NTID’s rich history of research

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Photo courtesy of RIT Archive Collections

An RIT student uses computer-aided instruction with a program of diacritical markings to enhance pronunciation in 1977.

RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has long been at the forefront of education of the deaf and a national model for other schools. Written into the law that established NTID was the requirement that research be an integral part of the organization and part of the school’s commitment to deaf education. The research was to have practical application and contribute directly to student learning and their future success when pursuing a career. 

Over the years, the innovative and creative work of the faculty and staff at NTID has contributed nationally and globally to furthering deaf education. The college has become a hub for conferences, workshops and sponsored special centers of research and training that share information and provide technical assistance to people all over the world. These unique research and outreach programs were developed from the ground up over the last 43 years. 

Back in 1968, the first-year students were admitted and E. Ross Stuckless, director of research and training at NTID, spoke of seeking solutions to problems confronting the deaf student, exploring new methods of teaching the deaf and applying new technologies in the classroom. By 1971, a growing department supported research related to instruction and learning, socialization, assessment methods, career development and communication. That year, a total of 25 individual projects were undertaken and 57 research papers published on subjects ranging from note-taking procedures to computer-managed testing for deaf students. By 1977, more than 100 individual research projects were underway. 

The establishment of NTID coincides with the era’s increased investigation and use of technology in the classroom and this has been a focus area of research. From specially designed notepads for note taking to C-print technology, NTID has been innovating in technology to enhance access and support for deaf students. 

Early on, instructional developers at NTID created computer programs to supplement classroom instruction, using this highly visual medium to enhance learning. NTID has been a leader in the study of American Sign Language, refining the understanding of the grammar and vocabulary of the language. 

The need for a technical vocabulary quickly became apparent at NTID when interpreters, signing for a class, had to fingerspell complicated concepts and long words. In 1980, NTID spearheaded a national project to create videotapes and instruction manuals that describe technical vocabulary in multiple disciplines, from social work to optical finishing, aiding interpreters in the classroom and deaf-education programs throughout the world. As the research programs have developed, so has NTID’s reputation for being an innovator in deaf education.