is about preservice teachers exploring immigration counter-stories and critically thinking about their teaching in relation to immigration, and was therefore appropriate to add to our collection for a full read. However, to ensure that relevant articles would not be excluded because specific terms were not utilized, we also expanded our search to include associated terms such as diversity, English language learners, bilingual, and culturally relevant, realizing that various terms are used to refer to (im)migrant students in educational settings. We screened these articles using the same process described earlier.

This initial search yielded very few articles focused on Turkey and HK, though articles for the U.S. context were more abundant. We then expanded our journal choices to those more specific to each country location or region (e.g., Journal of Teacher Education for the U.S., Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice for Turkey, and Asia Pacific Journal of Education for HK). Specifically, our literature review for Turkey expanded to articles beyond our list of journals simply because there were no articles about the Turkish context in the most prominent teacher education journals. Therefore, our search looked beyond the selected journals to conduct an exhaustive search both in Turkish and in English, using keywords such as migration, refugees, Syrian students, teachers, teacher candidates, and teacher education.

With a more inclusive list of journals (Table 1), we continued searching using additional keywords such as ethnic minority and Turkish language learningterms more commonly used in each country's context. Through this multistep search for data collection (Figure 1), we identified 87 articles in total, both qualitative and quantitative, and recorded the year, country context of study, description, and prominent quotes, and keywords in a template.

Table 1. Selected Teacher Education Journals in Each Context


Hong Kong


Action in Teacher Education

American Educational Research Journal 

Asia Pacific Journal of Teacher Education

Educational Studies 

Equity and Excellence in Education

European Journal of Teacher Education 

Harvard Educational Review

International Journal of Educational Research 

Issues in Teacher Education

Journal of Education for Teaching 

Journal of Teacher Education 

Race Ethnicity and Education

Review of Educational Research 

Teacher Education Quarterly 

Teachers and Teaching 

Teachers College Record 

Teaching and Teacher Education

Teaching Education 

The New Educator 

Urban Education 

Asia Pacific Journal of Research 

Australian Educational Researcher 

Australian Journal of Education 

Australian Journal of Teacher Education

Bilingual Research Journal 

International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 

Journal of Language, Identity & Education

Pedagogies: An International Journal 

TESOL Journal 

TESOL Quarterly 


Academy Journal of Educational Sciences

Adnan Menderes Üniversitesi Eğitim Fakültesi Eğitim Bilimleri Dergisi

Anadolu Journal of Educational Sciences International

Bolu Abant Izzet Baysal University Journal of Faculty of Education

Çukurova University Journal of Faculty of Divinity

Education and Society in the 21st Century

Elementary Education Online

Eurasian Journal of Educational Research

European Journal of Foreign Language Teaching

Gaziantep University Journal of Educational Sciences

Göç Dergisi

Intercultural Education

International Journal of Languages Education and Teaching

International Journal of Scholars in Education

International Journal of Society Researches

International Journal of Teaching Turkish as a Foreign Language

International Journal of Turkish Literature Culture Education

International Online Journal of Educational Sciences

Journal of Child, Literature and Language Education

Journal of Continuous Vocational Education and Training

Journal of Education and Learning

Journal of Mother Tongue Education

Journal of Qualitative Research in Education

Journal of Theory and Practice in Education

Karabük University Journal of Institute of Social Sciences

Kastamonu Education Journal

Medeniyet Eğitim Araştırmaları Dergisi Mukaddime

Pamukkale University Journal of Education

Pamukkale University Journal of Social Sciences Institute

The Journal of International Social Research

Turkish Journal of Primary Education

Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry

Turkish Studies International Periodical for the Languages, Literature and History of Turkish or Turkic

Universal Journal of Educational Research

Figure 1. PRISMAadapted flow chart of data search and selection phases



In our data analysis, we chose to code our articles based on Cochran-Smiths (2004) six principles of social justice to forefront teaching for social justice as a holistic approach to teaching immigrant students. Because we used these principles to guide our definition of teaching for social justice for immigrant students, we used these principles to examine teacher education literature that explores how teachers advocate (or not) for immigrant students culturally and linguistically diverse languages and lived experiences. Cochran-Smiths (2004, p. 65) six principles of social justice teaching are:


Enable significant work within communities of learners (fostering a sense of responsibility for learning and having high expectations for all members in the learning community)


Build on what students bring to school with themknowledge and interests, cultural and linguistic resources


Teach skills, bridge gaps (starting where students are and building on prior knowledge and experiences)


Work with (not against) individuals, families, and communities (drawing on students funds of knowledge and genuinely engaging in communities)


Diversify forms of assessment (offering multiple and alternative ways to demonstrate knowledge/learning to focus on students abilities and achievements)


Make equity, power, and activism explicit parts of the curriculum (encouraging critical thinking and activism about social inequities and oppressive institutional structures)

Our analysis involved three rounds of coding to ensure trustworthiness among the four members: (a) pilot principle inductive coding; (b) pilot thematic deductive coding; and (c) thematic deductive coding. The first round was a pilot study to calibrate our individual article choices. Using Cochran-Smiths six principles, we independently coded the same small set of articles to ensure that we were applying similar meanings to the process. We then discussed and compared our coding and shared preliminary insights. We registered few differences of opinion; still, this process enabled us to clarify and operationalize each principle, and analyze any nuances that raised queries about how specific data chunks might be coded.

Our pilot coding also revealed that some principles seemed to overlap, which led us to decide to collapse the six principles into three broader themes (see Table 2). We titled the first theme as Ways of Teaching: Bridging Skills; this combined three of Cochran-Smiths (2004) principles, all of which collectively suggest that a major part of learning to teach for social justice relies on certain teacher instructional methods that enable significant work within communities of learners (Principle 1), teach skills, bridge gaps (Principle 3), and diversify forms of assessment (Principle 5) (p. 65).

