ERIC Number: ED327813
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1990-Apr
Reference Count: N/A
Children's Failure To Read: Learner Deficit or Task Artifact?
Kleiman, Angela B.
Because of extremely low salaries paid to teachers in the Brazilian public school system, the profession increasingly attracts only persons from the lower income levels who may not themselves be comfortable with the literacy skills they are supposed to teach. Working under extremely hard conditions, and being ill prepared for her profession, the teacher tends to blame various cultural lacks or deficits in her students to explain their failure to learn. The fallacy of this "deficit hypothesis" can be shown by examining textbooks used to teach reading and in classroom research. Reading textbooks place heavy demands on students' capacity to manipulate discrete elements of text, and no demands on making sense out of text. In one experiment, 40 eighth-grade students were divided equally into experimental and control groups. The experimental group was given a passage and told to write a summary without being able to look at the passage while the control group was allowed to look at the passage. Results indicated that all of the experimental group used integrating, combinatory rules in writing the summary, while only one of the control group was able to use such rules. In another experiment, 53 eighth-graders were divided into two control groups and one experimental group. The control groups read one of two versions of a passage in which different lexical choices were made. The experimental group received both versions of the text. Results indicated that students who had access to only one version were incapable of perceiving the discourse value of the words in question, whereas students who had to focus on whatever differences they could perceive between the two versions were able to perceive the discourse value of the same words. Findings of both experiments suggest that students showed a remarkable capacity to deal with text and written discourse. They also indicate the fallacy of all types of deficit theories which permit ethnocentric intrepretations that only disguise the true causes of student failure. (Fifty-five references are attached.) (RS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Brazil; Text Factors
Note: Revised version of a paper presented at the Meeting of the World Congress of Applied Linguistics sponsored by the International Association of Applied Linguistics (9th, Thessaloniki, Greece, April 15-21, 1990). Best copy available.