In Praise of a Deficit Model

  • Paul B. Howes University of Leicester


Recent criticism of deficit model thinking has rightly drawn attention to its insidious tendency to embed privilege and perpetuate bias and injustice. This paper argues that there are some areas of the curriculum where it is necessary for a teacher to identify deficits of skill or knowledge that act as a block on the student’s academic progress in a particular disciplinary context. The parts of the curriculum for which this is true are highly discipline dependent. A particular example, the place of mathematics in the physical sciences, is discussed at length. This paper calls for caution when criticising colleagues across disciplinary boundaries.


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Author Biography

Paul B. Howes, University of Leicester

Paul is a condensed matter physicist with research expertise in synchrotron-based hard x-ray scattering from surfaces, interfaces and nanostructures. He is a lecturer at the University of Leicester where he has taught undergraduate physics for over 20 years. In recent years he created, led and taught a new STEM Foundation year aimed at widening participation that now recruits students into all departments in the College of Science and Engineering.