The second theme, which we termed Ways of Knowing: Building Shared Knowledges, blended Principles 2 and 4 to build on what students bring to school with them and to work with (not against) individuals, families, and communities (p. 65). This theme extends beyond the teaching of individual learners in the classroom, to the ways in which teachers and schools can embrace learners holistically and value their families and communities.

The third theme, Ways of Seeing: Enacting Social Justice, captures Cochran-Smiths Principle 6: making equity, power, and activism explicit parts of the curriculum (p. 65). This theme emphasizes visible actions toward social justice. Articles in this theme discussed how to enact social justice through the curriculum, as well as within and beyond the classroom.

The second round of coding involved each member using the three themes to deductively code a larger set of articles using the same process as the pilot study. For example, in the pilot round, one team member read the full text of Bajaj et al. (2017) and assigned Codes 2 and 6, referencing key words from the principles. In the second round, she coded the article as Ways of Seeing because of its focus on sociopolitically relevant pedagogy for cultivating students critical consciousness and activism (see Table 2). To ensure that our coding process was in line with one anothers, we met frequently to discuss decisions on thematic coding.

After ensuring our process in the first and second round, we then embarked on a third round. We divided the 87 articles evenly and coded the articles once more (Table 2). To ensure trustworthiness, members met to examine the abstract in relation to the codes and discuss each members decision. When disagreements occurred, we each read the full text of the article, discussed analyses, identified discrepancies, and came to mutual decisions.

Table 2. Sample Coding Examples


(Coding 1)  



Abstract Summary


(Coding 2)


(Coding 3)

2, 6


Bajaj, M., Argenal, A., & Canlas, M. (2017). Socio-politically relevant pedagogy for immigrant and refugee youth. Equity & Excellence in Education, 50(3), 258274.  

This work comes from a 3-year case study of a public international high school in California and how the school fostered socio-politically relevant pedagogy (SPRP), a term it created as an extension of CRP. This work focuses primarily on newcomer youth and how SPRP can meet their specific needs. The data come from a researcher-led human rights club with students at the high school.  

Equity and power; sociopolitical and culturally relevant pedagogy  

Make equity, power, and activism explicit parts of the curriculum

2, 4



Thapa, C. B., & Adamson, B. (2018). Ethnicity, language-in-education policy and linguistic discrimination: Perspectives of Nepali students in Hong Kong. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 39(4), 329340.  

This article examines educational and interpersonal challenges that the Nepali students experienced because of the language-in-education policy in two HK schools. The findings show that these students experienced discrimination and lack of opportunities to maintain their own heritage language and identity.  

Working against students funds of knowledge

Working against

funds of knowledge

2, 3


Arslangilay, A. S. (2018). Are Turkish teacher candidates ready for migrant students? Journal of Education and Learning, 7(2), 316329

The mass migration of Syrians with a high rate of school-age children into Turkey brought together the Turkish education system and the need to teach these students Turkish in order to integrate them into society. In this study, 19 newly graduated Turkish teacher candidates from a state university in Ankara from the Turkish Education Department were interviewed, with the aim of gathering their views about Syrian students, their readiness if they are to teach them, and their evaluation of their preservice education in terms of preparing them for this kind of teaching. The results show that Turkish teacher candidates did not think they were ready to teach Syrian students. However, they had positive attitudes and believed they would do their best to teach these students. Teacher training programs should be updated according to the multicultural structure of the schools with Syrian students, and these programs should provide the preservice teachers with the required current information about the student profile in schools.

Readiness to teach immigrant students and evaluation of preservice teacher education

Teaching skills and bridging gaps  


We recognize several limitations in our review. Despite our attention to the selection of key journals in the three contexts, it is possible that we missed some journals that included pertinent articles on teaching and teacher education for (im)migrant students. In addition, while we brought our individual funds of knowledge to bear on the search process, they also revealed shortcomings and affordances during data collection and analysis. For example, we were able to include articles written in Turkish because one team member is fluent in Turkish and had access to Turkish literature. She compiled all related Turkish literature and translated them into English for the team. We note that the process was laborious, and the team relied on her translations for our analysis. Similarly, searching for the literature in the HK context was difficult because of our limited access to Chinese language journals that may have included relevant studies.

As a result of these limitations, plus the domination of educational research by the Global Northwhereby power relations and global flows result in certain ideas being circulated, certain sources of knowledge being validated, and certain framing of issues being authorized (Paine et al., 2016, p. 753)the literature we analyzed was weighted toward U.S. scholarship. We note the imbalance given our difficulty in adequately accessing literature that would situate educating this specific group of students within more global-vocal conversations. This seems especially pertinent for teaching (im)migrant students who move and live transnationally. We address this limitation in our implications section, where we further reflect on working collaboratively on this global issue from three international contexts and suggest future research directions. However, our decision to move beyond teacher-education-focused journals in order to expand the options relevant to Turkey and HK helped to maintain some balance against U.S. dominance.


As we coded the sample of 87 teacher education publications using the three themes, we found patterns that illuminate both examples and counterexamples of teaching for social justice. We categorized the findings across the three contexts and analyzed them for cross-cutting themes. For the purposes of clarity in discussing our findings, we will attribute these themes as (1) Ways of Teaching, (2) Ways of Knowing, and (3) Ways of Seeing.


Of 87 articles, about half (41) came under Ways of Teaching: 27 articles for Turkey, nine articles for the U.S., and five articles for HK (Table 3). In this theme, a key finding common across the three contexts was a focus on language acquisition in the teaching of immigrant students. Subthemes included language as a key bridge; language as a key gap; and language as a deficit.

