Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Unregulated Autonomy: Uncredentialed Educational Interpreters in Rural Schools

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Unregulated Autonomy: Uncredentialed Educational Interpreters in Rural Schools

Article excerpt

Data suggest that more than 87% of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children attend regular public schools all or part of the school day (Office of Special Education Programs, 2014). Many of these students gain access to the school system and curriculum through an educational interpreter. These interpreters must be able to decode and comprehend the complex sourcelanguage message, extract its meaning, and then reformulate it into an equally complex target-language message (Cokely, 1992; Pöchhacker, 2004; Seleskovitch, 1978). All of this must be done in multifaceted classrooms, often with users with developing language and cognitive skills (Schick, 2001; Winston, 2001). To ensure that educational interpreters possess the required skills to meet the demands of this role, several states and local education entities have implemented minimum credentialing requirements. Even though there is evidence that Deaf and Hard of Hearing students learn nearly twice as much from a skilled interpreter as from an interpreter without formal training (Quinsland & Long, 1989), many states have established no such minimum credentials for educational interpreters.

Studies in the interpreting field have investigated the effectiveness or skills of individuals interpreting for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in public school settings, and have described what is happening in school settings where credentialed educational interpreters are predominantly used. There are some data addressing what the position descriptions and roles of the educational interpreter should be. There is very little data, however, on how learning through an educational interpreter may influence the cognitive development of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students (Marschark, Sapere, Convertino & Seewagen, 2005; Schick, 2004; Yarger, 2001).

However, there are few studies on rural school districts that use the services of uncredentialed educational interpreters and how these interpreters enact their role (Yarger, 2001). In other words, there is a lack of research on what educational interpreters are doing in systems that have no licensure or regulatory requirements and the impact on Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. In the present study, I used ethnographic methodologies to address this limitation, specifically by examining the depth and breadth of what uncredentialed rural educational interpreters do daily, with the goal of enhancing professional understanding of these interpreters' role space and the consequences of using uncredentialed educational interpreters.

Role Space

Lee and Llewellyn-Jones (2011) reconceptualized the singular concept of role toward an approach that "defines role not in a static way, but in a dynamic way that requires interpreters to make active choices about managing the myriad factors that foster successful interactions" (p. 1). More recently, and in the same vein, Llewellyn-Jones and Lee (2013, 2014) have suggested that interpreters adopt a model that presents role not as a singular position, but as the movement along three dimensional axes: the axis of presentation of self, the axis of interaction management, and the axis of alignment with participants to frame their work.

Based on this lens, the notion of role space as a dynamic range of dimensions, as opposed to a static delineation of one role, has been proposed. Llewellyn-Jones and Lee (2013) add, in clarification, that "it is not the interpreter who decides on the nature and dimensions of role-space; instead, it is the characteristics of the interaction that determine the appropriateness of the myriad approaches and roles available to the interpreter" (p. 69). With an expanded, multidimensional sense of role, it is "impossible to talk about a single role occupied by an interpreter" (Lee & Llewellyn-Jones, 2011, p. 2).

Llewellyn-Jones and Lee (2014) clearly state, however, that since role refers to behavior rather than position, a role is enacted, not occupied. Certainly, interpreters working in a public school setting may enact different dimensional positions along the three axes within different interactions; however, that is not the focus of the present research. …

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