Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Enabling Pedagogy and Andragogy for 21st-Century Sign Language Users and Learners

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Enabling Pedagogy and Andragogy for 21st-Century Sign Language Users and Learners

Article excerpt

Enabling pedagogy and andragogy is discussed in the present chapter as a form of lifelong learning in which learners attain competences and skills as children (pedagogy) and as adults (andragogy) that enable them to engage in independent learning in the 21st century.

Throughout this chapter, I avoid as much as possible the labels deaf and hearing and instead use sign language learner or sign language user to refer to persons who wish to learn, study, and use sign language as a first or second language. This terminology is used in order to focus on language acquisition rather than hearing status. When a second language is involved, bilingualism must be addressed. The internationally known researcher on all kinds of bilingualism, François Grosjean (2001), writes about the deaf person as being bilingual and often even multilingual. He argues that not only are most deaf persons bilingual, but that

every deaf child, whatever the level of his/her hearing loss, should have the right to grow up bilingual. By knowing and using both a sign language and an oral language . . . the child will attain his/her full cognitive, linguistic, and social capabilities. (p. 110)

Concepts Involved in Enabling Pedagogy and Andragogy

A new global context has been developing in which the notion of citizenship appears to be giving way to communities breaking up into diverse groupings. Within this context, Leach and Moon (1999) argue that there is arising a need to rethink ideas about knowledge and learning. This is especially necessary, I argue, for the teaching and learning of sign languages. To contribute to this new way of thinking, I will discuss several concepts I feel are important but do not see being implemented in most sign language learning and teaching situations.


The term culturalism was introduced by Bruner (1999), who linked it to "development of a way of life where 'reality' is represented by a symbolism shared by members of a cultural community in which a technical-social way of life is both organized and construed in term of the symbolism" (p. 149). His definition of culture focuses on cultural situatedness, negotiability, and communicability:

It is culture that provides the tools for organizing and understanding our worlds in communicable ways. (p. 149)

Culture . . . itself is man-made, both forms and makes possible the workings of a distinctively human mind. (p. 150)

Meaning making involves situating encounters with the world in their appropriate cultural contexts in order to know "what they are about. " Although meanings are "in the mind," they have origins and significance in the culture in which they are created. It is this cultural situatedness of meaning that assures their negotiability and their communicability (p. 149)

Bruner's concept of culturalism brings together insights from psychology, anThis thropology, linguistics, and human sciences to reformulate the model of mind. From this point of view, "the concepts of learning and thinking are always situated in a cultural setting and always dependent upon the utilization of cultural resources" (p. 150).

According to Bruner's (1999) three concepts of culture, sign language culture, like other cultures, is man-made, is a provider of tools for organizing and understanding our worlds in communicable ways, and forms and makes possible the workings of a distinctive human mind. Linguistic, sociological, psychological, and anthropological research over the past 50 years has confirmed the best practices of sign language communities led by native/ first sign language learners and users.

Closely related to the notion of culture is how information is transmitted. Leach and Moon (1999) have written about how the changing nature of information and communication technologies has brought radical changes in how informing takes place. Today, electronic communication not only offers more possibilities of interactivity, but has an enormous capacity to sort and access information. …

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