Shifting the blame in higher education – social inclusion and deficit discourses

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Higher Education Research and Development, ISSN: 1469-8366, Vol: 35, Issue: 2, Page: 322-336

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O'Shea, Sarah Elizabeth; Lysaght, Pauline; Roberts, Jen; Harwood, Valerie
Informa UK Limited
Social Sciences; inclusion; social; blame; shifting; education; deficit; higher; discourses; Education; Social and Behavioral Sciences
article description
The principles of social inclusion have been embraced by institutions across the higher education sector but their translation into practice through pedagogy is not readily apparent. This paper examines perceptions of social inclusion and inclusive pedagogies held by academic staff at an Australian university. Of specific interest were the perceptions of teaching staff with regard to diverse student populations, particularly students from low socio-economic (LSES) backgrounds, given the institution's reasonably high proportion of LSES student enrolment (14%). A mixed-method approach was utilised: (i) in-depth interviews with a representative sample of academic staff and (ii) an online survey targeting all academic staff across the institution. The results point to the dual responsibilities of students and institutions in enacting inclusivity in order to move beyond reductive standpoints that simply apportion blame.