Teacher Educators in Deaf Education: Why They Entered Higher Education and Their Current Priorities and Accomplishments

Article excerpt

The study presents information on why teacher educators in deaf education move from school classrooms to universities. These educators' priorities as university faculty are examined in regard to teaching, scholarship, and service; their scholarly productivity and perceptions of workplace conditions in school and university environments are studied. Findings show that these schoolteachers moved to higher education for various reasons, but primarily to pursue research and a scholarly life, and to have a greater influence on deaf and hard of hearing children and deaf education. As faculty, they are most interested in and committed to teaching; they publish at a modest rate. These educators perceive workplace conditions that support autonomy, flexible schedules, collegiality, and decisionmaking opportunities as more evident in university environments than in school environments. The researchers discuss the need for teacher educators in deaf education to pursue scholarly interests and to consider working with colleagues at the university and in schools to design collaborative research. Universities' need to support these efforts is also discussed.

The study of the education professoriatewho they are, their motivations for entering the profession, and their accomplishments-has been the subject of research and discussion for several decades (Ducharme, 1993). These teacher educators, working in colleges and universities across the United States, are responsible for preparing the teachers of America's 44,662,000 children attending public schools (Feistritzer, 1996). Every segment of society has a vested interest, therefore, in the acquisition of information that helps answer the question: Who is teaching America's teachers?

A similar question is raised in the present study regarding who is teaching the nation's teachers of the 65,434 children between the ages of 6 and 21 years who are deaf or hard of hearing (U.S. Department of Education, 1996). Families with deaf children, members of the Deaf community, teachers, and other service providers, as well as the profession itself, all have a stake in the work of teacher educators in deaf education.

What led you to pursue a position in higher education, and more specifically, teacher education? What has been your school experience and, today, where do your interests lie? We are interested in collecting information and perceptions from teacher educators in the field of deaf education about their current and past professional roles.

The preceding paragraph introduced the letter and survey we sent to teacher educators in deaf education across the United States. Our target group consisted of those who currently held faculty positions in teacher education in colleges and universities who previously had been classroom teachers of deaf and hard of hearing children. Our goal was to inquire into the motivations that brought these teachers to higher education, the priorities they currently held as teacher education professors regarding teaching, scholarship, and service, and their perceptions of workplace conditions in their former schools and now at their universities.

This information provides a contemporary portrait of teacher educators in deaf education regarding their academic goals, their commitment to teaching versus research, and their values concerning the university working environment. Today, colleges and universities are undergoing significant change, and professors are urged to focus on students, to work harder, and to be more responsive to external forces. For those schools of education with teacher preparation programs in deaf education, increased understanding of the faculty in those programswhat they want and the nature of their work-informs and directs program and professional development planning by administrators and faculty.

Survey Respondents

We conducted our teacher educator survey during 1995-1996, sending out questionnaires to 95 teacher educators at a variety of institutions-public and private, large and small, teaching oriented and research oriented. …