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Theme: Student Populations and Diversity

Rethinking diversity: re-theorising transition as a process of engaging, negotiating
and mastering the discourses and multiliteracies of an unfamiliar culture rather than as a
problem of deficit.

Jill Lawrence
Faculty of Arts/ Student Services, University of Southern Queensland

There is a consistent theme woven through the literature documenting the experiences of students accessing and participating in higher education: that of deficit in dealing with diversity and difference. Inherent is the assumption that there is one mainstream discourse and that languages and literacies other than those of the mainstream represent a deficit or a deficiency on the part of students unfamiliar with them. This paper will argue that such 'deficit' approaches are not helpful for the diversity of students attempting to access, participate and succeed in the unfamiliar culture of the university. It will present an alternative approach by re-theorising transition: by arguing that a successful transition intrinsically involves gaining familiarity with, engaging, negotiating and mastering the discourses and literacies of the unfamiliar culture. The paper will also explore the responses to this re-theorisation - both for university practices and for the diversity of students negotiating their transition to the university culture

Full Paper in MS Word

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