Elizabeth Moje warns educators against deficit thinking as students return to school (online or in person) this fall 

August 27, 2020

Dean Elizabeth Moje was quoted in the Chalkbeat article “As teachers brace for student learning losses, many worry about the impact on Michigan’s most vulnerable students” by Lori Higgins and Eleanore Catolico. Higgins and Catolico spoke with experts about how the school disruption caused by COVID-19 is likely to leave many students struggling academically. Educators predict this will have a particularly profound impact on children who were already disadvantaged. 

Moje agreed that vulnerable students are likely to be most affected by academic losses, but she hopes there is also recognition of the experiences and opportunities that supplemented students’ learning while they were out of the classroom. That’s why she says that while “we have to recognize the disparities and inequalities and inequities and work to address those,” it must be done without treating children as if they’re deficient.

Along with many other educators, Moje warned against using testing “to sum children up and put a label on them.” Rather, tests now should be focused on understanding “where they are with their development.” Teachers will need to assess students using many strategies and also find ways to discover what students have learned in the months since they last attended school.  “They want to try to build on the amazing capacity of the human mind to always be learning,” Moje said.

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Dean, School of Education; George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor of Education; Arthur F Thurnau Professor; Faculty Associate, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research