Table 3. Within and Across Country Findings (Number of Articles)


Ways of Teaching

Ways of Knowing

Ways of Seeing

Total Within Country

United States





Hong Kong










Total Across Country





Language as a Key Bridge

A common challenge discussed in this literature is the need for most immigrants to quickly learn the ways of a new environment, especially basic new language competence. In bridging the language gap, studies within this theme revealed that teachers working with immigrant students employed different strategies that enabled them to come to know their students, embrace and sustain students cultures, and provide them with opportunities to develop cultural competence for their host country. Strategies ranged from general to specific and included ways of working collaboratively to achieve common goals.

General strategies included linguistically responsive instruction as an essential component or bridge for teaching subject-related content to bilingual learners (Gallagher, 2019) or culturally sustaining pedagogy (Zoch, 2017). Some of the curricular moves described to enact these pedagogies and connect immigrant students to the curriculum included the incorporation of classroom materials and texts that reflected students’ backgrounds and histories (Aydoğdu et al., 2019; Zoch, 2017), drawing on emergent bilingual students knowledge and skills in their first language (Carhill-Poza, 2018), and making use of educational games or extracurricular activities to foster immigrant students language development and support their immediate inclusion in schools (Kuzu-Jafari et al., 2018). Examples of specific language instructional techniques included teaching Chinese orthographic knowledge and supporting focused and intensive instruction on character acquisition (Wong, 2019), employing specific writing interventions among South Asian students in HK (Shum, Tai, & Shi, 2018), and utilizing thematic word teaching, among other second language methods (Aydoğdu et al., 2019).  

Collaboration and social interaction also became bridges for language instruction. Teachers developed professional advice and information networks (Hopkins et al., 2015) to share knowledge about language learners using, for example, video and discourse analysis (Im & Martin, 2015). Teachers from different specializations and backgrounds also collaborated, participating in common instructional events and reflecting together on language learners struggles and achievements in text comprehension (Madigan, 2015). Articles showed teachers sharing responsibility for language support through coteaching partnerships between general education teachers and ESL (Hopkins et al., 2019) or bilingual teachers (Bulut et al., 2018), or through language-focused instructional coaching, particularly for novice teachers (Kuzu-Jafari et al., 2018).

Teachers also structured classroom interactions to support language learning. For example, they used group work to encourage interaction among students and promote refugee students cultural integration (Kuzu-Jafari et al., 2018), used bilingual peer talk as a resource for language learning (Carhill-Poza, 2018), and fostered parent involvement (Bulut et al., 2018).

However, our findings also showed that bridging the language gap involved some implementation issues. One was the division between general education and language learning for newcomers. Hopkins et al. (2015) examined district infrastructure and subject-specific school practice and highlighted how English learner instruction is often seen as distinct and separate from the core curriculum (p. 421422). Another issue was associated with prevailing policies or norms regarding teacher assignment, whereby novice teachers are most likely to be assigned classrooms deemed less desirable, such as those serving immigrant students, even as they are least likely to have the expertise to provide quality instruction (Dabach, 2015; Russell, 2015).

Language as a Key Gap

Our review revealed to a greater extent examples of language perceived as a critical gap separating immigrant students from learning and from their teachers, and as a gap separating teachers from effectively teaching. This was evident in HK, where ethnic minorities lack of mastery of Chinese (Cantonese and Putonghua) or standard English detrimentally affects their school performance (Gu, 2018; Shum et al., 2018) and social mobility (Loh & Tam, 2016). Researchers in Turkey (Aydin & Kaya, 2017; Aykırı, 2017) documented teachers’ inability to communicate with refugee students or their parents because of language barriers, exacerbated further by the shortage of sufficiently trained teachers who can instruct immigrant students. The intersection of language facility and relevant instruction and materials was documented by research that found that the majority of teachers did not make use of effective strategies for teaching language (i.e., Turkish) to immigrant students in their classes (Aydoğdu et al., 2019) and did not have access to relevant instructional materials (Biçer & Kılıç, 2017; Bulut et al., 2018). The language gap further underscores the role of assessment in promoting cultural responsiveness for immigrant learners. Particularly in HK, where there is a well-established testing culture, Hue and Kennedy (2015) concluded that teachers have limited autonomy to implement alternative assessments that can accommodate diverse students needs.

Turkish teachers lack of readiness was tied to preparation. In-service training, when provided, was evaluated by teachers of immigrant students as ineffective in terms of instructional methods and insufficient in terms of length (Çoban-Sural & Güler-Arı, 2017). Moreover, Arslangilay (2018) reported that newly graduated Turkish teacher candidates do not believe they are prepared to teach immigrant students. There is also a need for professional development that brings together Syrian and Turkish teachers, both of whom are working with refugee students but often in separate settings (Balkar et al., 2016).

Language as a Deficit

A final subtheme revealed teachers equating languagethe lack of fluency in the host language, the use of heritage/home language, or accented speechas a deficiency of immigrant students. A study by Adair et al. (2017) addressed the discrimination that Latinx immigrant students face because of word gap deficit discourse, held by experienced educators, that perceives students entering school as lacking essential vocabulary for success and therefore unable to handle dynamic learning experiences. Gu (2018) revealed HK teachers beliefs and teaching practices centered in assimilationist perspectives, with teachers perpetuating existing societal stereotypes; the immigrant students accented English was seen as a marker of their nonlocal identity. Gu (2018) went on to document that the teachers expected their students to acquire HK English, suppressing their own heritage language accents while speaking English.

Our examination of Ways of Teaching across the three contexts revealed educators efforts to support biculturalism among immigrant students and uncovered teachers search for ways to interrupt or find pathways into the dominant curriculum for newcomers. Still, most of the literature pointed to problems faced by teachers. This was especially the case in HK and Turkish literature that seemed to take more of a deficit-based approach to learning to teach immigrants as compared with the U.S., with language differences as a primary barrier to be overcome, and acculturation to local culture as a primary goal. Of the three contexts, immigrant students perceived as a management problem seemed most pronounced in Turkey, perhaps because of the refugee crisis, which suddenly brought large numbers of Syrian students into a school system hardly prepared for them. However, in many of the language-focused studies across the three contexts, we found that (im)migrant students are rendered invisible by being couched within the terms bilingual, ELLs, and new language learners, and there is an overall lack of instructional support in and for their heritage languages (Çoban-Sural & Güler-Arı, 2017; Gu et al., 2019; Hopkins et al., 2015).


