When Youth Dialogue: A Pedagogic Framework for Changing the Conversation About Migration


  • Liz Dawes Duraisingh Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Sarah Sheya Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Emi Kane Abundance Foundation


migration, migrants, refugees, education, dialogue, intercultural


How should educators teach about one of the most complex and pressing issues of our times? This paper presents an empirically-grounded framework to help educators understand the opportunities and challenges of engaging youth around the topic of migration, including migration involving refugees. It stresses the importance of inviting youth to dialogue in ways that involve slowing down, sharing stories, and making connections.

The framework emerged from a design-based research study involving an experimental online learning community and curriculum on the topic of human migration. Posts and comments involving 140 teens from seven countries were closely analyzed using a modified grounded theory approach that incorporated constructivist principles. 14 interviews with participating educators also informed the analysis.

The framework proposes that youth be supported to develop (1) curiosity and engagement about individual migration stories and migration in general, (2) nuanced understanding of the complex and diverse factors that help shape historical and contemporary migration experiences, and (3) critical awareness of their own and others’ perspectives on migration and migrants. A visual representation is provided. Specific examples of student dialogue are unpacked to illustrate the framework, with discussion of the following cognitive and affective challenges: “the Three O’s” of overgeneralization, overconfidence, and othering. The paper argues that youth of all backgrounds need opportunities to learn about migration in ways that allow them to leverage their various experiences and perspectives and engage with one another in meaningful, authentic ways.

Author Biographies

Liz Dawes Duraisingh, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Liz Dawes Duraisingh is a Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Research Associate at Project Zero, a research center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. There she co-directs several projects including Out of Eden Learn, an online learning community and research project that promotes intercultural inquiry and exchange among school-age youth. She was formerly a high school history teacher, working in England and Australia.

Sarah Sheya, Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Sarah Sheya is a researcher and media specialist at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she coordinates the Out of Eden Learn Project. She previously worked in the nonprofit sector as a youth program director and educator. Her fields of study include multimedia journalism, Arab studies, and the Arabic language.

Emi Kane, Abundance Foundation

Emi Kane is Director of Programs for the Abundance Foundation. She has a background as a journalist, educator, and facilitator and has worked with Out of Eden Learn since its inception.