Spring 2017



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Jennifer Ouellette Schramm

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Anne DeMuth

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Jamie Brummel


This study explores the multiple meanings and uses of silence with respect to the Somali culture and the cross-cultural implications of silence between a United States teacher and the Somali English language learner (ELL). The findings can enhance teachers’ cultural understanding of silence as a form of communication used by English learners native to Somalia in a beginning — intermediate ELL classroom. Three overarching trends were found through inductive analysis of data collected through a modified Communication Observation Language Tool and open-ended interviews. These trends include: silence as a means for organizing and upholding social norms; silence as a space for understanding and learning; and, silence as an indication of acculturation. The major findings of this study imply that the use and meaning of silence is indeed culturally determined. This distinction not only guides student communication but teacher understanding or in some cases, misunderstanding of the student. In reviewing the culturally distinct implications of silence, I worked to express the importance for an educator to understand the culturally determined meaning and use of silence in order to successfully work with English language learners from the Somali culture.

Research Methodology

Case Study, Interview, Observation


ESL/ ELLs, culturally responsive pedagogy, cross-cultural communication, non-verbal communication

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Education Commons