Education for All: Deficit-Thinking vs. Inclusive and Culturally Responsive Schooling

Zammit, Sean (2020) Education for All: Deficit-Thinking vs. Inclusive and Culturally Responsive Schooling. PhD thesis, University of Lincoln.

Education for All: Deficit-Thinking vs. Inclusive and Culturally Responsive Schooling
Zammit, Sean - PhD - Education.pdf - Whole Document

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Item Status:Live Archive


The research study presents an in-depth investigation of the interplay and effects of (a) ‘neoliberal approaches to education’ (particularly the market-based ideology); and (b) ‘deficit-thinking’ (practice of holding lower expectations for minority students whose demographics do not fit the traditional context of the educational system) on the ‘restructuring’ process of the Maltese educational system into an inclusive and culturally responsive one. Hence, this thesis delved into national policy documents and explored the perceptions of diverse educational stakeholders to examine how educators make sense of ‘deficit-thinking’ and ‘inclusive education’ to shine a light on system-wide dynamics, processes and practices in favour of quality education for all learners.

For this purpose, eight State schools (4 Primary and 4 Secondary) from four different colleges, in the Northern, Central and Southern regions of Malta, took part in the study upon acceptance. Research participants included: (a) policymakers (Education Minister; Director Generals; Directors; Church Schools Secretariat Representative and President of the Malta Union of Teachers); (b) College Principals of the four randomly selected colleges; (c) members of Senior Management Teams in schools; (d) middle leaders; (e) teachers, support specialists and/or educational practitioners; (f) learning support educators; and (g) Primary, Middle and Secondary students. The utilized ‘mixed-method’ approach (questionnaires, interviews, job-shadowing sessions, class observations, socio-metric tests, focus groups and document analysis) facilitated data collection, which helped to identify different cohorts of minority learners in local schools as well as to reveal system-wide weaknesses to inclusive education (lack of conceptual clarity on inclusion; resistance to high-leverage change due to lack of strategic leadership for inclusive education; one-size-fits-all teaching practices; and unsustainable support services).

Research findings highlighted also the predominant presence of the ‘deficit ideology’, which seemed to intensify in conjunction with neoliberal approaches. Moreover, results helped to propose the ‘repositioning-of-the-self’ model, based on inclusive leadership, to unleash the power of ‘deliberative dialogue’ to encourage ‘collective thinking’ on how to eliminate ‘deficit-thinking’ practices from all hierarchical system levels and to transform schools into inclusive settings that validate and create ‘space’ for all students (including minority ones) to learn.

Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Education
ID Code:44812
Deposited On:05 May 2021 13:51

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