Multilingual Deaf Education
Teacher Preparation Programs
The following guidelines for Deaf education teacher preparation programs are a product of multiple conversations that took place over several years among the members of the American College Educators of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACEDHH) Bilingual Education Special Interest Group (BE-SIG). The Deaf and hearing members of the BE-SIG are instructors and researchers in various bilingual teacher preparation programs across the United States and Canada. These discussions led us to realize there was a need for a series of publications related to “Multilingual Deaf Education” (see definition in "Redefining Bilingual-Bicultural in the 21st Century"). Additional publications in the series will address topics such as the history of bilingual education and research on Multilingual Deaf Education. Particularly given the current political and social climate, we agreed that, as a priority, the first publication in the series should include guidelines for teacher preparation programs.
The goal of the guidelines is to support the effort to create transformative curricular changes within teacher preparation programs by providing guidance for how to transition to or align with a Multilingual Deaf Education perspective. Programs that apply a multilingual lens to Deaf education are in a better position to produce teachers who are knowledgeable about the diverse language needs of Deaf students. We also recognize that Deaf education teacher preparation programs need to provide training related to issues of language deprivation (see Hall et al., 2019), in addition to advocating for and implementing pedagogy that is antibias, antiracist, antiableist, and queer friendly (see Derman-Sparks et al., 2020).
With the current shortage of teachers of the Deaf and the number leaving schools in the near future, approximately 500 new teachers will be needed in the next few years (CEASD, 2020; CEASD-NAD, 2018; Luft, n.d.). The growing shortage makes it a critical time to reexamine teacher preparation programs in the United States and Canada. This is an opportunity to ensure we are providing high quality education to the next generation of teachers, so that they are more prepared to meet the growing diversity in the Deaf student population and to teach them multilingually and multimodally.
Since the publication of Unlocking the Curriculum (Johnson et al., 1989), there have been bilingual education reforms in educational settings serving Deaf students, including the adoption of bilingual pedagogy planning and in-service bilingual education professional development for teachers of the Deaf. The number of bilingual teacher preparation programs is also growing, along with numerous research articles published that explore the positive benefits that sign language has on student growth and development; we will return to this in forthcoming series publications.
Despite insufficient resources or curricula, schools/programs serving Deaf students and teacher preparation programs still strive to understand, define, and apply sign language strategically in academic environments to support language and content learning. Technologies that integrate sign language use in the classroom (e.g., Canvas, FlipGrid, Google Classroom, VoiceThread, Zoom) have become cheaper and more widely available. However, for educators, the task of integrating and implementing sign languages for the full range of educational activities continues to be challenging. The BE-SIG has identified the following barriers to successfully implementing quality multilingual education:
- Classroom resources, instructional practices, and communication policies continue to be oriented toward the use and development of spoken and written English (Simms & Thumann, 2007).
- The growing awareness of audism in Deaf education, especially from educational professionals, that prohibits Deaf students from advancing in signing environments. For example, schools prioritize auditory services over American Sign Language (ASL) immersion services.
- There has been no clear and current definition of what bilingual Deaf education means.
- There has been a lack of consistency within and across educational settings that adopt a bilingual philosophy.
- There has been a lack of consistency across Deaf education teacher preparation programs on key competencies, such as sign language proficiency, comparative linguistics of ASL and English, and ASL and English bilingual methodologies and strategies.
- There are not enough Deaf and signing-fluent hearing teachers who can serve as fluent language models.
- In Deaf education, the percentages of P–12 teachers who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) do not reflect the number of students with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds (Simms et al., 2008).
- The percentages of faculty and instructors in teacher training programs who are BIPOC do not reflect the number of students with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
- The curricula and teaching approaches are out of step with the current Deaf student population, which has undergone significant change over the past few decades. This is due not only to increased immigration but also to the growing awareness of racial and ethnic diversity that exists in the student population, and the recognition of sexual orientation (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, and intersex) and gender diversity among students (e.g., Denninger, 2017).
Our recognition of the aforementioned barriers has contributed to conversations on how we can improve teacher preparation programs.
Again, our goal is to support teacher preparation programs in their efforts to align with a multilingual perspective for Deaf education. An anticipated short-term outcome of the guidelines is an increase in teacher preparation programs that transition to or begin the process of transitioning to a multilingual perspective for Deaf education. We anticipate the following long-term outcomes: (a) an increase in the number of fluent language models for Deaf children in varying educational environments, (b) an increase in the number of high-quality teachers with competencies in multilingual strategies, (c) an increase in the number of diverse high-quality teacher educators in teacher preparation programs, and (d) an increase in collaboration among teacher preparation programs.
In the following sections we will discuss: (1) our theoretical framework, including common terms; (2) key components for high quality multilingual teacher preparation programs; and (3) next steps.
1. See Redefining_Bilingual-Bicultural in the 21st Century for terms.
2. While these guidelines will be targeted to teacher preparation programs in the United States and Canada using ASL and English, the contents still apply and can be modified as international programs see fit.