Access to Postsecondary Education for Socioeconomic Disadvantaged


Frempong, G., Ma, X., & Mensah, J. (2012). Access to postsecondary education: can schools compensate for socioeconomic disadvantage?. Higher Education, 63(1), 19-32.


The analysis of access to postsecondary education is essential to me as I embark on my journey with action research in education. I recently finished the article Access to postsecondary education: can schools compensate for socioeconomic disadvantage, which provided me with excellent insight on the relationship between socioeconomic status for high school students in Canada, and their access into higher education. The research was particularly concentrated on those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The author’s analysis was focused on research that continued to support a number of studies that have demonstrated that youth from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds experience some level of exclusion in postsecondary education systems (Frempong, Ma, & Mensah, 2012).

As I read through this article, I found it very easy to compare it to several readings that I have recently completed, as well as active discussions that I find myself interacting with in my professional life. The discussion of access to higher education is a common theme of discussion amongst professionals in higher education, especially at the community college where I work. It is very typical for a topic of discussion to focus on underrepresented youth and access for minorities in college, in my work community. Hence I felt much of the subject matter in this reading was very easy to relate to. I also found the article very interesting in its approach to weigh heavily on its data model and analysis to support the findings of the researchers in this piece. The use of multilevel models to examine access to education was an approach that I had not often seen, so I found it quite interesting.


In looking at the organizational flow and consistency of this article, I found it had a well-developed argument supported by previous research and current data. The paper first introduced the reader to the challenges of access to higher education for high school students in Canada, while also citing similar challenges in the United States. The authors called on several authors and scholarly research that was completed prior to their research to guide the reader in understanding the problem that students face. I found this key in helping the authors frame the need for their research and to then be able highlight the difference in their research and findings, as opposed to other research on similar subject matter. The data analysis helped to drive the idea of the research and to formulate the research’s significant findings. The authors then finalized their piece by presenting their findings in a five step model to ensure the readers had a clear vision of the data as it related to the research conducted.

Contribution to the Field

Did I feel this journal reading was worthwhile and carried strength in its argument? Yes, I believe this article can be a resource for me moving forward in my own research. It contributed to my knowledge base by increasing my awareness in regards to the challenges of access in higher education outside of the U.S. I believe working domestically can sometimes narrow the concept of professionals and researchers in respect to the trials that face the academic world on a global level. The research presented in this article also supports the idea that socioeconomic status is prevalent in communities across the world, just as it is in my own community. The presentation of findings in this report were essential for me. The way they were presented was clear and concise, making it easy for readers to comprehend. I see that as an asset in identifying ways I can present my own research. I certainly see some of the research conducted with this study as a resource for me, as I move into my participatory action research experience.

Literature Review

As previously mentioned, the arrangement of findings and the presentation of the research were key pieces for me with this reading. I respected the way the authors presented their findings in five phases based off the strategic questions they wanted to answer. In my opinion, it helped frame the organization of their research to their audience. I also felt that the use of statistical analysis to show the limitation of access to postsecondary education based off of socioeconomic status and challenges was excellent. The reading did take on a more scientific feel because of this; however I was still captivated, by the way the authors related their data to the various student backgrounds and societal makings of the community in which they were conducting their research. In an example, the authors use the results from a Youth in Transition Survey as the basis for their research, but then did an excellent job at humanizing the findings by highlighting themes of student-teacher relationships and the vulnerability of student experiences based on school surroundings. The fore mentioned issues played key for me in this reading.

Theoretical Review

The theoretical framework of the study presented in this report was taken through its entirety. The authors showed their framework in the onset of the reading, to help the reader understand what was being questioned. The information connected to prior knowledge, experience, and research from the authors and outside scholars. The intent of the research, the data used, and findings were articulated clearly for the audience. The report gave information that was knowledgeable and appropriate for audiences who seek a better understanding of issues with access to higher education in their communities.