A total of 35 of 87 articles connected to the theme of Ways of Knowing. A significant number of them, 22 in total, were found for the U.S., with two articles for HK and 11 for Turkey. A key finding across the three contexts in this theme includes examplesand counterexamplesof the ways in which teachers and teacher education value (or not) immigrant students funds of knowledge by building on (or rejecting) what students and their communities bring to their learning. Subthemes appeared to be oppositional: immigrant experiences as valuable knowledge on the one hand, and transnational funds of knowledge as barrier on the other.

Immigrant Experiences as Valuable Knowledge

A number of the U.S. articles described teaching practices and teacher education programs that aimed to build on immigrant students experiences by valuing their families, identities, and lived realities, and creating curricular openings to draw on students funds of knowledge. For example, Ngo et al. (2018) examined a media arts program for Hmong immigrant youth, highlighting how teachers explore practices that allow immigrant youth to revalue their neighborhoods, families, cultures, and lives (p. 1148). The study urged teachers and teacher educators to use familial connections to rethink and cultivate educative relationships (p. 1127). Ghisos study (2016) documented how teachers built on young Latinx immigrant students routine activities, such as family visits to the laundromat, by incorporating their shared experiences and community knowledge into the literacy curriculum. Allards (2015) study of undocumented students echoed this and found that newcomers need opportunities to tell their crossing stories and to share their ongoing experience (p. 496) as part of their learning and schooling.

While our review enabled us to see how teachers could/did draw upon students funds of knowledge, we were also able to discern what motivated teachers to do this and where their valuing originated. We found two possibilities. First, teachers valued students cultures because they shared similar cultural backgrounds with immigrant youth. This was the case in Ngo and colleagues (2018) study in which teachers were able to connect as family and build educative familial relationships. This notion of cultural congruency was apparent in Sosa-Provencios (2018) exploration of how Mexican/Mexican American teachers along the U.S.Mexico border affirmed Mexicana/o immigrant students identities and experiences in their learning environments through shared language and culture, and an ethic of care. In addressing the funds of knowledge that teachers bring from the shared community, the study calls for teachers advocacy work through their ways of being, inherited wisdom, and tactics of reframed resistance (p. 27) against dominant schooling that negatively impacts the education and well-being of immigrant students.

Second, we saw that when teachers acknowledged that immigrant students possessed rich knowledges, they positioned themselves as learners of their students in order to center immigrant students multiple cultural worlds in curriculum designing. For example, Malsbary (2018) studied teachers in Los Angeles and New York City who were creative designers of contextually relevant curriculum (p. 1258) by learning from the transnational identities of their immigrant students. Haneda and Alexander (2015) studied teachers who proactively engaged with their immigrant students and became involved in students communities through advocacy work such as translating documents. These educators saw that it is the schools responsibility to engage in culturally relevant outreach to parents (Langenkamp, 2019, p. 245). Our review indicated that (re)valuing the immigrant experience goes beyond incorporating immigrant students experiences into the curriculum; it requires educators to truly become a part of immigrant communities by inviting immigrant parents and families into the classroom and embracing their lives and knowledge as important resources for teaching and learning.  

Transnational Funds of Knowledge as Barrier

Our review also revealed counter practices and policies that marginalized immigrant students and excluded their transnational identities and experiences in curriculum and schooling. For example, Kasun (2016) documented the experiences of Mexican immigrant students and their families in U.S. schools and found inhumane and problematic teaching practices in which transnational families ways of knowing were largely ignored; for example, students were unable to talk about their experiences of return visits [to Mexico, and] . . . were generally shut down by their teachers when they tried to describe their return summer visits” (p. 134). In Turkey, teachers assumed that refugee students held negative attitudes toward schooling in addition to their “language and communication problem” (Başar et al., 2018). Moreover, Turkish teachers seemed ill-equipped to provide adequate support for their refugee students because they failed to see students’ experiences of living in multiple cultural worlds as strengths (Başar et al., 2018; Solak & Celik, 2018).

Our review also revealed instances in which teachers’ inability to embrace immigrant students life experiences was challenged by factors beyond the scope of their role. Tösten et al. (2017) explained that many refugee students in Turkey experienced posttraumatic stress disorders and were in need of extra support from school personnel. However, teachers reported that they felt rather ill-informed about their refugee students and were not provided with the necessary tools or professional development to adequately support them (Aydin & Kaya, 2017; Tösten et al., 2017). In the context of HK, local policies and systemic structures emerged as limitations that are larger than individual teachers responsibilities and are impacted by deeply rooted historical ideology and macro-level policies. For example, for Nepali and other ethnic minority students, restrictive language policies are not supportive of multilingualism or minority languages, thus affecting the students general educational development, their right to equal treatment, and the maintenance of their cultural heritage and identity (Thapa & Adamson, 2018, p. 338), and limiting their learning opportunities (Gu et al., 2019).  

Our analysis in the theme Ways of Knowing revealed teachers efforts to (re)value the funds of knowledge of immigrant students, families, and communities that are historically marginalized and center their ways of knowing in schooling through educative relationships and curriculum design. Many studies across all three contexts, however, pointed to the challenges of and complexity in working with immigrant students, families, and communities in ways that promote social justice. Although immigrant students possess knowledges that are valuable and can be useful tools for learning, counterexamples showed how curriculum and teachers can work against individual students, families, and communities. Proportionally, these examples were more concentrated in Turkey and HK, offering painful portraits of discrimination against ethnic minority and refugee students in schools, and rigid policies and school systems that promote assimilation, with immigrant students funds of knowledge perceived as problems to be ameliorated. Literature in this theme showed the overall lack of teacher education programs for social justice that is explicit to immigrant pupils, signifying the need for radical change.  


