Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Reforming Deaf Education: A Paradigm Shift from How to Teach to What to Teach

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Reforming Deaf Education: A Paradigm Shift from How to Teach to What to Teach

Article excerpt

The 1980s and 1990s have witnessed increased public attention to the quality of the education provided to America's students. Much of this attention has focused on the quality of the school curriculum and the teacher's knowledge and ability to teach this curriculum. This article reviews curriculum reform in regular education and the need for this field, the education of students who are deaf and hard of hearing, to address similar concerns. Education of deaf and hard of hearing students has long focused on the question of bow we teach deaf students. Reforms in education demand that the question of what we teach deaf students should also be addressed. As in regular education, a major issue is whether teachers are knowledgeable of the subject matter and related pedagogy in the subjects they teach. This article reports on the results of a survey of school administrator's views on teacher's subject matter competencies. Implications for certification, standards in teacher education, and inservice strategies are discussed. Recommendations are made for curriculum reform and strategies for improving teachers' subject matter competencies.

While regular education in the United States has undergone a decade of reform focusing on school curriculum and teacher education, education of deaf and hard of hearing students has remained focused on the methods of teaching deaf and hard of hearing students. While regular education reform has focused on the subject matter taught in the public schools and the skills needed to be effective teachers of these subjects (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983; Carnegie, 1986; Holmes, 1986), deaf education has focused on language and communication methods. (Bowe, 1991) Additionally, the full inclusion movement to place all students with disabilities, including deaf students, in regular education classrooms demands that professional educators ensure that all placements in the continuum of options be equally able to provide for a quality academic curriculum equal to that provided to nondisabled regular education students. It is now time for the education of deaf students to undergo the same reflective thinking and reform that is occurring in regular education. The purpose of this article is initiate a dialogue about the need to begin a paradigm shift from how to teach deaf and hard of hearing students to what to teach deaf and hard of hearing students.

In this article we review the status of regular education reform in both regular and deaf education and report on the resuits of a survey of school administrators (school superintendents or program directors) in 145 schools and programs for deaf and hard of hearing students across the United States. The main purpose of this study was to get school administrator's views on what teachers' subject matter knowledge should be. This survey reflected an increasing concern about the quality of the curriculum and the teaching provided to deaf and hard of hearing students. It is critical for teachers, administrators, parents, and others to reconsider the quality of the curriculum and instruction provided to deaf and hard of hearing students. While some professionals in deaf education have identified a problem with the quality of what is taught to deaf students, few have proposed an action plan to effect change.

Unlocking the Curriculum: Principles for Achieving Access in Deaf Education (Johnson, Liddell, & Erting, 1989) confronted the failure of deaf education to significantly improve the achievement of deaf and hard of hearing students. While the authors of Unlocking the Curriculum raised important questions of access to language and the need for raising expectations, they failed to ask the important question of whether the curriculum was worth unlocking. Often it is assumed that the low achievement of deaf children is solely attributable to the methods of teaching and not to the quality of the curriculum or to teachers' knowledge of the subject matter. …

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