Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Anna Stetsenko


Joseph Glick

Committee Members

Joseph Glick

David Chapin

Eduardo Vianna

Karen Steinmayer

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Multicultural Psychology | Other Education | Race and Ethnicity


Learning Identity, Third Space, Agency, Funds of Knowledge, Immigration, Ethnic Minority, Community College, Photovoice, Sociocultural


Today’s college classrooms are distinguished by an increase in ethnic minority and immigrant student populations, yet there is little reflection of such diversity in the curriculum and teacher preparation and practice. Ethnic minority immigrant students bring with them into learning spaces much valuable cultural knowledge. If validated, this knowledge can become an essential resource from which these students can draw in creating their learning identities and goals.

This study explored how a group of ethnic minority immigrant community college students created potential identities in relation to learning by drawing on their culturally and historically informed funds of knowledge, including values, beliefs, purposes and relationships­—as resources in new learning spaces. Using a qualitative and participatory design, this study explored with a sample of seven local ethnic minority immigrant community college students, their perceptions of learning and their cultural funds of knowledge, including how they draw upon and leveraged these cultural funds as resources in developing potential learning identities. This study was guided by the primary research question: How do ethnic minority immigrant college students agentically leverage their funds of knowledge as they position themselves towards learning in college and in the construction of their learning identities? Photovoice techniques were used to address this question and included the students gathering of digital photographs using smartphones, bi-weekly group discussions and one-and one interviews, which became the main sources of data collection.

The primary theoretical frameworks utilized are funds of knowledge (Gonzalez, Moll & Amanti, 2005), learning identity (Stetsenko, 2004), and identity and agency in figured worlds (Holland, Lachiotte, Skinner & Cain, 1998). Findings from this study supported conclusions found in these literatures by emphasizing learning as a collaborative process. However, this study expanded on these literatures by highlighting the importance of relational and individual agency in the development of learning identities. In particular, the findings revealed that the creation of third space was afforded through the collaborative processes of Photovoice via story-telling, the development of mutual trust, shared competence, reflection, and the recognition and validation of particular ways of knowing (funds of knowledge). Within the third space the shifts in learning identities were possible as students through developing agency, transitioned from perceiving themselves as “non-knowers” towards redefining themselves as “knowledgeable” people and more “capable” learners.