Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Teaching Manual Communication to Preservice Teachers of the Deaf in an Accredited Comprehensive Undergraduate Teacher Preparation Program

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Teaching Manual Communication to Preservice Teachers of the Deaf in an Accredited Comprehensive Undergraduate Teacher Preparation Program

Article excerpt

NOTING THAT there are no standardized manual communication curricula or proficiency assessments available to teacher preparation programs, the author used a case study to describe how preservice teachers of the deaf are taught to incorporate American Sign Language and various forms of signed English as effective communication tools for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. An accredited undergraduate teacher preparation program located in a rural area was selected for the study. Eight curricular components were examined, and data were triangulated from observations, interviews, and document analyses. The author found (a) that manual communication was taught in three required courses making up 6.57% of the overall curriculum, (b) direct application to the classroom was limited, and (c) there was minor misalignment across the eight curricular components examined. The program did not require an exit-level proficiency exam.

The average student who is deaf graduates from high school reading at approximately the fourth- or fifth-grade level. This alarming statistic, which has not changed significantly since the beginning of formalized testing (R. E. Johnson, Liddell, & Erting, 1989; LaSasso & Mobley, 1997; Livingston, 1997; Luetke-Stahlman & Luckner, 1991; Mashie, 1995; McAnnally, Rose, & Quigley, 1994; Moores, 2001; Paul, 1990, 1998; Paul & Quigley, 1994; Schein, 1989; Schirmir, 2000; Stewart & Kluwin, 2001), has been the impetus for many studies and many debates, primarily the communication debate. Is it better to teach students who are deaf or hard of hearing using auditory/oral methods or is it better to use some form of manual communication, either American Sign Language (ASL) or some contrived form of signed English?

In spite of numerous studies attempting to prove that one communication approach is significantly superior to another when teaching children who are deaf or hard of hearing, there is no conclusive evidence to support the efficacy of either the oral or the manual approach (Luetke-Stahlman, 1991; Paul, 1998; Schirmir, 2000). There have been significant achievements and failures with both approaches, which suggest that other factors may need to be assessed to better determine what might enhance teachers' effectiveness when they are interacting with this student population (Mayer, Akamatsu, & Stewart, 2002). The purpose of the present article is not to prolong the oral-manual debate but to address how manual communication is taught to preservice teachers who are being certified to teach in comprehensive communication programs serving students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The Joint Standards Committee of the Council on Exceptional Children and the National Council on Education of the Deaf (hereafter CEC-CED) established criteria in 1996 for beginning teachers of the deaf that include instructional content and practice skills (section IVB.), requiring teachers to "demonstrate proficiency in the language(s) the beginning teacher will use to instruct students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing" (criterion 36) and to "demonstrate characteristics of various existing communication modes used with students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing" (criterion 37). The National Association of the Deaf (n.d.) has distributed a position paper proclaiming ASL to be the primary mode of instruction for academic subjects for students who are deaf, but it also recommends that English be taught concurrently. NAD's intent is to recognize ASL as a language, with the primary purpose of education being to teach Standard English without diminishing the value of ASL. Currently, the Council on Education of the Deaf (CED) accredits teacher preparation programs to prepare their graduates to work in auditory/oral programs (no manual communication), bilingual/ bicultural programs (ASL and Standard English), or comprehensive programs (undefined strategies between and including the two extremes). The term comprehensive has not yet been defined by CED, so the present study also helps to identify some of the parameters meeting that standard. …

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