One trend visible in U.S. literature but mostly absent in Turkish or HK literature involved studies about centering social justice in teacher preparation and curriculum. Still, of 87 articles across three contexts, only 11 were categorized under this theme: eight articles in the U.S., two articles in Turkey, and one article in HK. Literature within this theme analyzed or described how teacher educators and teachers encourage, challenge, and teach preservice teachers and students to work against institutional and societal structures that are oppressive for immigrant students. These studies focused on ways that educators counteract racism and support socially just practice by (1) shifting and developing thinking; (2) developing advocates and activists; and (3) privileging immigrant students specific needs.

Shifting and Developing Thinking  

Examining and shifting preservice/teachers expectations and thinking about immigrant students through explicit activities or content in the preparation curriculum was found in literature across all three contexts. One strategy was to incorporate counterstories and content knowledge that challenged normative understandings and negative images or conceptions of immigrants. For example, Buchanan and Hilburn (2016) used the documentary Which Way Home, which reveals unjust structural barriers faced by undocumented immigrants, as a tool to expand preservice teachers knowledge of U.S. immigration as a social issue while also providing a medium for discussing the significance of immigration and the experiences of immigrant students for their teaching (p. 418). As a result of the counterstory presented by the film, they found that preservice teachers shifted their thinking and expectations on immigration, a change that could impact their future teaching with/of immigrant students.

Similarly, in a study of a secondary school in HK that admitted ethnic minority students, Bhowmik et al. (2018) argued that their findings indicate that reforming pre-service teacher education focusing on prejudice reduction or anti-racist education or culturally responsive education (p. 676) is important for future teachers to be interculturally sensitive. Rojas and Liou (2018) focused on teachers dispositions in enacting transformative expectations and examined ways in which these dispositions impacted enactments of teaching social justice in the classroom. They argued for teachers to be attuned to the sociopolitical struggles of their students. Therefore, teacher education programs must train and provide future teachers with mindsets and skill sets to establish learning conditions that counteract deep-seated ideologies and racist systems (p. 177) through empowering curriculum that includes the “history of race, gender, and class struggles of people of color” (p. 166), emphasizes the development of critical consciousness, and focuses on student agency.

Finally, Turkish scholars Göğebakan-Yıldız and Engin (2019) found that teacher candidates enrolled in a migration education program that examined eight migration topics, including globalization and multiculturalism and migration and education, deepened their knowledge and understanding of the impacts of migration on students. They were able to face their own biases and change previously held viewpoints, and they found the program to be effective for preparing them to teach immigrant and refugee students.

Developing Advocates and Activists

Other articles in this category focused directly on developing teachers professional identities as advocates and activists, noting this as essential for social justice teaching. Caldas (2018) studied the use of drama-based pedagogical tools to enable social-justice-oriented bilingual teachers to ignite their professional identity as advocates who are committed to a mission for social justice (p. 380) for Mexican American/Latinx populations. In line with Buchanan and Hilburns (2016) research, the study showed that developing emergent teacher identities that explicitly advocate for immigrant students is crucial in teaching for social justice.

Rojas and Lious (2018) study also fell into this subtheme; they used transformative expectations as an analytical lens to examine the conceptions and manifestations of classroom expectations in racialized contexts (p. 164). They interviewed nine classroom teachers who held transformative expectations for urban Chicanx/Latinx youth, to learn about their social justice perspectives and the strategies they had developed to support students in meeting or exceeding classroom expectations (p. 164). They found that these teachers drew on existing community/human resources to empower curriculum in and outside the classroom and used anti-racist dispositions to align learning spaces with their social justice goals (p. 169) to transform student learning.

Privileging Immigrant Students Specific Needs

Several studies have argued that meeting immigrant students specific needs is an act of equity, power, and activism in schools, through socio-politically relevant pedagogy (SPRP) (Bajaj et al., 2017). In their study of SPRP, created as an extension of culturally relevant pedagogy, Bajaj et al. (2017) encourage educators who work with immigrants to adopt the tenets of SPRP in order to advance equity and social justice; they suggest doing so by creating curriculum that aims to cultivate critical consciousness related to local and global issues, creates avenues for reciprocal learning between families/communities and schools, and addresses students/families’ basic and physical needs.

Similarly, one Turkish study documented how classroom teachers saw curriculum change as a way to meet the needs of refugee students. Zayimoğlu-Öztürk (2018) interviewed 10 social studies teachers of refugees in state secondary schools who believed that the content of the social studies course was insufficient in terms of teaching refugees, in that it was not meeting refugee students needs. In addition to concerns about language insufficiency, the teachers wanted to make the curriculum more culturally responsive for refugee students by including topics such as refugee asylum, refugee rights and freedom, and knowledges that refugees bring into society.

Ways to Enact Social Justice Through Teacher Preparation

Finally, some studies in this theme also addressed enacting social justice through the transformation of teacher preparation explicitly for the education of immigrant students. For example, Zarate et al. (2016) analyzed the design of a teacher education symposium focusing on immigrant education and found that immigrant youth and students of color were generally problematized. Zarate et al. argued that faculty need training on how to deal with microaggressions (p. 5354) as they try to enact socially just practices. They also offer recommendations for constructing educational programs that include teaching for social justice and combating deficit approaches in teaching immigrant communities. In an extensive examination of teacher preparation programs, Goodwin (2017) found a severe lack of attention to immigrant students, suggesting that teacher preparation curriculum should explicitly and deliberately address immigrant children, their families/communities, and schooling, even as it should also deconstruct and define diversity, equity, and social justice (p. 444).

