Font Size


Somali Studies for Educators

This is a professional development course intended for in-service teachers. In this course, students will develop new and deeper understandings of Somali history, language, culture, in Somalia and the Diaspora, focusing on issues of particular relevance for educators. Scheduling of the course is not yet confirmed, but we anticipate offering it in 2014. Dr. Leslie C. Moore is the course coordinator.

In this course the student will:

  • Develop a framework for viewing Somali students and families as people whose participation in schooling and American society as a whole is shaped by Somali culture, sustained upheaval in Somalia, and experiences in the Diaspora.
  • Expand his/her knowledge of Somali history, social organization, religious beliefs and practices, language and literacy practices, and educational experiences in the Diaspora.
  • Develop new skills and awareness as an informed & critical consumer of media (print, audio, video, web-based) to expand and deepen their understanding of and skill in working with Somali students and families.
  • Develop strategies for creating contexts that support the participation of Somali students in the classroom community and the participation of Somali parents/guardians in their children’s education.


Readings  The course textbook (required) is The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away, By Abdi Roble & Doug Rutledge, University of Minnesota Press, 2008. The instructor will supply via Carmen articles for in-class discussion and/or homework.

Technology  We will use Carmen in several ways in this course, so check it regularly. You will watch at home some videos streamed via Carmen, others on youtube and Bartamaha. I will post assignments, readings, web sites, grades, & other information for the class. We will also make use the OSU Libraries net.TUTOR and of the Somali Studies for Educators website

Off-Campus Field Experiences – The course is held on-campus, but we will have two off-campus field experiences in which we visit and hold class in Somali community-run organizations in Columbus. This provides an immersion experience for students in both the community organizations’ offices and the Somali malls in which these offices are located.

Course Responsibilities & Evaluation –

  • Participation: You will read the course textbook before the course begins and bring the book to every class. Bring to class the readings assigned for that class meeting. As you read all course readings, write down a few questions, comments, & reflections for me and/or your classmates. Bring your notes to class to refer to during discussion.
  • Viewings: In addition to videos shown in class, outside of class you will view (parts of) presentations from the 2009 course, which will be streamed via Carmen.
  • Website Evaluation: You will identify, critique, and present to your classmates a Somali Studies-relevant website sometime during the course. In preparation for this you will complete the OSU Libraries’ net.TUTOR tutorial ‘Evaluating Websites’.
  • Article Review: You will identify, critique, and present a Somali Studies article sometime during Week 2. At the start of Class 4 you will give the instructor a hard copy of your chosen article. The article will be returned to you by the end of class.
  • Lesson Plan and Reflection Paper: The final assignment has 2 integrated parts. The first part is the modification or development of a lesson plan to (a) support Somali students’ learning of academic content and/or skills, or (b) support non-Somali students’ learning about Somali history, language, and/or culture. The second part is a short paper in which you reflect on what you’ve done in the lesson plan & why, making use of course concepts & materials. Due one week after Class 10.
  • Evaluation: Grading will be on an S/U basis. Instructor will use participation, attendance, and completion of class assignments to determine grade. Detailed instructions and rubrics for assignments will be shared at the first class. Because this class depends heavily on participation, more than 3 unexcused absences will result in a grade of U. Email instructor if you will be absent.

Schedule of Topics, Readings, Assignments

Before the course begins, you will read in its entirety The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away. Before each meeting, you will complete an Inquiry assignment in which you write your reflections on a given topic, guided by the instructor’s questions. Bildhaan articles are available online at the Digital Commons @ Macalester.

MEETING 1  Introduction to the course and to the field of Somali Studies

Reading: Moore, Leslie & Joseph, Laura. (2011). The OSU K12 Teacher Somali Workshop Project. Bildhaan: An International Journal of Somali Studies, 11, 135-149. / Ramsden, R. & Quinn, J. (2009). They have been thrown into the ocean and they don’t know how to swim. Professional Voice, 7(1), 37-41.

