Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

National Study of Master Teachers in Deaf Education: Implications for Teacher Education

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

National Study of Master Teachers in Deaf Education: Implications for Teacher Education

Article excerpt

AFTER AN EXTENSIVE REVIEW of relevant literature, the investigators developed a questionnaire on teacher characteristics and behaviors in relation to master teachers and distributed it electronically to deaf education professionals. The questionnaire recipients represented administrators, experienced teachers (e.g., those with 3 or more years' experience), and college and university faculty responsible for preparing teachers of the deaf. Follow-up interactive interviews were conducted with representatives of each constituency. Considerable similarities were noted in the priorities assigned across the three different constituencies, including a value placed on strong communication skills, having a passion about teaching, being collaborative, remaining current in the field, helping students become independent learners, and employing cognitive strategies. Analyses of responses by constituency are provided, along with recommendations for action, particularly for teacher education programs that are intent on graduating more teachers with master teacher potential.

The Problem

The purpose of the present investigation was to define the concept of the master teacher in deaf education, in order to provide (a) leadership in the field, (b) a framework for mentoring new teachers, and (c) criteria that can be shared with both preservice and inservice teacher education programs. Numerous definitions of the term master teacher are found in the field of deaf education, as is also true in general education. Depending on the constituency, the definition can be related to, among other things, level of preparation, personal characteristics, mastery of certain skills, student achievement, level of experience, and behaviors. In actuality, perhaps all of these in some combination may be relevant.

However, within the field of deaf education there is a lack of consensus on what constitutes a master teacher. The concept of the master teacher has also been a central concern to the Association of College Educators: Deaf/Hard of Hearing (ACE: DHH). In 2002, ACE:DHH was awarded a federal PT-3 grant, designated as the Join Together Project, to examine master teachers, particularly with respect to how they incorporate technological applications within the field of deaf education.

For the purposes of the research for the present article, a master teacher was operationally defined as an experienced teacher who has been designated as a master teacher by college and university personnel, with whom they would be willing to place a student teacher. In addition, master teachers have 3 or more years of experience, and, among other attributes, are knowledgeable and skillful in applying technology in the classroom with deaf and hard of hearing students. These teachers' characteristics include sophistication about the use of websites and a willingness to mentor other professionals regarding technological skills.

Teacher education faculty within the research project have included such additional criteria as skills in communicating in American Sign Language (ASL) in the classroom, skills in meeting the needs of multiply disabled students who are deaf, skills in teaching English as a second language, the ability to employ strong methods of classroom management, being an engaging teacher, serving as an academic coach, promoting discovery learning, having students who successfully complete state-mandated high-stakes testing, being self-confident, being recognized by peers as outstanding, having a strong desire to "make a difference," teaching with problem-solving methods, and being highly regarded by parents.


Because of the diversity of definitions, clearly an effort needed to be made to define more succinctly what is meant by the term master teacher. This need led us to develop the project we describe in the present article.

The purpose of the investigation was to define the term master teacher, in order to establish a firm basis for identifying such teachers for subsequent research studies in the deaf education field. …

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