The Impact of Cognitive Strategy Instruction on Deaf Learners: An International Comparative Study

By Martin, David S.; Craft, Anna et al. | American Annals of the Deaf, October 2001 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Cognitive Strategy Instruction on Deaf Learners: An International Comparative Study


Martin, David S., Craft, Anna, Sheng, Zhang Ning, American Annals of the Deaf


Teacher cohorts in England and China received special training in techniques for teaching higher-level critical and creative cognitive strategies to deaf learners. Both cohorts implemented the strategies in the classroom at least twice weekly for 6 months. Measures included Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices (1959), a systematic observation checklist for cognitive behaviors (Martin & Craft, 1998), and critical and creative problem situations to which students had to respond. Results were compared with those from a study of similar learners in the United States (Martin & Jonas, 1985), and little difference was found. Students in all three countries improved in reasoning, devising real-world problem solutions involving critical thinking (but not creative thinking), using cognitive vocabulary in the classroom, and expressing others' viewpoints. Postintervention focus groups showed teachers in China used a more invariant sequence in teaching the cognitive strategies, but teachers in all three countries experienced similar expansion in cognitive terminology and self-perceptions as teachers of problem solving.

The study of deaf learners' cognitive strategies has a relatively short history in the United States, and little or no history elsewhere in the world. The present study compared the effects of a cognitive strategy intervention group with deaf learners in the United Kingdom and China and then compared the outcomes to prior similar interventions in the United States.

The present study first describes the background in related literature, then the research design, and finally the findings and their possible implications for deaf education.

Related Literature

In the early 20th century, some researchers reviewed the available information on the intelligence of deaf persons, and, in spite of the sometimes contradictory resuits, concluded that deaf children had inferior intelligence (Pinter, Eisenson, & Stanton, 1941). In 1924, the National Research Council reported that deaf people were 2 to 3 years "retarded" relative to hearing persons in their response to the Pinter Non-Language Mental Test. In the 1950s, other researchers attributed a "concrete" nature to the intelligence of deaf persons, indicating that deafness restricted the learner to a world of "concrete objects and things" (Myklebust & Brutton, 1953). The influence of this latter statement has been far reaching in that educators and clinicians working with deaf persons have for many years regarded the deaf learner as less able to work with abstract ideas than hearing persons. Subsequent research has proven this interpretation to be false. Nonetheless, Myklebust and Brutton represented one step forward-they did report the deaf learner to be at least quantitatively equal to the hearing learner, although inferior qualitatively.

In the 1960s, progress was clear. Furth (1964), a highly regarded researcher, concluded that the poorer performance of deaf persons on some cognitive tests could be explained either by a lack of experience or by the conditions of those tests that favored a background in spoken language. Also, he asserted that deaf persons could comprehend and logically apply concepts as well as hearing persons.

Two significant reviews of studies drew together the mounting evidence for the equality of deaf and hearing persons' thinking processes. One (Rosenstein, 1961) found no differences between deaf and hearing persons in conceptual performance when the linguistic elements presented were within the language experience of the deaf learner. The important conclusion was that abstract thought is not closed to deaf persons. A comprehensive review of 31 research studies with more than 8,000 deaf participants ages 3 to 19 years (Vernon, 1967) found that in 13 experiments, the performance of deaf subjects surpassed either the test norms or the performance of control groups. In seven studies the scores were not significantly different, and only in the remaining studies did deaf subjects perform at an inferior level. …

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