Sign language is a type of communication that does not use sound to convey the message. This involves the use of facial expression, body language and gesture. It is based on the idea that sight is the most important tool for a deaf person to communicate and receive information. Sign language varies from one country to another, from one gender to another, age to age and from one ethics to another. It is important that sign language to be prior before any other any kind of language and hence it is the duty of a parent to start as early as possible to teach their child the sign languages as they develop since language skills acquisition starts at the motor stage (Marschark, Lang & John, 2006). Sign language will help the child to have no difficulties in acquiring the second language. Educating a deaf learner had in recent times been faced with some critical problem and hence studies have been conducted in order to solve some of the existing problem. I intend to conduct a research on some of these problems and in particular I will focus on strengths and limitations of some of the teaching methods used on deaf students. This research will also discuss some of the theories involved in this kind of teaching and why some of them should not be used.
BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The major problem that a deaf student faces in learning the language of the community in which they are born is not only being able to communicate but understanding its linguistic system. This is because some languages are too complicated. At school level the deaf student is faced with a lot of challenges which include; curriculum that is not well designed, teacher’s education background, taboos found in the communities, deaf students are said to lower the main grade, lack of teachers who are qualified to teach deaf education, lack of appropriate and uniform sign language, deaf student lacking hearing devices, and the style of communication. Due to the above problems a deaf student is likely to face rejection, social isolation and develop fear that might hinder their learning. The following are some of the ways being used currently that would be conducted or adapted to solve the problem encountered in teaching a deaf learner.
Manipulative visual languages
Manipulative visuals are brightly colored devices that are used by deaf student. These tools allow the deaf learner to replace the sound that they cannot hear with mental pictures and be able to understand the English language. These visuals are of importance to the student in that they enable the student to understand abstract ideas which then they can use to perform experiments on their own. They also assist a student in solving problems by thinking critically. This is because with the help of the visuals a student can identify and distinguish visuals, and also be able to clarify confusing ideas. Visuals help the learner to understand the concepts by performing them practically using the demonstrations provided by the teacher (Livingston, 1997, p. 58). Students have the courage to use the visuals with no fear by manipulating them. While the teacher is teaching, the deaf learner should start from simple concepts to complex visuals and hence assist the learner understand the concepts. The visuals that are to be used in teaching deaf students are supposed to be well organized, clear, well analyzed and accurate to prevent any confusion and to clarify any misunderstanding of any concept. The manipulative visuals assist a learner in information processing, a learner can be able to acquire knowledge, store it, and still be able to retrieve that knowledge from the mind. The teacher has the responsibility to prepare the visuals early enough before any lesson, this will help the teacher to be competent with what they are supposed to teach. The teacher should assist the student to interpret the visuals presented to them. The deaf learner has the responsibility to manipulate the visuals and then prepare their own visuals. The teacher should be in a position to know how dim and bright lighting present challenges to student since some student may be having visual impairments. This way they can know how the coloring of the visual should be done so as not to affect the understanding of the student.
Fingering is an American type of sign language; this is form of communication that uses non-verbal expression of visible body action to convey a message. The gestures involve the movement of the body, hands and facial expressions. They help an individual communicate a variety of feelings, perceptions and thoughts. Gesture is crucial to everyday type of communication they are used in showing direction, chatting and describing the sizes of different things. The use of gesture in communication has been supported by the gestural theory which states that vocal language develops from the gesture used. These gestures vary from one cultural group to another and can communicate different meaning in different cultural and social group. Parents are usually the source of the first language acquisition in child development and therefore they should introduce the gesture as early as possible. This is because the earlier the child is introduced to it the better the communication skill that they will develop (Stewart & Kluwin, 2001, p. 112). Parents should discover their child’s hearing capability as early as possible so that they can know how to communicate to them. Since toddlers learn by imitation and it’s the duty of the parents to communicate to them by use of the gesture, adding a new gesture each day they communicate with the child is needed to improve the understanding skills of the language acquisition. When communicating to a deaf learner a teacher or a parent should start with the gesture and then communicate. To ensure that effective learning has taken place the teacher should make sure that they are using the right gesture to avoid a misunderstanding. The teacher has the responsibility to understand the student background’s since different gestures are interpreted differently by different communities, cultures and religions. By this the teacher can be able to teach and communicate effectively and hence make the learning process meaningful. The teacher should evaluate the student to assess whether they have understood the concepts and to ensure that meaningful learning has taken place. The teacher should pay attention to a student, give them time to explain their thought and should correct any misinterpretation made. In gesture communication, it is a requirement for the student to be able to see the facial expressions of the teacher, body movement and finger positioning since missing part of this information will greatly affect the student’s understanding. Hence it is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that in performing the gestures, they do them at a place where all the students have a clear view.