Data Collection and Analysis

The data collection and analysis in this article was one of the most in-depth presentations that I have encountered in a recent review of scholarly writings. The authors in this case were very thorough in the presentation and interpretation of their research for this article. As a reader, I engaged a very a well-defined picture of where the data for this analysis was coming from by way of a survey model. The measures were presented clearly including explanation of dependent variables for the surveys conducted. The use of tables to present data findings was an essential component for readers. Also, another valuable component was the written part on how multilevel analysis was chosen as the primary statistical technique in the current study, because the Programme for International Student Assessment and Youth in Transition Survey data used are multilevel in nature (Frempong, Ma, & Mensah, 2012). Although I have not encountered current readings with this in-depth presentation of data and analysis findings, it is my understanding that the methods used in this study are standard for inquiry in education.

Findings, Discussion, and Conclusion

Although the Canadian education system may encompass some of the same Eurocentric ideas that are established in the U.S., this article helped me to get a sense of similar challenges being faces in other countries. I found the reading significant as I try to narrow my own line of inquiry on access and excellence in education. I am looking to conduct research in the realm of high school to college transition and the community of people within this research were ideal to who I wish to work. I found this research to be grounded, while providing a variety of findings on the limitations of access to higher education for Canadian high school students, based off of their socioeconomic makeup. I had an easy connection to the problem being presented and to the findings that showed relationship between economically challenge schools, students, and families, in relation to their education attainment levels after high school. The research tools I found in this article are important to my educational research objective and I hope to use them as a valuable resource for the future.

Don’t Believe the Hype: Indigenous Student Learning Styles May Not Conform to the Literature

Roppolo, K. & Crow, C. (2007). Native American education vs. Indian learning: Still battling Pratt after all these years. Studies in American Indian Literatures, 19(1), 3-31.

Written in Blood

I surrender to Roget’s pocket Thesaurus

I confess my crime of breaking into this container of words,

and slaughtering this poem with meta innuendo./

But I needed something. I wanted to gather the dust

of 84 warriors and 62 women & children. I robbed,

from this vault of words, language of the enemy, in hopes/

I could capture these people, allow their prayers to

Reach Wovoka in the final hour before I end this poem.

I wanted to know that I am not merely grieving from the guilt /

of that European blood that separates me from two worlds.

I need to know that I can be allowed my grief.

Sadly, I have failed. This 1961 Cardinal edition thesaurus/

I depended upon has betrayed me. Betrayed my Indian kin.

With this language there are times I feel I’m betraying myself.

In my search for synonyms for murder, I find Cain,/

Assassin, barbarian, gunman, brute

hoodlum, killer, executioner, butcher

savage, Apache, redskin.

(Midge, p. 212)


I am using Tiffany Midge’s poem (Harjo & Bird, 1997) to speak a truth about the relationship between Indigenous peoples and dominant-culture education. The legacy of 300 plus years of “Indian education” has left Indigenous communities fractured and traumatized. Our people are in various stages of quasi-assimilation (because we know it’s impossible for full assimilation as we are racialized as brown, or red as is often referenced), without identity, ashamed, and thankfully, recovering. In much of the literature education is lauded as the key to our future and our very survival (Campbell, 2007; Guillory & Wolverton, 2008; Harjo & Bird, 1997; Roppolo & Crow, 2007). Unfortunately, college degree attainment has not become widespread among Indigenous peoples in the U.S.  despite the various research examining this social problem (Guillory & Wolverton, 2008). This week, I turned to a small pilot study that took place at a tribal college on teaching Native American literature to Indigenous students, for a slightly different approach to Indigenous learning at the college level.

In Native American education vs. Indian learning: Still battling Pratt after all these years, Roppolo and Crow (2007) rely on the research about Indigenous students’ learning styles to construct an intensive week-long Native American literature course for five (mostly Cheyenne and Arapaho) students. The authors used two quantitative assessments—one to assess whether students are auditory or visual leaners and the other to assess if they are individualistic or collectivist. Upon finding that the students in their course did not test as the assessments predicted—visual and collectivist, the authors used their knowledge of Cheyenne and Arapaho culture to create an additional assessment to measure assimilation in hopes of explaining the contradictory results. Following are some questions on the assessment. Answering true to the first four and false on the last question reflect “traditional” responses.

