Language Assessment & Intervention for
    Deaf/hard-of-hearing Students
4/53310-001 03 hrs.
4:30-7:00 M - Room 34 Moulton Hall
Dr. Harold Johnson, 405 White Hall
(330) 672-2294 [voice] 2396 [tty] 2512 [fax]
Office Hours: M & W, 1-4

Course Description:

The primary problem of deafness is not a lack of hearing, but an abundance of isolation. This isolation is essentially due to the fact that most hearing individuals do not know how to adjust their language and communication strategies to meet learning needs of deaf/hard-of-hearing (d/hh) individuals. The net result of this lack of knowledge is that the vast majority of d/hh individuals fail to achieve their true learning potential. Academically, this means that even after 16-18 years of education, most d/hh students "graduate" from school with less than a fourth grade knowledge base. The purpose of this course is to give you, i.e., future teachers of d/hh students, the knowledge and skills that you will need to substantially reduce the interpersonal and informational isolation that has historically retarded the social, linguistic and academic development of d/hh individuals. This goal will be accomplished through an understanding of the impact that deafness has upon both the process and products of language development. Once established, this understanding will be used to guide our analysis of the interactional exchange as the essential context in which language is both developed and used. As we begin to understand how deafness disrupts the "normal" give-and-take flow of conversations, you will carryout observational studies of first how you, then how d/hh students, go about recognizing and repairing communication breakdowns. Finally, the course will place all of the preceding sociolinguistic information within the context of K-12 education. That is, you will learn how to access and enhance d/hh students linguistic competence, while at the students are gaining the expected knowledge of math, science, history, etc.

This course is to be taken with SPED 4/53314 ("Language Assessment & Intervention w/ d/hh Students") and SPED 4/63391 ("Field Experience: D/hh Students"). In addition to the standard text, lecture, small group and tests, the courses have been designed to provide each student with a "Cyber Mentor" (i.e., existing teacher of the deaf with who you will communicate via e-mail), a "Deaf Mentor" (i.e., a Deaf adult who has agreed to assist you in developing your signing skills and cultural understanding of Deafness) and "Field Experience Teacher" (i.e., an existing teacher of the deaf with whom you will work two days a week in their class of d/hh students).

Course Objectives:

By the completion of the course, students will be able to explain:

  1. The context and process through language is both developed and used.
  2. The impact that deafness has upon the process and products of "normal" language acquisition.
  3. The structure, components and use of conversational exchanges as the essential context in which language is both developed and used.
  4. The impact of deafness upon such conversational exchanges.
  5. How informal observational analysis of interactants conversational behavior can be used to identify language problems and to suggest language goals.
  6. How the study of academic subjects and informal interactional exchanges can be used to enhance the linguistic competence of d/hh students.

Course Texts

Note: In accordance with University policy, if you have a documented disability and require accommodations to obtain equal access in this course, please contact the instructor at the beginning of the semester or when given an assignment for which an accommodation is required. Students with disabilities must verify their eligibility through the Office of Student Disability Center (672-2972).

Course Outline:

Part 1 - Language Development & Use: Impact of Deafness

8/31   Class Introductions & Course Description

Language Overview (Gleason, Ch 1)
Theoretical Models of Language Development (Gleason, Ch. 7)

9/7     Labor Day

9/14   Onset of Weekly Quizzes

Sociolinguistic Model of Language (handout)
Schematic Representation of a Conversational exchange
Introduction of 1st Observational Study: Self
Communication Development in Infancy (Gleason, Ch 2)

9/21   Phonologic, Syntactic and Semantic Development of Language (Gleason, Ch. 3-5)

Onset of Cyber Mentor & Deaf Mentor Interactions
Observation Study - Self: Contextual Information Due

Part 2 - Conversational Model of Language Assessment & Intervention

9/28   Language in Social Context (Gleason, Ch 6; Tye-Murry, Ch 1; Brinton et al, Ch. 1)

Onset of Field Experience Work
Obs. Study - Self: Topic Info. Due

10/5   Conversational Exchanges: Turn Taking & Topics (Brinton et al, Ch 2-3)

Obs. Study - Self: Com. Breakdown Topics & Indicators Due

10/12  Conversational Exchanges: Communication Breakdowns & Repairs (Brinton, Ch 4)

