The implications of teachers’ deficit views on digital media engagement

Year: 2018

Author: de Roock, Roberto, Machell Espeña, Darlene, Raj Lawrence, Sasha

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Singapore, a digitally mature market, consistently performs well in international examinations such as PISA and TIMSS, establishing it as a reference society and a benchmark for international comparison. Despite this standing, there is little research exploring the relationship between teachers’ pedagogical ideologies (Philip, 2011; van Dijk, 1998) and their implications on the spectrum of teachers’ digital-media engagements (Philip & Garcia, 2013), and even less discussing academically “at risk” students in Singapore. An examination of how teachers integrate (or exclude) digital media in different ways, their deficit views (Gay & Kirkland, 2003) and divergent school approaches to technology and learning is therefore very much warranted.
This study offers a comparative approach in understanding the ways teachers’ deficit views affect perceptions towards digital media in two secondary schools in Singapore that cater to the Normal Technical (NT) stream - the academically lowest performing students. We probe how systemic structures and teacher ideologies shape their receptiveness to integrating digital media into their teaching practices, and how teachers themselves define the benefits and challenges in sustaining student engagement with technology. We also interrogate the role of deficit perspectives and strength-based approaches in facilitating or impeding digital media use in the classroom in order to elicit a better understanding of the crucial relationship between teacher ideologies and classroom practices.
Data include videos of classroom interactions, ethnographic research, and in-depth interviews with a total of 21 NT teachers from a government neighborhood secondary school and a NT-specialised secondary school. Data were analyzed through a grounded theory approach. Preliminary findings reveal that teachers’ apprehensions in using digital media for NT students are linked to deficit views of students as having low attention spans, being unmotivated, and being unable to stay focused or remain on task. The two case studies provide a continuum of deficit views that teachers have and how these impinge on their perceptions of digital media usage. Our aim is to highlight not only the need for interrogating teacher ideologies and practices but also to advance a critical approach to integrating digital media in cognitively challenging and sustainably engaging tasks for low achieving students. We assert that while academically “at risk” students can benefit from access to digital media, it is imperative to interrogate teacher ideologies and address deficit perspectives in order to advance equity in education in Singapore and beyond.
Keywords: at-risk students, deficit views, teacher ideology, digital media, technology for learning