Teaching M.A.

Year Approved


First Advisor

Bostrom, Cheryl


Discourse has a profound effect on all students; it affects their sense of self, their beliefs, and their actions. Specifically, teachers who employ a deficit discourse in regard to English Learners (ELs) view ELs as less capable and more delinquent than their mainstream peers. In this paper, I seek to answer three questions: Why does deficit discourse exist in schools? How does it affect ELs? And, what can be done about it? Research suggests that deficit discourse is largely rooted in power dynamics between teachers and students, and its effects on ELs can be damaging. To change deficit discourse, teachers must first become aware of this mindset and then start engaging in asset-based discourse. Based on the research, I developed a professional development tool for teachers to use to help them identify their (often unconscious) employment of deficit discourse in their practice, and to guide teachers toward a new discourse that is based on the capabilities and strengths of ELs.

Degree Name

Teaching M.A.

Document Type

Masterʼs thesis