  • If I acquire a beautiful object that I value greatly and someone I respect will appreciate it, I would give it to them as a measure of my respect and gratitude without regret.
  • Life experience is more important than book learning, though both can be beneficial.
  • Sometimes hard things have to be said, but it is important to say them in a good way so that people won’t be offended no matter how bad their own behavior has been.
  • My family’s needs are more important than my own.
  • If I went to somebody’s house after eating a large meal and they offered me food, I would politely say that I was full, but thank you, or find some other way of turning down the offer.

The authors also used qualitative data collected from student assignments and their own observations as participants in the research. They found that the literature on Indigenous education does not always apply and that researchers must be willing to change their methods mid-practice in order to impact learning. As the subtitle suggests, society is still using predetermined notions (current literature) of what Indigenous students are like to create an educational environment for them that may not work.

Theoretical Frameowork and Literature Review

The authors used a constructivist approach as a learning theory, philosophy and application in the classroom. Constructivism is the idea that students have their own cultural wealth they bring into the classroom and rather than ignore that capital, the instructors build upon it so that students can construct new knowledge upon the foundation of previously constructed knowledge which is beneficial for learning. I found the literature review sparse, however the authors used an article that reviewed the recent literature (as of 2003) on improving academic performance among Native American students. They also use literature that examined historical educational practices toward Indigenous peoples, the impact of cultural literacies, cultural variables, and cross-cultural assessment in learning environments and a few specific research studies about Indigenous peoples and education. I think they could have used more research to support their own. I am convinced that that the articles situate the authors’ contribution as innovative, however, I am not convinced that the 12 articles specifically about Indigenous students sets a solid foundation for the author’s contribution. It seems to me there could be a lot more support for their argument.

Data and Analysis

Three quantitative methods: Joyzelle Godfrey’s Assessment of personal tendency toward individualism or collectivism, Brainworks Personal Evaluation to test for audio/video preference, and their own 24-item survey to test for assimilation. The 24-item survey was created midweek to find out why students had tested as auditory learners rather than visual and individualistic rather than collectivist. Interestingly, the students’ scores contradicted the literature that theorized Indigenous students were holistic and visual learners. The authors also used qualitative data, the students journaling and classroom assignments as well as the author’s own observations as participants in the learning environment. The qualitative data offered more insight into how the students connected with the coursework and gave a richer description of how the students’ lived experiences impacted the work they completed in the class. The two quantitative methods that tested preferences for audio/visual and individualistic/collectivist revealed the students to be unlike what the data had shown for Indigenous students—which led to the creation of a new assessment.


The authors theorized that students tested strongly as both visual-auditory because the culture requires it. Engaging in traditional ceremony requires one to complete complex tasks often after very long instructions. One needs auditory focus to be successful. Also, attending ceremonies and watching what others are doing prepares one for the day it is their turn. The authors suggest their contradictory findings on students learning styles makes the case that we should not apply predetermined theory and practice to Indigenous students but must be flexible to change theory mid-practice to ensure real learning happens and that new pedagogies and theories can arise.

The authors’ findings are in line with the complexity of human beings and the idea that people adapt. Being willing to adjust your research methods mid-stream takes reflection, critical thinking and courage. To me, this is what it means to be innovative and to practice excellence. The authors did not accept the contradictions and report those findings, instead they set out to figure out why the students in their research contradicted the literature. In the end, the students’ final projects were a mix of visual representation, spoken, and written word.


Campbell, A. (2007). Retaining American Indian/Alaska Native students in higher education: A case study of one partnership between the Tohono O’odham Nation and Pima Community College, Tucson, AZ. Journal of American Indian Education, 46(2), 19-42.

Guillory, R.M., Wolverton, M. (2008). It’s about family: Native American student persistence in higher education. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(1), 58-87.

Midge, T. (1997). Written in Blood. In Harjo, J. & Bird, G (Eds.), Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writings of North America (p. 212). New York: Norton.

Roppolo, K. & Crow, C. (2007). Native American education vs. Indian learning: Still battling Pratt after all these years. Studies in American Indian Literatures, 19(1), 3-31.