One-size-fits-all education doesn’t apply when it comes to deaf learners--here's how to consider their background and past experiences when forming an educational plan

At the beginning of each school year, teachers often take the time to get to know their students—their favorite subjects, their goals, their families, etc. With hard-of-hearing and deaf learners, though, many educators stop and let that one characteristic define the student and the student-teacher relationship.

But in the edWebinar “Deaf Learners: Designing Practice to Support Their Learner Variability, Culture, and Families,” sponsored by Digital Promise, the presenters explained why educators need to dig deeper and understand all of the factors influencing the student’s motivation and interest in learning.

First, in order to develop an education plan for hard-of-hearing and deaf learners, teachers must learn about the student’s language background. Without understanding the student’s foundation, the teacher won’t be able to develop appropriate lessons.

Related content: 8 learning apps for students with special needs

Potential survey questions include:

● Were they born with any level of hearing? What’s their exposure to auditory language?
● At what age did the student start using sign language, if at all? Does anyone sign at home?
● How many languages are used at home? For instance, some families speak Spanish, English, and American Sign Language (ASL).
● What’s the student’s exposure to phonology, both auditory and visual?

At the beginning of each school year, teachers often take the time to get to know their students—their favorite subjects, their goals, their families, etc. With hard-of-hearing and deaf learners, though, many educators stop and let that one characteristic define the student and the student-teacher relationship.

But in the edWebinar “Deaf Learners: Designing Practice to Support Their Learner Variability, Culture, and Families,” sponsored by Digital Promise, the presenters explained why educators need to dig deeper and understand all of the factors influencing the student’s motivation and interest in learning.

First, in order to develop an education plan for hard-of-hearing and deaf learners, teachers must learn about the student’s language background. Without understanding the student’s foundation, the teacher won’t be able to develop appropriate lessons.

Potential survey questions include:

● Were they born with any level of hearing? What’s their exposure to auditory language?
● At what age did the student start using sign language, if at all? Does anyone sign at home?
● How many languages are used at home? For instance, some families speak Spanish, English, and American Sign Language (ASL).
● What’s the student’s exposure to phonology, both auditory and visual?

Similarly, teachers should know whether or not a student has any residual hearing and the accommodations they use in the classroom. Do they have an interpreter or an assistive device? Does the student prefer captioning? Or for a deaf-blind student, does the teacher understand how tactile ASL works? Again, the point is that each deaf and hard of hearing learner has their own needs and learning styles, so each student must be approached individually.

Further complicating the picture is the student’s and family’s past experience with schools. Many hard-of-hearing and deaf learners are put in lower tracks automatically. Thus, the student believes that teachers have low academic expectations, and the student isn’t motivated to learn.

Or, the student’s parents have had negative encounters with educators who won’t advocate for their child, so they don’t come to open houses or communicate with teachers because the parents don’t expect any results. Teachers need to reach out to parents and have one-on-one conversations with them about their child, their expectations, and how the teachers can help.

As well as being deaf or hard of hearing, the presenters noted that BIPOC students have additional factors to consider. Many have experienced discrimination that goes beyond their hearing status, which gets compounded in the classroom. For instance, just as many regular curricula are Euro-centric, most deaf curricula are modeled for white deaf students and not BIPOC students, which causes a further separation between the student and education.

Once teachers have a better understanding of their student’s home life, language exposure, and past experiences with schooling, there are steps they can take to develop a strong relationship with their hard-of-hearing and deaf learners.

● Like any other student, find out their interests to help personalize their lessons. Create an entry point into the lessons that shows you’ve been listening to the student.

● If the student has a strong relationship with another adult in the school, lean on the relationship until you have time to establish rapport with the student. Find out why the student trusts that adult, why they work well together, etc., and incorporate elements into your approach to the learner.

● Don’t try to fix the student or automatically blame them if they aren’t staying on track. Examine the problem from all angles to see if there is another factor impacting education. Take the time to understand how inequities affect their experience and influence their educational environment.

● Don’t let bias creep into learner expectations. By the time hard-of-hearing and deaf learners enter your class, they may have encountered racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and other forms of bias that hinder their education. All students deserve to be challenged and being deaf or hard of hearing doesn’t change their learning potential.
source: Read More, eSchool News

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