However, of all 11 articles across all three contexts, only Goodwin (2017) addressed this theme on a wider scale and discussed how to make teacher education for social justice for immigrant students explicit. Overall, we found that most effortseven in U.S. literature where there was more focus on social justice teachingare isolated within a single teacher education course or an after-school program (e.g., Ngo et al., 2018) rather than being infused into curricula. We also found much rhetoric surrounding the concept of social justice but little evidence for preparing teachers to enact social justice with and among immigrant students. Therefore, although we found the studies in this category encouraging and important, we found that their limited evidence from isolated studies is reflective of the lack of teacher educations urgency to enact social justice when teaching immigrant students.


We looked at three unique immigration cases, engaging in cross-jurisdiction inquiry as a first step in conceptualizing principles for teaching for social justice for immigrant students. Our study enabled us to hone our definition of teaching for social justice for immigrant students as pedagogy that centers inclusion and belonging and supports curriculum grounded in their lives within the unique challenges they face as newcomers. Our definition of teaching for social justice for immigrant students not only advocates for their culturally and linguistically diverse languages and lived experiences but also recognizes that these experiences and languages are fluid and span borders, mediated by the constant movement between and among different sociocultural realities. Thus this pedagogy aims to honor and respect the multiple, intersectional, and blended voices and cultural identities embodied within each individual immigrant student.

Our review sought to pinpoint the areas of research that teacher educators feel are important to pursue. What we found was that social justiceways of seeing, especially in the context of immigrant studentsdid not appear to be a significant topic for teacher education researchers. This is evidenced by the small number of articles that we selected as appropriate for our study, even though we cast the net widely over a five-year period. Possibly, the period we chose was too recent because research takes time to catch up to contemporary conditions. However, our conclusion is supported by our previous work that has examined this question from 1980 onward, and for several countries (Goodwin, 2002, 2017; Lee et al., 2019). This insight is additionally bolstered by the necessity to expand the parameters of our search and go beyond preservice teachers, immigrants, or social justice as search descriptors. The small number of articles in our sample was eventually increased by including in-service teachers and even teachers working in nonschool settings, and employing terms such as diversity, bilingual, etc. This was particularly the case for HK and Turkey. We did find many more relevant articles focused specifically on immigrants, but they were not in teacher education journals and therefore did not engage with teacher preparation. This means that despite the global reality of massive (im)migration and numerous international conversations about teachers prepared for diverse students (European Commission, 2013b; OECD, 2019b, 2019c; Paine et al., 2016; Public Policy & Management Institute, 2017), those engaged in teacher education research and practice do not seem to have directed their attention to this imperative. Indeed, an act of social justice teaching for immigrant students, regardless of the context, would be to render them visible by explicitly including them in teaching/teacher education conversations, whether empirical, practical, theoretical, or conceptual.

Our review provides some insight into teacher preparation and what teacher educators are including, or not, in their curriculum. First, teacher educators quite uniformly express commitments to social justice (Agarwal et al., 2010, p. 237; cf. Boylan & Woolsey 2015; Cochran-Smith et al., 2009; Kaur, 2012), but practice apparently lags behind intentions (Cochran-Smith et al., 2016; Galman et al., 2010; McDonald, 2007; Mills & Ballantyne, 2016). This may be because teacher educators typically do not receive formal preparation for their roles (Cochran-Smith et al., 2020; Goodwin et al., 2014; White et al., 2020), and they demonstrate limited understanding of diverse contexts and learners, and social justice issues (Chou 2010; Goodwin & Chen, 2016; Kavanagh & Danielson, 2020). Second, teacher educators have been called the linchpin for educational reform (Cochran-Smith et al., 2020), but they cannot teach what they do not know. Recent international data indicating that teachers, including those from Turkey, HK, and the U.S., feel inadequately prepared to teach diverse students (OECD, 2019b) suggest that teacher educators may not know enough.

Third, a pattern in the literature was a focus on language as the primary vehicle for immigrant students access to the curriculum. Language is critical and is especially high stakes for newcomers who must acquire the language of the host country, given that it is typically the language of assessment. Success in school, and therefore in society, rests upon facility in the dominant discourse. However, our review indicated that the locus of change invariably was the student, versus the teachers; immigrant students were the ones expected to be flexible and to adapt, not the schools or the educators. Thus, communication barriers were often a cited reason for students failure and for teachers inability to responsively meet their needs.

Moreover, lack of fluency in the host language (i.e., the dominant language of schools) was often seen as a deficiency in immigrant students that needed to be fixed. The fixing mostly emphasized language learning as a technical process of building skill and fine-tuning pronunciation; there did not seem to be much attention to language as relational, political, and sociocultural. This seemed particularly the case in HK and Turkey, given deficit conceptions of ethnic minorities or refugees, and assimilationist ideologies, but the U.S. was certainly not exempt. The emphasis on language learning also begs the question of how teachers are attending to immigrant students other needs and capacities, given that language learning (any learning really) must be holistic, developing the whole child who enters school as a naturally integrated person, not a sum of discrete parts. Much research indicates that immigrant students do not achieve at levels commensurate with their native peers (APA, 2012; OECD, 2019a, 2019b; Sugarman, 2017). This suggests that teachers current practices are not serving the needs of immigrant youth and need to be different.

Finally, we saw evidence of cultural congruence between teachers and immigrant students having positive influences on their learning and belonging. Congruence comes from immigrant students having teachers who look like them and understand firsthand their experiences; teachers can therefore make meaningful connections with students relationally and through the curricular and instructional choices they make. This is in line with research documenting the positive impact of race matched teaching across a range of academic and social indicators (Gershenson et al., 2017; Howard, 2010; Redding, 2019). However, we know that the lack of diversity in the teaching force is an enduring problem in the U.S. (Boser, 2014; Carver-Thomas, 2018; Sleeter, 2017) and in HK and Turkey. But lack of diversity is not just a numerical or proportional problem; it is also a dispositions, mindset, and preparation problem as well, and our review unearthed many examples of teachers negative perceptions of immigrant students, even among teachers who expressed care for their immigrant students.

