Andrew Hogan

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Linda Silvernail


The purpose of this study was to analyze teacher perceptions of the impact of deficit thinking in student course level placement to derive greater insight into the causes of the over-representation of students of color in lower-tracked classes. This study was conducted as a virtual focus group using Google Meet that took place across 3 meetings in which 6 teachers participated in activities designed to promote dialogue around the impact of deficit thinking in the placement of students into course levels.

This study found that teachers perceived deficit thinking in institutional deficiencies in meeting the needs of students and the practices of individual teachers that disadvantaged underserved students, particularly English language learners and students of low socioeconomic status, as impactful in determining student course level placement. Additionally, this study identified ways in which teacher displayed deficit thinking implicitly in their recommendations, which often favored students who were perceived to be more likely to perform well on standardized tests, as impactful in students course level placement. Additionally, implicit bias from the participants was shown in the form of blaming parents and the student body for the low achievement of students in lower-tracked classes. Neither of these two forms of implicit deficit thinking was identified by the participants.

This study also found that while teachers are aware that deficit thinking is impactful in determining which course level students are placed into, simply making teachers aware of deficit thinking is not enough to change teacher practices. This is due to the teachers’ perception that the system of course recommendations for student course level was not offset by the ability of parents to override the recommendation of the teachers and the pressure from administration to recommend students who will most likely to succeed on the standardized tests for AP classes as opposed to students who may not traditionally be represented in higher-stakes classes. Ultimately, the participants felt that their course recommendations did not have a substantial bearing on the academic achievement of students..


© 2023, Andrew Hogan