Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Collaborative Research: The Alphabetic Braille and Contracted Braille Study as an Example of Collaborative Research

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Collaborative Research: The Alphabetic Braille and Contracted Braille Study as an Example of Collaborative Research

Article excerpt

Abstract: This article examines the Alphabetic Braille Contracted Braille Study in relation to the dimensions of collaborative research: extent, intensity, substance, heterogeneity, velocity, formality, and productivity. It also discusses the dimensions of financing research and researchers' attitudes. The overall consensus is that the study would not have been as comprehensive without collaboration.


The Alphabetic Braille and Contracted Braille Study (hereafter the ABC Braille Study) examined the early introduction of braille contractions with young braille readers. This collaborative research study was longitudinal (the data collection spanned five years from 2002 to 2007). It involved a team of 14 researchers from the United States and Canada representing a variety of professional roles, along with numerous observers and participants who assisted with short tasks for designated periods. This article briefly describes the study and examines it with respect to the dimensions of collaboration presented by Hackett (2005b). The perceptions of the participating researchers from a poststudy questionnaire helped identify the characteristics of the process that were significant to those who collaborated on a large, geographically diverse team.

Description of the study

The ABC Braille Study involved more than 40 students, who were studied for three to five years each, depending on when they entered the study. These students were recruited through their teachers of children with visual impairments. The criteria for participation were that the students had to be in preschool or kindergarten and have no disabilities in addition to visual impairments (that is, blindness or low vision) that might interfere with their being able to learn braille. The teachers of students with visual impairments identified their teaching methods and philosophy for using either contracted or uncontracted braille during beginning reading instruction. The students were then categorized according to their teachers' philosophies. Consent or assent forms were obtained following the protocol approved by the Vanderbilt University Human Subjects Institutional Review Board.

Quantitative and qualitative data were collected on the students and reported in numerous articles (Barclay, Herlich, & Sacks, 2010; D'Andrea, 2009; Sacks, Kamei-Hannan, Erin, Barclay, & Sitar, 2009; Wall Emerson, Holbrook, & D'Andrea, 2009; Wall Emerson, Sitar, Erin, Wormsley, & Herlich, 2009; Wright, 2009, 2010; Wright, Wormsley, & Kamei-Hannan, 2009). The focus of this article is the nature of the research collaboration. Collaboration was a critical element from the conception of the study and is still evident as the researchers continue to analyze the data and report the results.

The effects of contractions on braille reading have been discussed by professionals for many years, and the possibility of a broad-based study was made more compelling with the findings of Troughton (1992), which suggested some advantage to delaying the introduction of contractions for braille readers. The ABC Braille Study grew from the efforts of Anne Corn. Tuck Tinsley, president of American Printing House for the Blind (APH), was particularly interested in a study on braille reading and agreed to provide $400,000 funding for the study. Dr. Corn involved others who had specific expertise in particular areas to join the team, and was responsible for overseeing the research and finances, negotiating human subjects clearances, and supervising master's degree students from Vanderbilt University who served as support personnel each year. She organized meetings of the research team and observations and assessments of the students who were involved in the study, and recruited other researchers as members of the team as needed. Initially, all the members of the research team were volunteers who had a personal interest and expertise in the topics of early braille reading. …

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