Dr. Davila's research examines the intersection of language learning and identity among immigrant and refugee students. Specific areas of interest include: the school experiences of adolescent multilingual learners, new/additional language and literacy development, teacher education and classroom pedagogies that support access and equity, and global perspectives on immigration and language education.

Key Professional Appointments

Faculty Affiliate Center for Writing Studies (CWS), 2018 - present

Faculty Affiliate Women and Gender in Global Perspectives (WGGP), 2018 - present

Faculty Affiliate European Union Center (EUC), 2014 - present

Faculty Affiliate Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), 2013 - present

Faculty Affiliate Second Language Acquisition & Teacher Education (SLATE), 2013 - present


Ph.D., Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010

M.Ed., Teaching English as a Second Language, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2005

M.A., Comparative and International Development Education, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, 2000

B.A., Anthropology, French, Grinnell College, 1996

Awards, Honors, Associations

List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2013 - 2018

List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2013 - 2013



Research & Service

Over the past decade, Dr. Davila’s scholarship has addressed ideological and interactional perspectives on the education of multilingual immigrant and refugee students and their teachers in urban and micro-urban centers in the U.S. and Sweden.  She has given special attention to learner identities, language and literacy practices, and the identities and ideologies of teachers in relation to immigrant and refugee students.

Dr. Davila recently completed research documenting how adolescent English Learners from the Democratic Republic of the Congo position themselves in relation to their identities and learning within linguistically diverse high school classrooms in the U.S. Facets of this research include: translingual practices and content learning, multilingual peer learning, and learner resilience. This research was funded by a Spencer Foundation Small Grant (2016-2018).

As an extension of this school-based project, her current research explores family and community dynamics in relation to the academic and social experiences of multilingual immigrant and refugee adolescents. This project addresses a need for longitudinal, process-oriented data on refugee and immigrant youth outcomes in school and centers on three principal research questions: How do immigrant youth respond to discriminatory practices in school, language bias, anti-immigrant sentiment? What aspects of school are highly relevant to their resilience in school? What role does family and community resources play in students’ development of resilient multilingual identities? This project is funded by a University of Illinois Campus Research Board (CRB) Research Support Award (2017-2019).


Dávila, L. (2019). “J’aime to be funny!”: Humor, learning, and identity construction in high school English as a Second Language classrooms. Modern Language Journal.  link >

Kolano, L., & Dávila, L. (2019). Transformative learning of refugee girls within a community youth organization serving Southeast Asians in North Carolina. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 33 (1), 119-133.  link >

Dávila, L. (2018). The pivotal and peripheral roles of bilingual classroom assistants at one Swedish elementary school. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Routledge, 21 (8), 956-967.  link >

Dávila, L. (2018). Multilingualism and identity: Articulating “African-ness” in an American high school. Race, Ethnicity and Education.  link >

Dávila, L. (2017). Heritage language ecologies in a multilingual Swedish School. Journal of Language Identity and Education, 16 (6), 395-407.  link >

Davila, L., Kolano, L., Coffey, H., & , . (2017). Negotiating co-teaching identities in multilingual high school classrooms National Association of Bilingual Education Journal of Research and Practice 8 (1), 28-43.  link >

Davila, L. (2017). Integration in isolation: Newly arrived immigrant youth in Sweden negotiate identity, language and literacy. System: An International Journal of Educational Technology and Applied Linguistics, 67 1-11.  link >

Dávila, L. (2015). Diaspora literacy: An exploration of reading practices and identity in young African women English learners Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 58 (8), 641-649.  link >

Dávila, L. (2014). Performing Allegiance: An Adolescent Refugee’s Construction of Patriotism in JROCT. Educational Studies, 50 (5), 447-463.  link >

Kolano, L., Dávila, L., & Coffee, H. (2014). Multicultural Teacher Education: Why North and South Carolina Teachers say it matters in preparing them for English Language Learners. The CATESOL Journal, 25 (1), 41-65.

Sanders-Smith, S., & Thorstensson Davila, L. (2019). Progressive practice and translanguaging: Supporting trilingualisim in a Hong Kong preschool. Bilingual Research Journal, 42 (3).

Dávila, L. (2015). “Dare I ask?”: Eliciting prior knowledge and its implications for teaching and learning. TESL-EJ: The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language, 19 (2).  link >

Dávila, L. (2014). The problematics of representation in qualitative research on refugee youth. Diaspora, Immigrant and Minority Education, 8 (1), 21-31.

Dávila, L. (2013). Learning English and "Smartness": Refugee Students Negotiate Language, Reception, and Ability in School. Journal of Southeast Asian Education and Advancement, 8 1-19.  link >

Coffey, H., Dávila, L., & Kolano, L. (2013). Developing critical literacy with English language learners: A plan for understanding the social implications of dialect. Multicultural Learning and Teaching/deGruyter, 8 (1), 115-132.

Dávila, L. (2012). “For them it’s sink or swim”: Refugee students and the dynamics of migration, and (dis)placement in school Power and Education, Special issue on migration and education 3 (4), 139-149.