 Obs. Study - Self: Com. Breakdown Causes & Results Due

10/19  Guest Speaker: Patterns of Language Problems & Language Intervention with K-12 classes of d/hh


10/26  Conversational Exchanges: Problems & Assessment Protocols (Brinton, Ch. 5-6)

 Obs. Study - Self: Alternate Strategy, Rationale & Intervention Approach Due

11/2    Language Intervention: Turn Taking & Repairs (Brinton, Ch. 7-8)

 Obs. Study - Self: Intervention Impact Due
 Observation Study - d/hh STudent: Contextual Information Due

Part 3 - Language Assessment & Intervention with d/hh Students in the K-12 Setting

11/9   Historical Patterns & Current Trends (handout: Griffith et al; Kretschmer et al)

Obs. Study - Self: Final Paper Due
Obs. Study - d/hh Student: Topic Info. Due

11/16  Conversational Strategies of d/hh Students: Understanding & Enhancing (Tye-Murray, Ch 2-3)

 Obs. Study - d/hh Student: Com. Breakdown Topics & Indicators Due

11/16  Conversational Strategies of d/hh Students: Breakdowns & Repairs (Tye-Murray, Ch 4-5)

 Obs. Study - d/hh Stu: Com. Breakdown Causes & Results Due

11/23  Language Development Through Social Contexts and Academic Tasks (Tye-Murray, Ch. 7;

  Bromwich handout)
 Obs. Study - d/hh Stu: Alternate Strategy, Rationale & Intervention Approach Due

11/30  Language Enhancement Through Use of Web Based Resources & Collaborative Opportunities

 Last Week of Field Experience Work
 Obs. Study - d/hh Stu: Intervention Impact Due

12/7   Summary & Review

Obs. Study - d/hh Stu: Final Paper Due

12/14  Final Exam

Class Activities:

    During this semester, you will be involved in six major activities. Those activities are as follows:

  1. Weekly quizzes of assigned readings and handouts
  2. Observational studies of the communication problems and repair strategies used by hearing and by d/hh individuals.
  3. Weekly face-to-face interactions with a Deaf Mentor and e-mail exchanges with a "Cyber" Mentor
  4. Bi-weekly work within a class of d/hh students, under the direct mentoring of an experienced teacher of d/hh students.
  5. Final Exam

Student Evaluations:

Your grade for this course will be determined in the following manner:

Observation Project

Informal observations of interactional behavior constitute the primary assessment strategy used by teachers. Fortunately, most individual possess excellent observational skills, unfortunately, such skills are so intuitive and unconscious as to be of little use in the formal process of language assessment and intervention. This Project is designed to address this problem by giving you the opportunity to systematically observe, describe, understand and enhance first your own patterns of conversational language. The information, insights and competencies that will gain in the observational analysis of your own language behavior, will then be used to identify, describe, understand and enhance the language performance of deaf/hard-of-hearing students during your "Spring Practicum" experience.
This observation paper should be written in outline format. The "major" and "minor" headings for that outline are provided below. Bar graphs should be used to represent topical data and line graphs should be used to represent intervention data.

I. Assessment Data

   A. Interactional Contexts

Place, Time & Individual

   B. Interactional Topics

Most to Least Frequent [list + Bar Graphs]

   C. Communication Breakdowns

1. Most to Least Frequent Topics [list + Bar Graphs]
2. *Pattern of Behavioral Indicators
3. Breakdown Causes & Results

II. Intervention Data

   A. Intervention Strategy

1. *Alternative Strategy & Rationale
2. Intervention Strategy

   B. Intervention Results

1. Number of Times Intervention Strategy Used
2. *Resulting Pattern of Behavior

Part III. *Summary Information & Insights

   A. Purpose and Use of Language
   B. Causes of Communication Breakdowns
   C. Development and Use of Conversational Management and Repair Strategies
   D. Use of a Conversational Approach for Language Assessment & Intervention w/ d/hh Students

Cyber Mentor


The "low incidence" nature of deafness, the decentralization of educational services and pervasive cultural pressures all combine to reduce opportunities for interpersonal interactions and informational exchanges. As a result, the knowledge, experiences, ideas and questions of d/hh students, their parents, teachers, school administrators and Deaf/hard-of-hearing adults represent an "untapped" wealth for the field of Deaf Education.


