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ERIC Number: EJ987074
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 12
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0729-4360
Towards a Clearer Understanding of Student Disadvantage in Higher Education: Problematising Deficit Thinking
Smit, Renee
Higher Education Research and Development, v31 n3 p369-380 2012
The increased diversity in the student body resulting from massification poses particular challenges to higher education. This article engages the uncritical use of the "disadvantage" discourse and its effect on pedagogy. It explores some of the challenges of coping with student diversity, with particular reference to the South African context. Students enter higher education institutions with a variety of educational backgrounds, not all of which are considered to be sufficient preparation for the demands of higher education. The dominant thinking in higher education attempts to understand student difficulty by framing students and their families of origin as "lacking" some of the academic and cultural resources necessary to succeed in what is presumed to be a fair and open society. This constitutes a deficit thinking model: it focuses on inadequacies of students and aims to "fix" this problem. In the process the impact of structural issues is often ignored or minimised. Employing a deficit mindset to frame student difficulties perpetuates stereotypes, alienates students from higher education and disregards the role of higher education in perpetuating the barriers to student success. In the process, universities replicate the educational stratification of societies. This article suggests that we need to find more suitable responses to diversity in the student body. These require a change in our way of thinking: we need thoughtfully to consider the readiness of higher education institutions to respond to students and to cultivate the will to learn in students. We need to find ways to research the full texture of the student experience and to value the pre-higher education contexts from which students come. In addition, the notion of "at risk" students could be helpful and the original sense of the concept needs to be reclaimed. (Contains 1 note.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: South Africa
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A