Film: “Girls Working for a Better Tomorrow’ (2007, Atinaw et al.) / ‘The Power of Somali Kids’ / ‘Your Guide to Somali Culture’ (2007, Abdisalam Aato)

Inquiry: What have been your direct experiences with Somalis? / How have your perceptions of Somalis changed over time? / What kinds of perceptions of Somalis have you heard expressed by others? / What are 2 or 3 things you learned from the textbook that you consider very important and why?

MEETING 2  Pre-colonial history, impact of colonial rule

Reading:  Abdi, Ali A. 1998. Education in Somalia: History, Destruction, and Calls for Reconstruction. Comparative Education 34(3) 327-340. / Kapteijns, Lidwien & Arman, Abukar (2004). Educating Immigrant Youth in the United States: An Exploration of the Somali Case. Bildhaan: An International Journal of Somali Studies, 4(Article 6). / Interview with Lidwien Kapteijns

Film: ‘The Parching Winds of Somalia’ (1985, Charles Geshekter)

Inquiry:  What is the significance of pre-colonial and colonial history to children and youth of the Somali Diaspora? / What is the significance to their parents/guardians? /  What relevance do events and ways of life from long ago in Somalia have in the Ohio classroom? /

Website Evaluation: Do the net.TUTOR Evaluating Websites tutorial in preparation for the Web Resource Evaluation assignment.

MEETING 3  Somali nationalism, post-Independence, & the Civil War

Reading:  Besteman, Catherine (1996). Representing Violence and “Othering” Somalia. Cultural Anthropology, 11(1), 120-133. / Cassanelli, Lee & Abdikadir, Farah Sheikh (2007). Somalia: Education in Transition. Bildhaan: An International Journal of Somali Studies, 7(Article 7).

Film:  News report from Mogadishu (2008, Abdullah Farah Duguf) / ‘Where is Home?’ (2007, Ali et al.)

Inquiry:  What do you know about your students’ and their families’ experiences of the Civil War? /  How do you think these experiences affect their schooling? / How do you think your knowledge of the Civil War and your Somali students’ and their families’ experiences thereof shapes the way you work with them?

MEETING 4  The organization of social life in Somalia & the Diaspora

Reading:  Hopkins, Gail (2010). A Changing Sense of Somaliness: Somali Women in London and Toronto. Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 17(4) 519-538. / Darboe, Kebba (2003). New Immigrants in Minnesota: The Somali Immigration and Assimilation. Journal of Developing Societies, 19(4), 458-472.

Film: ‘Family Motel’ (2007, Helena Klowdawsky)

Inquiry:  What do you know about your students’ families? / What do you know about diversity within the Somali community/ies in Central Ohio? / How does this knowledge inform your interaction with Somali students and their families? / What bearing do you think Somali family structure has on Somali’s educational experience in Ohio?

Article Presentation: Bring a hard copy of your chosen article to class for review by the instructor.

MEETING 5  Islam and Qur’anic schooling

Readings:  Moore, Leslie C. (2011). Moving Across Languages, Literacies, and Schooling Traditions. Language Arts, 89, 288-297. / Bigelow, Martha (2008). Somali Adolescents’ Negotiation of Religious and Racial Bias in and out of School. Theory into Practice 47(1) 27-34.

Film:  ‘What’s With the Hijab?’ (2004, Abdalla et al.) / Minneapolis Qur’anic school graduation video

Inquiry:  What do you know about Islam and Islamic observance among Somalis in Columbus? / What do you know about Qur’anic schooling (dugsi)? / Do you think being Muslim has an effect on Somali children’s public schooling experience? If so, how?

MEETING 6  Somali language and literacy, Somalis as English language learners and heritage language learners

Readings:  Center for Applied Linguistics (2002). The Somali Language, Language and Literacy, chapters of Somalis: Their History & Culture. / Arthur, Jo. (2003). ‘Baro Afkaaga Hooyo!’A Case Study of Somali Literacy Teaching in Liverpool. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 6(3/4), 253-266.

Film:  K’naan videos / ‘Educating Somali Students in Kansas’ (2010, Mohamed Abdurahman)

Inquiry 1: What do you know about the Somali language, and how did you learn it? / Does Somali language have a role in the classroom? / Do you think it is important for Somali children in Ohio to learn to read and write in Somali? Why (not)? / What do you know about your Somali students’ ESL instruction? / What do you know about second language acquisition and second literacy acquisition?

