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Supporting Effective Teaching Experiences with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students

Teaching Tips

If you could make 1 or 2 suggestions to support/assist a new faculty member who has never worked with deaf students, what would they be?

Click on the images below to see video of the teacher's comments.

Mike Palanski
Management and Leadership, Saunders College of Business
Photo of Mike PalanskiHi, I'm Dr. Mike Palanski I'm in the Saunders College of Business, I teach Management and Leadership classes. Remember that deaf or hard of hearing students in your class, are students first and foremost just like everybody else, they have the same hopes and dreams, same struggles academically and with life that's important to keep in mind. It's just we communicate differently with those students than with hearing students.

Sharon Mason
Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences
Photo of Sharon MasonMy name is Sharon Mason, I'm an associate professor in the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. The first suggestion I would make to any faculty who have deaf students in their classes is to make full use of the interpreters that are available to them and the support staff that are available to them. And make it an exchange of ideas and ask for feedback, particularly from the interpreters as to how things are going in the classroom and how your instruction is. Whether you're talking too fast, too slow, using too many hand gestures, using words that are not definitive enough for the students to understand. In the College of Computing in particular we use a lot of acronyms. So communicating with the interpreters about how to represent those acronyms can be very useful.

Mike Slifka
Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering, College of Applied Science & Technology
Photo of Mike SlifkaI’m Professor Mike Slifka, I’m over with CAST and MMETPS. Visual learning, visual learning, visual learning, absolutely, positively is a must. There’s been discussions on different methodologies and such, but when you have a cross between hearing and deaf and hard of hearing students, you really need to have that visual aspect of it. Deaf students are very obviously visual, so that is the way that you can make sure that everybody sees the same thing. You keep everything as clear as possible, potentially as simple as possible and that usually has worked the best. When I’ve had classrooms where I’ve had a mix of students if you try to sit there and just verbalize or use some type of graphics on the board and stuff it can be lost. So if you prepare ahead of time and you make sure that everything is set up correctly so there is that communication, that clarity between your students and yourself. It’s almost a must, it absolutely is a must.

Dawn Carter
Biology, School of Life Sciences, College of Science
Photo of Dawn CarterHi I’m Doctor Dawn Carter. I teach biology in the school of life sciences in the College of Science. Be aware that if you move around the class, sometimes the interpreter can’t hear you. And some of the students may be trying to read your lips and if they can’t see you then that is a problem. So I think that communication between the instructor, the interpreters and the students is very important. I think also it’s important to not go too fast. This is a thing that an interpreter told me. Don’t go too fast because the students need to be able to read what’s on your slides. Sometimes they are trying to read and watch the interpreter at the same time, it’s a lot to process more than it is for the hearing students. But it benefits the hearing students too if you slow down.

Carol Marchetti
Statistics, College of Science
Photo of Carol MarchettiHi, I’m Carol Marchetti. I’m associate professor of Statistics in the College of Science. I would tell a faculty member that probably the first thing that I would think about is the pace of the course. You want to be clear, less is more, right. You want to be sure people understand. And I think that you want to pay attention to the students in the class themselves and get feedback from them. And I also have found it very valuable to ask my interpreters and support staff how things are going.

Christine Kray
Sociology and Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts
Photo of Christine KrayI’m Christine Kray, I’m an associate professor of anthropology in the department of sociology and anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts. Whatever you do to enhance access for the deaf students will also benefit the hearing students. Here’s one way that I handle presentations that I think enhances the experience for both the deaf and the hearing students. So we use myCourses a lot and I will require that the students, deaf and hearing students post the text of their presentation to a discussion area in myCourses 24 hours in advance and I explain that this gives the interpreters and the captionists the opportunity to review the materials so that the interpreters are all ready to voice that presentation, the captionists as well, they’re all ready to voice that presentation in advance, alright, so it makes for a stronger, more coherent presentation.

Eileen Feeney Bushnell
Foundation Program, College of Imaging Arts and Sciences
Photo of Eileen Feeney BushnellHi my name is Eileen Feeney Bushnell I’m an Associate Professor and I teach in the foundation program in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. One of the most important things is to understand that everybody needs to think about the setup of the classroom, and that is not just you and the interpreter and the deaf students but all of the other students in the classroom. You need to be aware of sight lines, you need to be aware that of how people are positioned in the classroom. The other thing that I would talk to instructors about and I have is that deaf students are reliant on your body language, your facial expressions as well as the words and so you need to be aware that you’re communicating to them even if it is through an interpreter and to make sure that you address them, face them and engage them.

Neil Hair
Marketing, E. Phillip Saunders College of Business
Photo of Neil HairHi I’m Neil Hair, I’m an Associate Professor of Marketing at the E. Phillip Saunders College of Business. First thing I always do whenever I enter a class where I’m dealing with deaf students is very quickly get to know the support staff and greet them as colleagues and really make sure that they understand where I’m coming from that I want to give the deaf students the deaf population, an equal footing and an equal experience if you like then I would my hearing students as well and that’s proven to be very useful for me and once they know that you are on their side they’ll work with you and if they particular issues with you, if they find themselves trying to catch up with what you’re saying, I tend speak very quickly for instance, I make it very clear to them it is okay to stop me, it’s okay, mid-sentence if you need to or give me some sort of a sign that says to slow it down little bit for me. And during the breaks I always make sure if there are any questions I want to be aware of what those questions are and I can see from the students as well whether or not if they are getting enough from the support staff that are helping me do my job and that’s the way that I see my role in that classroom.

Neil Hair
Marketing, E. Phillip Saunders College of Business
Photo of Neil HairHi I’m Neil Hair, I’m an Associate Professor of Marketing at the E. Phillip Saunders College of Business. My other advice for new faculty is say penguin as often as you can or elephant and watch the interpreter interpret that it’s quite amusing to watch the penguin side to side. Everybody gets involved when they see that because hearing students have never seen someone do that before, or Christmas trees or angels or cute and things like that and so we have some fun with that and I think that breaks down all these barriers that we commonly associate with a class with deaf students, it doesn’t have to be, it doesn’t have to be a pain it can be quite rewarding having deaf students in my class. The other thing of course is to make sure that they’ve sat in the front so they can see what’s going on the resources but I really enjoy interacting with them and I’m a firm believer after a number of years at RIT that they add tremendous value to the classroom experience for every student, not just the deaf community themselves.