Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Online versus Traditional Classroom Delivery of a Course in Manual Communication

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Online versus Traditional Classroom Delivery of a Course in Manual Communication

Article excerpt

Sign language interpreters provide a vital communication link between individuals who can hear and individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Nationwide sign language interpreting services are provided in a multitude of settings, including hospitals, courtrooms, doctors' offices, job sites, and postsecondary settings. However, the majority of full-time interpreters are employed within K-12 settings, accounting for 60% of the professionals who work within the field (Elton, 2000).

According to the U.S. Department of Education's Annual Report to Congress (1994), 61,000 students exhibiting varying degrees of hearing loss were educated in public school systems throughout the 1992-1993 academic year. Of this population, 27% were enrolled in general education classes, 21% attended resource rooms, and 31% received their education in self-contained classrooms. Students taught in general education classes and those taught in resource rooms combine to account for about 48% of students identified as deaf and hard of hearing who potentially spend some part of their instructional day in settings with educational interpreters.

The Center for Assessment and Demographic Studies at Gallaudet University (1995) lists more than 600 schools and programs in the United States that offered interpreting services to more than 22,000 deaf and hard of hearing students during the 1994-1995 school year. These data indicate that "(1) thousands of students who are deaf and hard of hearing are being educated in their local school systems, and (2) the primary tool for educating many of these students in inclusive programs is to provide them with an educational interpreter" (Winston, 1994, p. 2).

Educational interpreters must be skilled and knowledgeable about education and the field of educational interpreting to work as competent members of educational teams (Maroney, 1995). They must (a) possess fluency in two languages (English and American Sign Language [ASL]), (b) have an understanding of the interpreting process, (c) be cognizant of cultural differences, (d) be attuned to child development stages, (e) be familiar with language acquisition of children who are deaf and hard of hearing, (f) possess an understanding of the professional Code of Ethics and its application in the educational setting, and (g) maintain a working knowledge of the subject matter they are interpreting (Moose, 1999).

As public school systems work to comply with federal mandates to serve students with disabilities in general education classrooms, the need for educational interpreters increases. According to Stuckless, Avery, and Hurwitz (1989) and Witter-Merithew and Dirst (1992), the number of educational interpreters is inadequate. This problem is compounded by the fact that most individuals working as educational interpreters have no interpreting credentials and have not completed an interpreter training program (Hurwitz, 1991).

In a 1997 survey of Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas, 65.4% of the educational interpreters surveyed had no certification of any kind, and 95.5% of the respondents reported the overwhelming need for continued training (Jones, Clark, & Soltz, 1997). Data from the Oregon Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf revealed that 87% of the interpreters working in K-12 schools were not certified (Maroney, 1995). An additional example of this is reported by Yarger (2001) who indicated that of the 63 interpreters employed in school districts in two rural states only 10 had completed formal training programs. Furthermore, of those 10 who responded, only 5 indicated that they had completed coursework related to education. When 43 of these interpreters were assessed on the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA) that uses a scale of 0-5, the mean score was a 2.6. According to this instrument, interpreters who earn a score of 3.5 or better are considered to be "coherent" (Yarger).

According to the 2002 annual reference issue of the American Annals of the Deaf there are 79 interpreter training programs located throughout the United States. …

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