Research on teaching and teacher research has a long history. However, in the field of the education of deaf and hard of hearing students, this research is limited. The study addresses one particular area of research on teaching and teacher research: practical knowledge of teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students. Practical knowledge is defined as how educators think about their classroom practice. By means of a survey designed and tested by the researcher, four hierarchical groups (beginning education students, graduating education students, novice teachers, and experienced teachers) in the education of deaf and hard of hearing students were surveyed on their practical knowledge. Practical knowledge codified as images, rules of practice, and practical principles. Results were measured to demonstrate for categories and characteristics of practical knowledge storage among prospective and current teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students. The instrument was designed as an assessment tool to measure aspects of this knowledge, apply it to levels of pedagogical expertise, and expand research in this area.
The voices and hands of teachers are relatively absent from the knowledge base of research on teaching and teacher research in the field of the education of deaf and hard of hearing students. The education of deaf and hard of hearing students is a complex field that still poses many challenges for the teacher researcher and teacher educator. These challenges stem from the diversity of communication methodologies, the range of educational settings, the historically lower level of English skills achieved by deaf and hard of hearing students relative to hearing students, the limited amount of time universities have to prepare teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students, and the lack of research on teaching and teacher research in the field (Akamatsu & Stewart, 1987).
The field of the education of deaf and hard of hearing students is at a pivotal point, as numerous agents of change emerge. It is a profession still "on the move" (Easterbrooks & RadaszewskiByrne, 1995). In the last decade, the education of deaf and hard of hearing students has received significant attention from the federal government and national professional organizations. Educational standards for teachers of exceptional children are integral to current federal activities. Former president George H. W. Bush's America 2000 initiative and its successor, former president Bill Clinton's Goals 2000: Educate America Act are designed to improve the education of all children, including deaf and hard of hearing students. The Goals 2000 project challenged the American educational system to improve the education of all students by improving children's school readiness, increasing parental involvement in children's education, improving teacher preparation, and dedicating more research to teaching and teacher research (Easterbrooks & Radaszewski-Byrne, 1995). Currently, President George W. Bush is formulating his ideas for standards in education.
Much research has been conducted on the teaching process in classrooms for hearing students over the past 4 decades; the same cannot be said about the systematic study of the teaching of deaf and hard of hearing students. Few original investigations of the characteristics of effective teaching among teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students have been published, and studies with hearing students have seldom been replicated for this group. A significant amount of research on the characteristics of deaf and hard of hearing learners has been completed in the last 20 years, however, suggesting that some learning traits of these students differ from those of hearing students. Thus, the question of whether different learning characteristics imply a need for a different set of teaching methods and teacher characteristics bears further investigation (Lang, 1996b). The implication is that teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students require different characteristics for effective teaching (Lang, McKee, & Conner, 1993). …