Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Education for Social Justice

Dissertation Committee

Cecilia A. Valenzuela, PhD, Chair; Reyes Quezada, EdD, Member; Berenice Badillo, PhD, Member


long-term English learners, comics-based research, youth participatory action research, arts education, English language development, language proficiency assessments


Policies that label and track students based on language and race dismiss the voices and lived experiences of English learners (ELs) through forced fits and ideologies that devalue multiple languaging and ways of knowing. This qualitative study explores how an educator and 20 seventh-grade bi/multilingual Latinx students labeled long-term English learners (LTELs) reimagined how language is perceived, taught, and assessed across traditional schooling contexts and language policy landscapes. Drawing from LatCrit theory, Latina/Chicana feminisms, and dimensions of youth participatory action research (YPAR), this study centered both LTELs as jóvenes educados (dignified youth) and a conceptualized taller (studio space) to affirm youth voices and agency and to critically interrogate the English Language Proficiency Assessment of California (ELPAC) during mandated English language development (ELD) class sessions.

The following research questions guided this study: (1) How does an ELD space grounded in a pedagogy of resilient resistance affirm the lived experiences of bi/multilingual youth? (2) What issues/topics do youth express as important to examine about the ELPAC? (3) How can the arts provide bi/multilingual youth a way to engage with and reframe their schooling experiences? To answer these questions, a Latina/Chicana feminist framework and comics-based methods were applied to document and sketch out pláticas. Additionally, participatory tools such as inquiry and action projects were incorporated across analytical processes to uncover key themes and findings. Findings reveal these youth drew from languaging repertoires and embodied ways of knowing to collectively formulate agentive responses to microaggressions enacted by schooling policies and practices that label, track, and test them. These responses emerged because of moves grounded in dialogical, relational, and humanizing commitments, elevating the critical consciousness of youth to inspire political and artistic activism.

Implications for practitioners and scholars seeking to disrupt the stigmatization and ineffective language services occurring in surveilled ELD classrooms include creative and unconventional approaches that replenish youth resilience for resistance and action. This dissertation argues for redistributing power and voice in classrooms to place bi/multilingual Latinx youth at the forefront of their learning as creative agents, experts, and policymakers alongside their teachers.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Learning and Teaching

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.