The authors draw on the findings of gestalt psychology to demonstrate how teachers' views of African American learning styles and behavior can determine whether these will be pathologized or supported by the educational system. The disproportionately large numbers of African American youth incorrectly assigned to special education courses indicate a lack of clarity in disability criteria and indicate also the use of a "deficit model" or perceptual lens through which teachers assign negative meanings to the behavior of African American students. Case examples of language used by teachers in describing randomly selected students illustrate teachers' deficit-based focus on student behavior "problems." Maholmes and Brown argue that an alternate, developmental model offers a new perceptual lens through which teachers focus on six critical "pathways" of human development when assessing any student. These pathways of development are physical, language, social, psychological, ethical and cognitive development.
Maholmes, Valerie and Brown, Fay E.
"Over-representation of African-American Students in Special Education: The Role of a Developmental Framework in Shaping Teachers' Interpretations of African-American Students' Behavior,"
Trotter Review: Vol. 14
, Article 6.
Available at: http://scholarworks.umb.edu/trotter_review/vol14/iss1/6