Reframing the deficit mindset : first-generation students and concurrent enrollment

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2020-04-29

Authors

Fry, Jessica Joy

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Abstract

This multiple-methods study used extant surveys and semi-structured interviews to look at the experiences of first-generation students who participated in a concurrent enrollment program in high school and later enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin as full-time college students. A qualitative analysis of 4,264 beginning- and end-of-course surveys and 21 semi-structured interviews (of both first- and continuing-generation students) found that first-generation students had strong ideas about postsecondary success concepts, which were enhanced through rigorous coursework and positive support networks. The combination of surveys and interviews allowed for the examination of the transition from high school to college, and a better understanding of how talents, strengths, motivations, and goals continue to develop, evolve, or change in college. By participating in concurrent enrollment during high school, students were given the opportunity to experience a college-level class, learn what behaviors were expected of them as college students, and negotiate various higher education idiosyncrasies. First-generation college students are often pre-judged on their ability to successfully complete a college degree, with some educators negatively categorizing them as coming from a deficit. These assumptions can discount the unique experiences, motivations, goals, and strengths of each student. This research contributes to the field of higher education by reframing the deficit mindset ingrained in the narrative around first-generation students. First-generation students are strong and capable of success in college, and it is critical to create programs that highlight their strengths rather than weaknesses. This is particularly important as concurrent enrollment programs continue to grow in Texas and at the national level.

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