Using Online Glossing Lessons for Accelerated Instruction in ASL for Preservice Deaf Education Majors

Article excerpt

TEACHERS OF DEAF and hard of hearing students must serve as language models for their students. However, preservice deaf education teachers typically have at most only four semesters of American Sign Language (ASL) training. How can their limited ASL instructional time be used to increase their proficiency? Studies involving deaf and hard of hearing students have revealed that glosses (written equivalents of ASL sentences) can serve as "bridges" between ASL and English. The study investigated whether glossing instruction can facilitate hearing students' learning of ASL. A Web site was developed in which ASL glossing rules were explained and glossing exercises provided. Posttest scores showed the experimental group improving from 39% to 71% on ASL grammar knowledge. These findings indicate that online glossing lessons may provide the means to obtain ASL skills more readily, thus preparing deaf education teachers to serve as ASL language models.

All students deserve a good education. This means that they are entitled to teachers who are proficient speakers of the language used by the students. For most students, this is not a problem, but in deaf education, this can be an issue for students whose preferred language is American Sign Language (ASL). The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees a "free appropriate public education," but such an education is not available to deaf students whose teachers lack the communication skills required for academic instruction. Students whose preferred language is ASL should be instructed in ASL (Kuntze, 1998). When preservice deaf education teachers are taught ASL through proven methods of second language (12) instruction, they should benefit. When deaf education teachers sign more proficiently in ASL, it is ultimately the ASL-using deaf students who benefit.

All teachers should serve as language models for their students. Deaf education teachers should be prepared to model both English and ASL. It is vital, therefore, that deaf education teacher preparation programs (comprehensive or bilingual/bicultural) prepare preservice teachers to serve as language models. It is assumed that hearing deaf education majors have the requisite skills to model English appropriately. However, it is unrealistic to expect hearing deaf education majors to master ASL in 1 or 2 years. It typically takes several years to obtain proficiency in ASL (Baker & Cokely, 1980; Costello, 1995; Shelly & Schneck, 1998). Nevertheless, preservice deaf education teachers receive no more than four semesters of ASL instruction.

Several scholars in the field have observed that most hearing teachers in deaf education do not possess adequate skills in ASL (Easterbrooks & Baker, 2002; Kuntze, 1998; Moores, 2001; Schimmel, Edwards, & Prickett, 1999). Apparently, preservice teachers are receiving less than adequate training in ASL. It is easy to understand why "research has shown that most teachers may be using a type of signing that is neither a strict coding of English nor ASL" (Stewart, 1993, p. 333).

Purpose of the Study

When students are learning their target language, it is assumed that they will build a working knowledge of the syntactic elements of the L2. Then, as their familiarity with the target language grows, they will be able to focus on other linguistic features. If ASL students could learn about grammar and syntax through online glossing lessons, they could focus on other linguistic features during classroom time. They could use class time to apply the three-dimensional aspects of ASL, build sign vocabulary, and employ the language with classmates while receiving feedback from the instructor. These are things that cannot be accomplished with online out-of-class activities. If such an instructional system could be established, perhaps the learning of ASL could be accomplished more easily and more quickly. In this way, it might be possible for preservice teachers in deaf education to gain proficiency in ASL prior to graduation. …