July 15th, 2013

Article Reflection
Deconstructing Deficit Thinking: Working with Educators to Create More Equitable Learning Environments

This article reminded me of a class I took called Diverse Leaners with Christine Nganga. One of the central messages I took away from the class discussions, videos, and readings is to avoid deficit thinking and not to take a deficient approach to students who are minorities, of a low socioeconomic class, etc. In this course, we looked at stereotypes, that of others and those that we may have. We also considered assumptions that educators may bring with them. “We have found that the majority of teachers are well-intentioned, caring individuals but are unaware of the deeper, hidden, or invisible dimensions of culture (Hollins, 1996), which have a significant influence on their own identity, educators’ role definitions, and instructional practices (157).” This quote takes me back to those discussions. We also highlighted the achievement Gap and acts such as No Child Left Behind, which are present in this article, specifically the achievement gap. In Diverse Learners, we were able to discuss how big of a role the teacher has in the students’ academic success.

The authors in this article also suggest, “educators are unwilling to assume responsibility for students’ low achievement and failure (151)” as well claim, “Because these educators do not view themselves as part of the problem, there is little willingness to look for solutions within the educational system itself (151).” I find these two quotes very meaningful because I disagree with the authors in the sense of their approach. They left out how many educators who work with high need students’; economically disadvantaged students, etc. are very knowledgeable. Many have strong content knowledge, advanced degrees, and were intentional about making a difference in academic success by choosing to work in low performing schools so to speak. I think the authors took a more negative approach to the educators who work with students who are seen to have low achievement. Sure, there are some who are quick to blame socioeconomic factors that are out of our control but I don’t support their stance in the two quotes above as a good general depiction of educators of low performing schools.

I agree with the authors that staff development is a great option for schools as an alternative to deficit thinking. I don’t know if it would have the same effect on all teachers and I wonder if an educator with deficit thinking would make progress from professional development? I also wonder if administrators, district coaches, and the people in central office have the biggest deficient thinking? After all, teachers are following their lead in most cases?

How can teachers understand cultural biases, assumptions, stereotypes, and deficit thinking if they don’t know how?

How can we convince educators to allow what students bring from their homes, backgrounds, and cultures into the classroom even if they aren’t the norm American educational values?