Inquiry 2: Bring to class a list of patterns you have observed in the language use of your Somali students. If you have writing samples from any of your Somali students, bring one or two with you to class (names and any other identifiers removed).

MEETING 7  Somali material, verbal, visual, and performing arts

Readings:  Ali Jimale Ahmed (n.d.). The Somali Oral Tradition and the Role of Storytelling in Somalia. Minnesota Humanities Center. / Forman, M. (2001). “Straight Outta Mogadishu”: Prescribed Identities and Performative Practices Amongst Somali Youth in North American High Schools. Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, TOPIA, 5(33), 33-60. / Somali Folktale Project

Film: Selected excerpts of Somaliwood films

Inquiry:  What do you know about the your students’ knowledge of and participation in Somali art forms? / What bearing do you think their knowledge and participation have on their participation in school? / What role you think Somali art forms (could) have in the classroom and the school?

MEETING 8  Refugee camp and resettlement experiences

Readings:  Sporton, Deborah & Gill Valentine (2009). Identities on the Move: the Integration Experiences of Somali Refugee and Asylum Seeker Young People. Child Migration Research Network report. / Abdi, Awa M. (2005). In Limbo: Dependency, Insecurity, and Identity amongst Somali Refugees in Dadaab Camps. Bildhaan: An International Journal of Somali Studies, 5(Article 7). / Kronick, Rebecca (2013). Exploring Primary School Teachers’ Attitudes towards Urban Refugee Education in Nairobi, Kenya. Journal of Human Security Studies, 2(1).

Film: Daadab Refugee Camp (Tariq Tarey, 2009)

Inquiry: What do you know about your students’ (family) experiences in the camps and during resettlement? / How does your knowledge inform how you teach and interact with Somali students and families? / How do you think these experiences shape Somalis’ participation in public schooling?

MEETING 9  Somali Bantu

Readings:  Besteman, Catherine (2009). The Somali Bantu Experience: Using Multimedia Ethnography for Community Building, Public Education and Advocacy. Anthropology News, 50(4), 23. / Center for Applied Linguistics (2002). The Somali Bantu: Their History & Culture. / Roxas, Kevin (2008). Who dares to dream the “American dream”?: A study of the socio-cultural factors that influence and constrain the success of Somali Bantu high school students at Central City high school. Multicultural Education, 16(2), 2-9.

Film: Rain in a Dry Land (2007, Anne Makepeace)

Inquiry: What kinds of diversity in the “Somali community” are you aware of? / How might these kinds of diversity be significant in school settings? / What would you like to know about diversity among Somalis? / Why would you like to know it? How would such knowledge help you as an educator?

MEETING 10  Cross-Cultural Encounters

Readings:  Alitolppa, A. (2002). The generation in-between: Somali youth and schooling in metropolitan Helsinki. Intercultural Education, 13(3), 275-290. / Basford, L. (2010). From headphones to hijabs: cultural and religious experiences of Somali youth in U.S. schools. Proceedings from the Intercultural Competence Conference. Tucson, AZ: CERCLL. / Koroma, S. & Carey, J. (2009). The development of a school-based curriculum to enhance well-being among Somali Immigrant children in the United States. In M. de Souza (Eds.), International Handbook of Education for Spirituality, Care and Wellbeing (1087-1099). Netherlands: Springer.

Film:  ‘The Letter: An American Town and the ‘Somali Invasion’’ (2003, Ziad H. Hamzeh)

Inquiry: Choose an incident of conflict/problem you have witnessed between students (Somali-Somali or Somali-other), between Somali student(s) and a teacher or administrator (possibly yourself), or between Somali parent(s) and a teacher or administrator. Be prepared to describe it to your small group. Why do you think the conflict/problem arose? / What confused and/or frustrated you about the conflict/problem? / (How) was it resolved? / How might your response to the conflict/problem be different now than it was then? / What strategies do you use to create an inclusive classroom and a sense of community?

School of Teaching and Learning
The Ohio State University
333 Arps Hall
1945 North High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43210