What's Training Got to Do With It?: Educator Preparation Programs and Deficit Thinking

What's Training Got to Do With It?: Educator Preparation Programs and Deficit Thinking

Jennifer Webb, Jennifer Green
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8860-4.ch004
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With the current, pervasive mindset in schools of deficit thinking, which affects students of all ages and abilities, educator preparation programs have an opportunity to make a change. This chapter will explore educator preparation programs and what is being taught in introductory courses on special education, as well as mindset leading to deficit thinking. An exploratory survey of university instructors was conducted to discover what could lead to deficit thinking in preschool to Grade 12 (P-12) schools. Findings show that instructors are using supplemental materials to cover models of disability, and further study of how instructor mindset influences course content is warranted. Discussion will include adding growth mindset, self-efficacy strategies, and unconscious bias training in educator preparation programs to further challenge deficit thinking. Additional areas for future research will also be discussed.
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Have you ever found yourself complaining without a good reason, seeing the negative side of a scenario, focusing on a minor complaint over ten compliments, or noticing what a child cannot do over what they can do in the classroom? This is the nature of deficit thinking, and considering this persistent and pervasive notion, this chapter will explore how educator preparation programs (EPPs) are preparing teacher candidates for the classroom, and where deficit thinking of P-12 students with disabilities permeates schools. To begin, there are multiple models of disability used for defining purposes, but the two predominant models that may or may not be taught explicitly regarding students with a disability are the medical model and the social model.

The medical model says that disability exists within an individual and is consequently a deficiency that may or may not be curable (Andrews, 2017; Kirk et al., 2015; Shume, 2020). The term disability itself is medical and implies what an individual cannot do and may go so far as to portray students as incapable and disengaged (Heward et al., 2017). For example, the medical model reinforces having a student who is deaf receive a cochlear implant or wear hearing aids to fix their impairment. Conversely, the social model says disability is a social construct that exists due to cultural and social influence, meaning an individual does not need to be cured or healed (Andrews, 2017; Beaudry, 2016; Shume, 2020). Holding to the social model, a student who is deaf would learn to read lips but does not have anything inherently wrong with which needs to be fixed or medically corrected with surgery or a device. When the social model was introduced, social psychologist Beatrice Wright began advocating for identity-first language (Andrews, 2017). Identity-first language shifts the focus from the disability that refers to a “deaf student” to referring to the student as a “student who is deaf.” Currently, there is a push from many individuals with disabilities who want to be recognized by their disability, but not because it is a deficit. Those individuals want to celebrate their disability as a unique trait and part of their identity and are happy to be the deaf student or autistic student (Andrews, 2017). The community of several disabilities including the Deaf, Blind, and autistic prefer identify-first language, and so will be used throughout this chapter when referring to disabiled students receiving special education services.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Model: The view that a medical or physical impairment is a social construct.

Handicap: The difficulties encountered when interacting with the environment due to a disability.

Unconscious Bias: Prejudice or judgment for or against a person or people group that is outside of one’s consciousness.

Medical Model: The view that a medical or physical impairment is within an individual.

In-Service Teacher: A practicing classroom teacher who has completed EPP training and requirements.

Impairment: The loss or reduced function of a body part or organ.

Growth Mindset: The belief that intelligence can change.

Models of Disability: Different positions or philosophies on the origins and nature of disabilities.

Self-Efficacy: One’s belief in his or her ability to complete tasks toward accomplishing specific goals.

Disability: A condition of limitation that impacts typical development, learning, or social interactions.

Educator Preparation Program: Degree program at the college level that leads to teaching licensure.

Fixed Mindset: The belief that intelligence is fixed and cannot change.

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