Accomodating student diversity
Essentially, such a model blames the student, without looking at the learning environment or instructional practices, and thus explains failure in terms of poor motivation, low interest and low ability levels of students (Biggs 2003, Boykin 1994).
A deficit model also fails to acknowledge and build upon struggling students' cultural resources.
The approach presented considers westernised school science knowledge in relationship with Indigenous students' cultural knowledge systems, in a science classroom where the students engage with formalised science learning.
The classroom research study The two science classes contained a total of 44 Torres Strait Islander Year 9 students, 23 girls and 21 boys.
Science learning using a traditional drum and didgeridoo Students investigated vibrations (kinetic energy) using the traditional drum.
Explaining and addressing the poor performance of Indigenous students The academic performance of Indigenous students in the Torres Strait and Cape District is amongst the lowest nationally, according to a report that analysed 2008 NAPLAN data (Masters 2009).
For example, in April 2008 the Queensland Studies Authority issued a statement acknowledging the importance of understanding, maintaining and promoting the diverse Indigenous languages, and calling for schools and communities to recognise and value local Indigenous knowledge systems (QSA 2008).
The author takes two Year 9 science classes, composed entirely of Torres Strait Islander students, at a school in Far North Queensland.
This report suggested that by Year 9 Indigenous students in remote parts of Queensland are six to seven years behind the average academic performance of non–indigenous Queensland students, in terms of literacy, numeracy and science.
Poor performance is often explained through a deficit model.
The article is adapted from sections of the author's paper 'Accommodating Indigenous students' cultural resources in science classrooms: an approach to enhance learning agency', presented at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in Education Conference, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, 26–27 November 2010.