Dávila, L. (2011). “Good kids,” but “poor students”: Academic identities of refugee high school students from Vietnam's Central Highlands. Asian American Education: Identities, Racial Issues, and Languages ( vol. 6, pp. 31-48). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

Dávila, L. (2008). Language and opportunity in the “Land of Opportunity”: Latina immigrants’ reflections on language learning and professional mobility. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 7 (4), 356-370.  link >


Multilingualism and Identity: Articulating “African-ness” in an American High School (2018). American Educational Research Association: New York, NY.

Multilingualism, creativity, and learning in an early childhood dual language classroom in Hong Kong. (2018). AERA: New York, NY.

Multilingual Peer Group Interaction within High School ESL Classrooms (2018).: Chicago, IL.

“Cross-District Analysis of the Roles of Multilingual Classroom Assistants in Sweden” (2017). World Educational Research Association: Hong Kong.

Integration in Isolation: Newcomer Immigrants in Sweden Negotiate Identity, Language & Literacy (2017). AILA: Rio de Janeiro.

Humor and Translanguaging Practices among Multilingual High School English as a Second Language Learners (2017).: Rio de Janeiro.

The Pivotal and Peripheral Roles of Bilingual Classroom Assistants in Sweden (2017). American Educational Research Association: San Antonio, TX.

Adolescent African English Learners' Perceptions of Educational Opportunity (2017). American Educational Research Association: San Antonio, TX.

Multilingual Peer Group Interaction within High School ESL Classrooms: Identity, Agency and Learning among Adolescent Congolese English Learners (2017).: Seattle, WA.

“J’aime to be funny”: Humor, Learning and Resilience in High School ESL classes (2017). American Association of Applied Linguistics: Portland, OR.

Integration in isolation: Newly Arrived Immigrant Youth in Sweden Negotiate Identity, Language & Literacy (2016). AERA: Washington, DC.

Rhetoric and Reality: Heritage Language Ecologies in a Multilingual Swedish School (2015). AERA: Chicago, IL.

Performing allegiance: Refugee students learn citizenship in JROTC (2012).: Seattle, WA.

The problematics of representation in qualitative research on refugee youth (2012).: Seattle, WA.

Multicultural Teacher Education: Why North and South Carolina teachers say it matters in preparing them for English Language Learners (2012).: Dallas, TX.

"I am in school to help my people”: Community Cultural Epistemologies of Academic Success (2015). AERA: Chicago, IL.

Reading to Relate: Identity, Motivation and Literacy among Adolescent Newcomer English Learners (2014).: Philadelphia, PA.

Is it the Language or the Content? Negotiating, Goals, Space and Voice in Co-Taught Classrooms (2013).: San Francisco, CA.


Principal Investigator Family and Community Dynamics and the Experiences of Congolese Immigrant and Refugee Youth in School, Campus Research Board, 2017 - 2019

Senior Personnel Practices Integrated across Mathematics, Engineering and Science (PrIMES), Illinois State Board of Education, 2017 - 2018

Principal Investigator An Examination of African High School English Learners’ Negotiation of New Language Learning and Academic Opportunity, The Spencer Foundation, 2016 - 2018


Program Chair/Chair Elect AERA Second Language Research SIG, 2019 - 2021

Secretary/Treasurer AERA-Second Language Research SIG, 2017 - 2019

Awards Committee Co-Chair AERA-Second Language Research SIG, 2015 - 2017

Mentoring Program Planning Committee AERA-Second Language Research SIG, 2015 - present

Selection Committee American Educational Research Association Division K Exemplary Research in Teaching and Teacher Education Awards Committee, 2013 - 2013


Linguistics for Classrm Teach (CI 507) Intensive examination of problems and trends in the subject fields. 4 graduate hours. No professional credit. May be repeated in separate terms to a maximum of 8 hours.

Methods of Educational Inquiry (EPOL 550) Same as CI 550, EPSY 550, and SPED 550. See CI 550.

Independent Study (EPOL 595) Offers opportunity and challenge of self-directive, independent study; develops the individual's ability as an independent student and enables the student to pursue needed study in a field in which appropriate courses are not being offered during a given term. 1 to 4 graduate hours. No professional credit. Approved for Letter and S/U grading. May be repeated with approval.

Foundations of Education (EPS 201) Studies some of the problems of formulating and justifying aims and policies in American education, of designing and systematizing the curriculum, of organization and social context of the public school system, and of the teaching-learning process; examined in terms of perspectives provided by social philosophy, history, sociology, and philosophy of education.

Foundations of Education-ACP (EPS 202) Course is identical to EPS 201 except for the additional writing component. Credit is not given for both EPS 202 and EPS 201.

Global Migration & Education (EPS 500) Seminar on topics not treated by regularly scheduled courses; requests for initiation may be made by students or faculty members. May be repeated to a maximum of 8 hours.

Language, Identity & Education (EPS 590) Seminar in educational policy studies; sections offered in the following fields: (a) history of education; (b) philosophy of education; (c) comparative education; (d) social foundations of education; (e) philosophy of educational research; and (f) historical methods in education. May be repeated.

Thorstensson Davila, Liv

Assistant Professor, Education Policy, Organization and Leadership



338 Education Building
1310 S. Sixth St.
Champaign, IL 61820

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