Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Investigating Deaf Students' Use of Visual Multimedia Resources in Reading Comprehension

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Investigating Deaf Students' Use of Visual Multimedia Resources in Reading Comprehension

Article excerpt

A MIXED RESEARCH DESIGN was used to examine how deaf students used the visual resources of a multimedia software package that was designed to support reading comprehension. The viewing behavior of 8 deaf students, ages 8-12 years, was recorded during their interaction with multimedia software that included narrative texts enriched with Greek Sign Language videos, pictures, and concept maps. Also, students' reading comprehension was assessed through reading comprehension questions and retelling. Analysis of the students' viewing behavior data, their answers to reading comprehension questions, their "think alouds," and their story retells indicated that they used visual resources, but they did not exploit them in a strategic manner to aid their reading comprehension. The study underscores the important role of mediated instruction in "visual literacy" skills that enable students to learn how to process visual aids in a way that supports their reading comprehension.

Keywords: deaf, reading, multimedia, visual resources, pictures, concept maps

One of the major concerns and challenging tasks of educators of deaf and hard of hearing students is to enhance the reading comprehension performance of their students, which, despite the application of years' worth of research, appears to remain very poor (Marschark et al., 2009; Paul, 1998; Schirmer, 2000; Traxler, 2000). Good reading comprehension is a key to later ability to access academic information through print. The challenges facing deaf and hard of hearing students are attributed to linguistic, communication, instructional, and experiential factors (Wilson & Hyde, 1997), and relate to cognitive processing, language comprehension, and learning (Marschark et al., 2009). Furthermore, these challenges are associated with many variables, namely the text (e.g., word identification, syntax), the reader (e.g., prior knowledge, metacognition), and the context (e.g., the purpose of reading; Paul, 1998; Wang & Paul, 2011), and concern difficulties with lower- and higher-level reading skills, such as poor vocabulary understanding, problems with syntax processing (Kelly, 2007; Paul, 1998), and low-quality or inappropriate use of metacognitive reading strategies (Andrews & Mason, 1991; Kelly, Albertini, & Shannon, 2001; Schirmer, 2003; Strassman, 1997).

In order to respond to the reading comprehension needs of deaf and hard of hearing students, enhance their access to the curriculum, and maximize their learning capacity, teachers need to design and differentiate instruction according to these students' needs. Differentiated instruction requires teachers to be flexible in planning, decision making, and curriculum selection while considering the diverse needs of students in a classroom (Tobin, 2008; Tomlinson, 1999; Van Garderen & Whittaker, 2006). Also, based on the principles of universal design for learning, the diverse needs of learners need to be considered at the very beginning stages of planning and organizing for instruction, so that as many students as possible benefit from the learning environment without any further modifications beyond those incorporated into the original design (Tobin, 2008). Differentiated instruction and universal design for learning are challenging approaches, given that deaf and hard of hearing students constitute a heterogeneous school population with diverse language needs (Easterbrooks & Baker, 2002). One of the key elements of differentiated instruction and universal design for learning with regard to deaf and hard of hearing students is the creation of a visual learning environment. The significance of this element relates to the fact that all deaf and hard of hearing students, including ones with hearing aids or cochlear implants, who may communicate in sign or in a spoken language, have full access to visual information and therefore can benefit from the use of visual techniques, visual strategies, and visual educational materials (Cannon, Easterbrooks, Gagné, & Beal-Alvarez, 2001; Dowaliby & Lang, 1999; Easterbrooks & Baker, 2002; Luckner, Bowen, & Carter, 2001; Marschark, 2005; Paul, 1998; Schirmer, 2000). …

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