Research indicates that immigrant students report less of a sense of belonging and greater levels of unfair treatment from teachers than native students (OECD, 2015, 2019c). However, proportionality of (im)migrant students and the teachers available to teach them cannot be easily achieved; plus, international data also reveal that the same immigrant groups fare significantly betteror worsein school, depending on the context of the host country where they land (OECD, 2019c). This supports extant evidence that students whose cultures are the most compatible with the culture embedded and privileged within the school and classroom do better, and the frequently homogenous and exclusive nature of schooling and teaching places diverse students at a disadvantage (Carter & Darling-Hammond, 2016, p. 595). Thus, our review underscores the importance of teachers who have culturally congruent mindsets and practices and who are able to adopt assets-based approaches to their work with learners who bring a range of differences and vulnerabilities, such as immigrant students, and foster a sense of belonging.


In terms of teacher preparation programs, the reality of this era of public schooling is that most teachers have an exceedingly wide range of human diversitiesmany of which bear directly on teaching and learningin all classrooms (Oyler, 2011, p. 206). Thus, all teachers need to be prepared with the expectation that their classrooms will be multiply diverse, period.  Teacher education curriculum can no longer continue to be categorical, narrowly limited to disciplines or specializations; instead, they must match the reality that children simply defy categorization and will bring with them a range of experiences, cultures, strengths, and vulnerabilities. This range of experiences calls on teachers to be pedagogically adept to respect and support multiple ways of teaching, knowing, and seeing.

Social justice teacher education begins with ensuring that teachers acquire diverse ways of teaching and knowing, or the ability to educate diverse learners holistically, working across and bringing together the academic and socioemotional, school and home, heritage and host languages. In the case of immigrant learners, it also means understanding that their unique experiences will differ across groups, along a continuum of feelings and experiences that includes loss, dislocation, trauma, and interrupted lives, as well as renewal, familial ties, and community. This social justice framework requires teacher educators to also work across boundaries and collectively design integrated teacher education curriculum that provides all preservice teachers with a basic foundation of knowledge and skills to enable them, at the very least, to step up to their role as educators of all children. Teacher education can also highlight ways of seeing by centering, for example, historically marginalized and minoritized preservice teachers cultural and linguistic capital in their coursework; such an effort may play an important role in increasing teacher diversity in the K12 teaching force.

Undoubtedly, these recommendations are general and need contextualizing. From our analysis, we would characterize the U.S. as further along the continuum in terms of research activity and teacher preparation that are more assets-based and culturally conscious. HK seems to take more of an assimilationist stance in which other is embraced with good intentions but is expected to adapt and blend into the dominant mainstream. Turkey seems to be more deficit-focused, seeing diversity as something to be managed, with other perceived to be a problem. Moreover, social justice may be a familiar concept in the U.S., but in HK, social justice is not a term that is evident in discourse surrounding immigrants or ethnic minorities, and in Turkey, social justice has yet to be openly recognized in social and political spheres despite its deep-rooted diverse structure. Still, policy documents in both HK and Turkey legislate the integration of minority ethnic groups. The 2020 address by the chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the Peoples Republic of China (2000) noted the implementation of around 30 measures to support ethnic minorities such as the amended Race Discrimination Ordinance, which enhances the protection for ethnic minorities (p. 71). Turkeys open door policy in the 2013 Law on Foreigners and International Protection “includes an emphasis on integrating immigrants into the country” regardless of ethnic heritage (İçduygu, 2015, p. 6).

Thus, the implications for teacher education practice emerging from our review vary for each jurisdiction, given readiness and needs around immigrant education. In Turkey, teacher preparation programs might need to focus on developing assets-based perceptions of and pedagogical approaches for refugees, as well as culturally relevant curriculum. Teacher preparation curriculum in HK might need to focus less on subject mastery to enable greater attention to diversity as a universal characteristic of all learners, not just ethnic minorities, and to discard a compensatory education mindset if the inclusive education policies currently in place are to be actualized. In the U.S., there may be more evidence of concern with social justice issues, but given the entrenched inequities that have become even more stark during the pandemic period, there is no cause to celebrate; there is a wide gap between what teacher preparation programs profess to teach in the name of social justice teaching, and what is actually accomplished.

Integrated preparation applies equally to in-service teachers. While some of the studies we reviewed highlighted in-service teachers work that is situated within a social justice framework for immigrant students, we identified many counterexamples of teaching practices that are harmful to immigrant students. Teacher educators need to invest in partnering with in-service teachers to help them develop new eyes, ways of seeing that can transform current teaching practices by locating and dismantling unjust practices and building on practices that are aligned with the tenets of social justice.

A second implication focuses on teacher education research. Researching the education of immigrant students must be oriented within a social justice framework and not simply focus on one or two aspects associated with immigrant learners and their communities deemed relevant to school. More comprehensive and comparative analysis and studies on this topic that take into account not just visible acts of teaching but also more nuanced ways of knowing and seeing are needed in local, state, national, and global contexts considering transnational movements of students. As with teacher preparation, directions for social justice research in each context will vary. However, contextual specifics aside, all three jurisdictions would do well to frame research into the education of immigrant learners as first a critical social justice issue, and second as an issue that demands its own focused attention. Most importantly, research on social justice education for immigrants needs to move beyond language acquisition/deficit as the primary lens for analysis to consider the assets that immigrants bring, the ways in which institutions and systems need to change and adapt to/for immigrants versus only the other way around, and the layered and country/cultural-spanning identities that immigrants embody that further complexify their experiences. This way, future policy directions can also be similarly holistically oriented, taking into account the full experience of immigrant students such that they can benefit in ways that match the complexity of their lives and the richness of their stories.

