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Theme: Strategies and Innovations in Teaching and Learning

The 'deficit-discourse' shift: university teachers and their role in helping first year students
persevere and succeed in the new university culture

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

This paper argues that the increasing participation and diversity of the student body challenges traditional approaches to university teaching as well as the assumptions of deficit which may under pin them. A more helpful approach involves a 'deficit-discourse' shift. By reconceptualising the contemporary university as a new and unfamiliar culture, this shift identifies the potency and applicability of the role of discourses in the university context. Transition is then re-theorised as a process of gaining a familiarity with the new culture's multiple discourses. The 'deficit-discourse' shift questions the 'sink or swim' approach to diversity as well as the blame attached to failing students. It also challenges the understanding that academics have little role in, as well as little responsibility for, their students' retention and ultimate success. It establishes the notion, conversely, that academics can make the difference, helping to facilitate their students' perseverance and success in the new university culture.

Full Paper in MS Word

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