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How to Recognize the Deficit Model and What to Do About It

In previous posts, I’ve talked about how students enter the classroom space with unique multi-cultural fingerprints that influence the way they think and learn. In fact, every single person is composed of many different categories that overlap in a unique way to shape their perspectives and viewpoint. Understanding the way this plays out in a classroom and how to create a classroom culture that honors this cultural wealth is a passion of mine.

Within this concept of understanding each unique cultural identity of each child, there is some fundamental ideas that need to be unpacked. The first is the idea of culture. The term culture is most often used synonymously with traditions, often traced back to race and/or ethinicity. And this is a tremendous part of culture, but it is so much more. We must recognize that our age, gender, and life experiences all swirl together to form our lens . In research, we call this positionality and it is incredible important. One of the first steps in a research journey is to identify one’s own positionality that may influence the way the researcher approaches the topic. But this concept also applies to our classroom, and it is imperative that we understand this deeply in order to best serve our children.

Unfortunately, there are some identities a child may have that contribute to what is known as a deficit model. What is a deficit model? A deficit model is usually based on constructs (unspoken contrived ideas) of our society that focuses on what is “normal” for that society. Any identity that strays outside of that norm is perceived (incorrectly) as a deficit. Thus the deficit model, of which there are two types:

1.Where an emphasis is placed on a child’s challenges rather than their strengths. We do this all the time when we make sure that students who are struggling get extra support, but do not take time to focus on strengths of that same child.

2. Where part of a child’s identity is perceived in a way that prevents them from accessing certain aspects of educational opportunity. Research indicates that boys are much more likely to receive a designation of “Special Ed.” That increases substantially if the boy is black. Additionally, there is a huge lack of representation of our minority communities in the Gifted and Talented Programs, often because they may access the curriculum differently or be “perceived” differently. As these students make their way through our educational halls, they often encounter discouragement from taking advanced placement courses. Unacceptable.

Join me tomorrow, where I will discuss ways you can make a impact in your own classroom and school. And if you are interested in a presentation at your educational institution, please contact me at deanna@deannawestedt.com. I am passionate about depth of knowledge equity for our children!

When you teach, you touch the future and that’s a pretty amazing place to be!