Delving into this richness from a holistic social justice stance will require work and specific attention. We recommend that teacher educators begin by intentionally creating more spaces in teacher education for discussions on educating immigrant students (for example, special issues in teacher education journals, theme-based conferences, and grant seeking) and using those spaces to initiate research about how to re-vision teacher education pedagogies and curriculum, as well as how to document promising practices on an international scale. The importance of bringing together international colleagues cannot be understated because the imperative of preparing teachers for immigrant students and diverse learners is a global one. No jurisdiction does not face this concern. Even contexts traditionally considered homogeneous, such as Poland or Japan, are experiencing heightened diversification due to global migration.

More importantly, our review indicated that work toward and readiness for social justice teaching for immigrant students may exist along a continuum, with societies sitting at different points depending on the length of time and extent to which work has been ongoing. This was apparent in our review, where we saw unevenness in terms of ways of teaching, knowing, and seeing, with ways of seeingdirectly recognizing and challenging injusticeseemingly the least developed practice across the three jurisdictions. Our point is simply that we are all at different levels of development, whether individual, institutional, system, or national, and our review offers a heuristic for self-assessment, a way to identify areas of work in teacher preparation or research that are more or less developed. Practices in HK and Turkey may be more nascent, while the long history of U.S. immigration has afforded more time to develop inclusive policies and practices. Still, our review clearly revealed that there is much work to be done in all three contexts, with the U.S. not yet an exemplar of best practice. More importantly, international conversations are essential so we can learn from peers, be mirrors to one anothers policies and actions, and stretch each other toward greater social consciousness and change.


Immigration and education are ever-growing public interests in the European Union, Asia, and the U.S. as the global migration of young people is rapidly rising. This implies a critical unresolved educational gap that requires closer examination. Our study calls for a new imperative in framing the conversation on teacher education for immigrant students, because shifts in geo-policies and practices surrounding immigrant students demand a framework of teaching for social justice specifically focused on their needs.


Our findings suggest that despite the differences in the experiences of (im)migrant students in each of the national contexts, social justice must be embedded in teacher education to ensure inclusive and culturally responsive teaching for all. Furthermore, cross-cultural collaboration among teacher educators is crucial in preparing social justice educators to embrace (im)migrant students and create learning environments that question, resist, and work against inequities of systems and structures (Goodwin, 2017), whether nationally or internationally. Such collaborations among various stakeholders may lead to reimagining research and educational practices across the global contexts in order to create equitable and socially just schooling for (im)migrant students around the world.


This study was presented at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in Hamburg/Germany, September 36, 2019.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 123 Number 12, 2021, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23876, Date Accessed: 12/1/2021 5:11:42 PM

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About the Author
  • Crystal Chen Lee
    North Carolina State University
    E-mail Author
    CRYSTAL CHEN LEE, Ed.D., is an assistant professor of English education in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences at North Carolina State University (NC State). She is also a Faculty Fellow of the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation and a NC State Community Engaged Fellow. Her research lies at the nexus of literacy, teacher education, marginalized youth, and community engagement. She is the founding director and PI of the Literacy and Community Initiative, a university–community partnership that examines and amplifies youth voices in community organizations that work with historically and currently marginalized youth, including immigrant and refugee students. Her recent work can be found in Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Literacy Research, and Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy.
  • Sibel Akin-Sabuncu
    TED University, Turkey and Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    SIBEL AKIN-SABUNCU, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at the Faculty of Education at TED University. She obtained her Ph.D. degree in the Curriculum and Instruction Program at Middle East Technical University. Dr. Akin-Sabuncu was a visiting scholar at Teachers College, Columbia University during her doctoral studies, and is also currently a postdoctoral researcher at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research focuses on preservice and in-service teacher education; elementary teacher education; teacher/teacher educator beliefs; teaching and teacher education for social justice/immigrant and refugee students/disadvantaged students; educational equity; critical pedagogy; and culturally responsive pedagogy. Dr. Akin-Sabuncu’s recent research project, which aims to investigate teacher educators’ perspectives across Turkey, the United States, and Hong Kong for preparing teachers for immigrant students, has been granted the Global Education Research Award in 2021.
  • A. Lin Goodwin
    The University of Hong Kong
    A. LIN GOODWIN, Ed.D., is dean and professor of the Faculty (i.e., School) of Education at the University of Hong Kong. She also founded and directs ALiTE, the Academy for Leadership in Teacher Education. Professor Goodwin’s research focuses on teacher/teacher educator beliefs, identities, and development; equitable education and powerful teaching for immigrant and minoritized youth; international analyses and comparisons of teacher education practice and policy; and the experiences of Asian/Asian American teachers and students in U.S. schools. Recent publications include “Globalization, Global Mindsets and Teacher Education” in Action in Teacher Education, and “Learning to Teach Diverse Learners: Teachers and Teacher Preparation in the U.S.,” in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Her latest book, coauthored with Ee Ling Low and Linda Darling-Hammond, is: Empowered Educators in Singapore: How High-Performing Systems Shape Teaching Quality. She is currently editor-in-chief for the International Handbook of Educational Development in Asia Pacific, a massive 150-chapter undertaking scheduled to be released by Springer in 2023.
  • Seung Eun (Sunny) McDevitt
    St. John’s University
    E-mail Author
    SEUNG EUN (SUNNY) MCDEVITT, Ed.D., is an assistant professor in the School of Education at St. John’s University. Her research interests include inclusive practice, immigration, and teaching and teacher education in early childhood contexts. She is committed to learning from and with young children, families, and teachers from historically multiply marginalized communities, and exploring how their cultural knowledge and lived experiences can serve as powerful tools in creating classrooms and a society that are more inclusive and just. Recent publications include articles in the Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Multicultural Perspectives, and Research in Developmental Disabilities.
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