Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Jessica M. Harris, EdD, CHES

Second Supervisor

Jason Mellen, EdD


The purpose of this study was to identify the ways English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) educators overcome communication barriers that typically create a disconnect with English language learner (ELL) families. The study also sought to understand how ESOL educators build relationships with the families of their students. The theoretical framework of the intercultural communication competence (ICC) theory was used as a lens to explore this phenomenon.

The study used descriptive phenomenology and semi-structured interviews to collect data. Purposeful sampling was used to select six certified ESOL educators from urban counties in Central New York State. Thematic coding was used to identify, analyze, and interpret patterns of meaning within the data.

The results from the study yielded eight themes: (a) open-mindedness, (b) transcendental servant leadership, (c) exchanging information, (d) human connection, (e) resiliency, (f) empathy, (g) acquiring insider perspective, and (h) applying culturally competent behaviors. The findings also suggested best practices for educators to implement to overcome communication barriers with ELL families. These best practices include conducting home visits, simplifying the English used with families, using visuals to support the message, using a variety of communication methods, trying to initiate communication more than once, and doing research about the country and culture of the students using a variety of tools such as Culture Gram. Best practices and recommendations were for educators to build relationships with families include helping families problem solve, supporting members of the family other than the student, allowing students to incorporate their culture into school, and staying connected throughout the year.

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