"While recent research indicates that deaf students are at an educational disadvantage due to the lack of effective communication with their hearing teachers and classmates, little is known about factors affecting comprehension of sign language interpreting in the classroom," Marc Marschark, NTID professor and project director, explained. "This is a problem of particular importance because of the complex course materials found in STEM areas."
This project will examine factors thought to influence deaf students' comprehension and learning through sign language interpreting, identify characteristics of students, teaching situations, and interpreters that can enhance learning in postsecondary technical education, and explore alternative technologies for communicating STEM information in the classroom so as to offset a shortage of qualified interpreters.
These factors will be examined through eight straightforward experimental treatment comparisons in undergraduate STEM classrooms at RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The experiments will study the impact of learners' language fluencies, interpreter skills, interpreter knowledge of technical content, interpreter-learner familiarity, and the effects of visual presentation formats, like TV or real-time captioning.
Comprehension will be assessed in all cases, allowing for comparison of learning by deaf and hard-of-hearing students with different language and background characteristics under different conditions.
"This research will advance knowledge concerning the nature of teaching-learning processes in an interpreted language context and yield valuable information that will help overcome long-standing challenges in deaf education," Marschark said.
NTID was established at RIT to enhance career opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. Over the past 33 years, thousands of highly qualified deaf graduates have entered professions that previously had not been open to them. Web address: www.rit.edu/NTID.