Some of the theories that have been forward by Tyler are the creationist theory and evolution theory. Creationist theory believed that man was first created in his present form morally and physically than he is in the recent time, while evolution believed that man is changing with time. Creationist theory did not believe in the teaching of sign language to the people, they believed that sign language was for the younger generation who are evolutionist and not for the older people (Mitchell & Johnson, 2008, p. 57). The evolution theory believed in change as time was changing and therefore deaf education was accepted as a change since humanity was progressing to a higher importance. Sign language was seen as better way of communication to the deaf person in this theory as opposed to the creationist theory where sign education was seen as change and incorporated the use of gesture, facial expressions, and body movement. Evolutionists supported the use of visuals in the teaching of sign languages since the deaf person could be able to draw a mental picture from the visuals. Evolution theory also agrees with the linguistic theory that supports the idea that language is dynamic and hence there is need to change with the change. Linguistic theory deals with the way language acquisition, storage of the learned language and its application. Cognitive sign language theory enables one to assess their mental capability to acquire the sign languages taught and be able to apply the sign effectively. This theory supports the idea of once ability to manipulate visual, think critically and analyze visuals.
This is a type of education that uses spoken languages which include movement of the mouth, tongue and face, lip reading, and breath techniques. Oralism involves the use of touch and sight to assist the deaf student communication with others (Estes & Easterbrooks, 2007, p. 34). It allows the deaf learner to communicate without the use of sign language or manipulative visuals. This process is enhanced by use of the touch sense to know the pronunciation of words through the contraction of muscles and the movement of the lips. For a learner to be able to communicate effectively by use of oralism much time is spent and energy is wasted compared to when one is using sign language or written language. Oralism can be of importance to a person who has lost hearing capacity in life. When teaching using this type of sign languages the teacher should ensure that each and every student in the class can see clearly. The teacher should also have no pronunciation problem, and also ensure that they are using facial expressions to communicate to the student. On their part, the student has the duty to practice lip reading in their own time to ensure that they are able to communicate.
Research has shown that to be able to solve the existing problem in sign languages, the parent and the teacher who are involved in the teaching of the deaf student should be familiar with the existing problem. This will enable them to look for the best alternative in solving the problem. The teacher has a duty to create and show interest to the student while teaching the sign language; they should positively reinforce the deaf student so that they can have the desire to know more of what is being taught. The teacher must also provide a friendly environment for learning, cater for individual difference in the class, pay attention to the kind of student in the class, and understand each student’s learning capabilities and limitation.
The teacher should be well prepared before going to teach the sign language so that to avoid any confusion and to be well competent. They should well familiar with different type of background that student come from. In class teacher should ensure that the entire student can be able to see him as he conduct the class. While designing any curriculum the teachers should remember to cater for various learners with disabilities and more the number of resources that they are going to use.
This research will be necessary since most of the information available on the research question is either too general or old. It is hence necessary to conduct a research to obtain specific information on some of the teaching ways used on deaf people and also on models involved in this teaching. The research question will be ‘which are some of the teaching methods and models used in teaching deaf students’. The findings of the research will be helpful in a re-evaluation of the education system for deaf students. This is because the findings will be scientifically tested and hence can be proven.
Stewart, D. & Kluwin, T. (2001). Teaching Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students. New Jersey:
Alley & Bacon.
Marschark, M., Lang, H. & John, A. (2006). Educating Deaf Students. New York: OUP.
Livingston, S. (1997). Rethinking the Education of Deaf Students. London: Heinemann.
Estes, E. & Easterbrooks, S. (2007). Helping Deaf and Hard Students to use Spoken language.
London: Corwin Press
Mitchell, R. & Johnson, R. (2008). Teaching Deaf Students in an Age of Accountability. Illinois:
Gallaudet University Press.