Each year hundreds of individuals begin the undergraduate or graduate process to become a teacher of d/hh students. Each year these individuals spend countless hours studying, observing, rehearsing and being tested upon the knowledge and skills that they will need be begin their professional careers. And each year, colleges and universities are criticized concerning some aspect of their graduates' preparation. One such criticism is the graduates' lack of grounding in the day-to-day realities of teaching d/hh students. Another is that their expectations for student success are too low. While the validity of such criticisms can be debated, Deaf Education Teacher Preparation Programs are faced with a dilemma, i.e., how can they "link" their students to the realities of "today", while inspiring their students to seek the potentials of "tomorrow"? Fortunately, the CED organizational structure and the U.S. technological infrastructure offer a "doable" solution to both the dilemma of education and the isolation of deafness.


Individuals in preparation to become teachers of d/hh students would be offered the opportunity to participate in a "Cyber Mentor" Program. Within this Program, each "teacher-in-training" would be matched with one or more "Cyber Mentors" (i.e., d/hh student, parent, teacher, school administrator and/or Deaf/hard-of-hearing adult). Once "matched", the "teacher-in-training" would use weekly e-mail messages with their "Cyber Mentors" to:

  1. Share/discuss the information they are learning
  2. Serve as information "gophers" for their "Cyber Mentors"
  3. Gather/record the ideas, experiences, information, resources and suggestions of their "Cyber Mentors".

Cyber Mentors, in turn, would:

  1. Share the knowledge and resources that they have gained regarding deafness, Deaf Education and Deaf culture
  2. Identify additional information and/or resources that they would like their "teacher-in-training" to gather form them
  3. Serve to "ground" their "teacher-in-training" learning in both the day-to-day realities and potential of Deaf Education.

Each month, each "teacher-in-training" would be asked to submit the "best" of what they learned, shared and/or gathered by submitting a message to the CED Web site.


The proposed Cyber Mentor Project would serve to reduce isolation, increase recognition, enhance teacher preparation and improve Deaf Education. This would be accomplished by:

  1. Isolation: Establishing an "electronic community" composed of d/hh students, parents, teachers, school administrators, Deaf/hard-of-hearing adults, college/university students and faculty
  2. Recognition: Systematically gather, share and recognize the expertise of "Cyber Mentors"
  3. Enhancement: Consistently infuse both the realities and potentials of d/hh students into Deaf Education Teacher Preparation Programs
  4. Improve: Establishing a growing data base of both "best practices" and "best information" for the field of Deaf Education.

Deaf Mentor


Most teachers of the Deaf rarely interact with Deaf adults. As a result, teachers of d/hh students lack a substantial understanding of the social and linguistic realities that their students will very likely face upon completion of high school. In addition, because the teachers do not interact with Deaf adults, their signing skills are essentially limited to Pidgin representations of either English or American Sign Language (ASL). Finally, the lack of interaction between teachers and Deaf adults means that d/hh students rarely have the opportunity to meet an adult who is also deaf. As hard as it is to believe, many d/hh students misconstrue this absence of Deaf adults to mean that when they (i.e., the students) "grow up" they will either become "hearing" or die. Given their limited "world knowledge" and severely restricted interactional/communication opportunities, this misconception is easier to understand.


Interactions with Deaf adults must be a routine occurrence of individuals in preparation to become teachers of d/hh students. During the course of those interactions, the perspective teachers will gain a greater understanding of the postsecondary and cultural realities of Deafness. In addition, the perspective teachers will substantially enhance their receptive and expressive ASL skills, while also having an opportunity to share/discuss with Deaf adults the information and skills that they are learning within their teacher preparation programs. In return, the Deaf adult will have the opportunity to explore the college/university campus, to become involved in both the preparation of teachers and to actively participate in the education of d/hh students.


Students in preparation to become teachers of the Deaf will meet with their Deaf Mentor once a week (time and place to be announced). Students are to use the meetings to:

  1. use/improve their receptive and expressive signing skills
  2. share/discuss information and activities that they are learning/doing as part of their preparation program
  3. gain information concerning the cultural and postsecondary realities of Deafness
  4. discuss how they can become more involved in the Deaf community and how Deaf adults can become more involved in the education of d/hh students.

Uploaded By: Debbie Slyh/Kent State University/Deaf Education Major