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Welcome to the REC Network! As you join our group, please be sure to check out the forums posted. Be sure to introduce yourself on the introductions forum as well as take full advantage of sharing or pursuing opportunities provided through the network. We are super excited to have you join us!

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Greetings, REC Network Family!

We hope that you will join us for one or both of our upcoming events this spring! Please see the information below:  

Upcoming Event: Re-Envisioning the Culture Through Freedom Dreams - Friday, April 30th 5:30 pm - 7pm EST (4:30 - 6pm CST). This event will build on conversations from the fall virtual conference and the March event, to engage the process of creating a new culture of Biology that is based on Black identities and…


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  • Created 02 Sep 2020

"Resources to Re-Envision UBE through Teaching and Mentoring" 6 posts Sort by created date Sort by defined ordering View as a grid View as a list

Towards a clearer understanding of student disadvantage in higher education: problematising deficit thinking

Abstract: The increased diversity in the student body resulting from massification poses particular challenges to higher education. This article engages the uncritical use of the ‘disadvantage’ discourse and its effect on pedagogy. It explores some of the challenges of coping with student diversity, with particular reference to the South African context. Students enter higher education institutions with a variety of educational backgrounds, not all of which are considered to be sufficient preparation for the demands of higher education. The dominant thinking in higher education attempts to understand student difficulty by framing students and their families of origin as lacking some of the academic and cultural resources necessary to succeed in what is presumed to be a fair and open society. This constitutes a deficit thinking model: it focuses on inadequacies of students and aims to ‘fix’ this problem. In the process the impact of structural issues is often ignored or minimised. Employing a deficit mindset to frame student difficulties perpetuates stereotypes, alienates students from higher education and disregards the role of higher education in perpetuating the barriers to student success. In the process, universities replicate the educational stratification of societies. This article suggests that we need to find more suitable responses to diversity in the student body. These require a change in our way of thinking: we need thoughtfully to consider the readiness of higher education institutions to respond to students and to cultivate the will to learn in students. We need to find ways to research the full texture of the student experience and to value the pre-higher education contexts from which students come. In addition, the notion of ‘at risk’ students

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From Deficiency to Strength: Shifting the Mindset about Education Inequality


The “achievement gap” as a symptom of persistent social inequity has plagued American education and society for decades. The vast chasm in academic achievement has long existed along racial and poverty lines. Children of color and from low-income families have, on average, performed worse on virtually all indicators of academic success: standardized test scores, high school graduation rates, and college matriculation rates. This gap perpetuates the existing inequalities in society. Efforts to close the achievement gap have had little effect. The gap remains and has actually widened. This article argues the gap is symptomatic of the deficit-driven education paradigm. Fixing the traditional paradigm is unlikely to close the gap because the paradigm reinforce and reproduces educational and social inequity by design. To work toward more educational and social equity, we need to adopt a different paradigm of education. The new paradigm should work on cultivating strengths of individual students instead of fixing their deficits.

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Mentoring Through the Transitions: Voices on the Verge

Descriptions of how to support students through critical transitions in which culture changes (e.g., high school to college, community college to four-year institution). Collection of case studies and perspectives:

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Expanding the Science Capital in K–12 Science Textbooks: A Notable Doctor’s Insights into Biology & Other Accomplishments of African American Scientists (C. Quinlan, 2020)

This article explores the need to include the science capital and cultural capital of African Americans in science teaching and offers practical exemplars for inclusion in the K–12 science curriculum. The author discusses ideas in the evolution of culture that contribute to the science content and perspectives of current textbooks and their supporting educative curriculum materials. The exemplars provided shed light on the scientific concepts and ideas indicated by the scientific accomplishments and narratives of African American scientists and a notable doctor, Charles R. Drew. The practical considerations described have implications for the disciplinary core ideas in the Next Generation Science Standards, and for understanding the cultural, social, and political values inherent in the nature of science.

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Exploring Data to Learn about the Nature of Science (C. Quinlan, 2016)

Biology is often taught as disconnected facts, even though the subject itself provides a holistic approach to the study of life, particularly through the overarching frame of evolution. The Framework for K–12 Science Education and Next Generation Science Standards promote a coherent approach to science that uses a developmental approach to learning. This is consistent with the use of data, reflective strategies, and a research inquiry approach that encourages students to confront their own thinking and reasoning, and thus encourages the engagement of argumentation in the classroom. This article presents narratives and classroom scenarios that might provide insights into learning strategies, with implications for a more cohesive approach to learning both biology concepts and the practices of science.

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An Interdisciplinary Investigation of African Rock Art Images to Learn about Science & Culture: Blending Biology, Geology, History & Ethics (C. Quinlan, 2019)

Image analysis of African rock art creates a unique opportunity to engage in authentic explorations of science and culture using rock art images as data. African rock art and its context provide insights into the intersection of science, scientific research, research ethics, intellectual property, law, government, economy, indigenous people, and crime. This article specifically considers the rock art and other cultural contributions of the San people of Southern Africa, which offer a rich interdisciplinary exploration of biology—including the climate and weather of biomes, plant biology, human physiology, and more. An understanding of the nature of science, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is implicated.

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