Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Deaf Teacher Candidates in Hearing Classrooms: A Unique Teacher Preparation Program

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Deaf Teacher Candidates in Hearing Classrooms: A Unique Teacher Preparation Program

Article excerpt

An undergraduate teacher education program at Gallaudet University prepares deaf students in "regular" education. This includes a required fulltime internship with hearing students (assisted by sign language interpreters). Graduates then continue in a master's degree program in deaf education, thus acquiring dual certification. Several studies indicate that these deaf candidates progress through the same developmental stages as hearing candidates and that they develop high expectations for deaf learners. Issues related to implementing such a program are discussed.


The present article revisits the frequently asked question, "What should beginning teachers of deaf students know, and what skills do they need?" The authors review current reforms in general and special education and describe a program that prepares deaf and hard of hearing undergraduate students to meet the demands of a changing landscape in the education of deaf children and youth.


While there has been debate over the characteristics, knowledge, skills, and experiences that are needed to teach the Deaf (e.g., Sass-Lehrer, 1986) there is also growing acknowledgment that teachers of the Deaf should not only have specific knowledge, skills, and experiences in deafness (i.e., language acquisition, sign language, reading, and speech and language), but should also have strong subject-matter knowledge, skills, pedagogy, and experiences (Lytle & Rovins, 1995). Those advocating acquisition of such skills also note the need for teachers of the Deaf to have a "bigger picture" of educational expectations, including the curriculum and teaching strategies of the larger population of "non-special education" children and youth. Some states have mandated prerequisites and foundations in regular education for special educators.

During this period of reform and reevaluation of the characteristics needed by teachers of the Deaf, there is another trend, toward continuing acknowledgment of the efficacy of, and the need for, teachers of deaf children who are themselves deaf (e.g., Andrews & Franklin, 1997; Martin, 1982).

These two seemingly unrelated trends raise an important question: How will these much sought-after deaf candidates acquire knowledge, skills, pedagogy, and experiences in regular education? Few regular teacher education programs actively recruit deaf candidates or provide the needed support services and accommodations necessary to provide deaf candidates full access to these programs. Some programs discourage or have even refused deaf candidates the opportunity to pursue degrees and certification in regular education (Grantham v. Louisiana, 1995).

Until 1980, the teacher education program at Gallaudet University focused on providing primarily hearing prospective teachers of the Deaf with knowledge, skills, pedagogy, and experiences concerned solely with deaf ness. Candidates for the master's program in deaf education had a variety of undergraduate backgrounds, with varying levels of subject-matter competency or knowledge about general education. Because of the increasing number of state mandates for dual certification of special education teachers, a growing number of students were starting to enter the Gallaudet University graduate program in deaf education with regular education undergraduate backgrounds, or were being asked to acquire competencies associated with regular education through prerequisite courses in subject areas such as mathematics, history, literature, and the sciences.

While prospective hearing teacher candidates in deaf education had many options for acquiring regular education knowledge, skills, pedagogy, and experiences, either as part of an undergraduate degree program or subsequent to receipt of their initial degree, this opportunity was not available to most deaf candidates.

Teacher Preparation Program

A unique teacher preparation program at Gallaudet University at the undergraduate level addresses the need to acquire regular education competencies in several different ways: A cohort of college students who are deaf take all of the required course work for becoming a licensed teacher in regular education, including a required fulltime internship with hearing students in regular education (assisted by a sign language interpreter), as a prerequisite for continuing graduate study at the master's level in deaf education-leading to full dual certification in regular and deaf education. …

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