|What are some important questions to ask as you explore deaf education teacher preparation programs at different colleges?
There are a number of questions you should investigate when making the decision of which program to attend. These may include but not be limited to the following:
- How large is the program? How many students are there? Where do they come from?
- How long has the program been functioning? How many students graduate in your field each year? This is an important question in that it speaks to the credibility of the program and how well it is perceived as a strong major. A secondary question related to these questions would be, How many of the majors from this program are hired every year?
- Is the program certified by the Council on Education of the Deaf (CED)? Is it certified by any other certifying body, state, regional or national? Certification is a critical issue for new teachers, and any individual going into a teacher preparation program should be aware that their future readiness for a job often depends on the type of certification they receive.
- What is the educational philosophy of the program? Take a look at the mission or philosophy statement of the educational program at the college
does it match your beliefs about educating children and your desired goals?
- What is the communication philosophy of the teacher education program? Programs generally fall into one of three categories: Aural/Oral, Comprehensive, or Bilingual/Bicultural. Aural/Oral programs stress the use of audition and speech as the primary mode of communication while Bilingual/Bicultural Programs stress the use of American Sign Language as the primary mode of communication and education. Comprehensive Programs favor an approach with utilizes both speech and sign language in various configurations and are generally described as Total Communication Programs.
- Are there students who are deaf and/or hard of hearing in the program?This is an important question for students. Deaf or hard of hearing students bring a unique perspective to the program and are important in teaching their hearing peers about a deaf persons life and experiences. These students are also a rich resource to the instructors and the program in general.
- What support services are available to students with disabilities? Are there note-takers? Interpreters? What is the level of certification? Are any technological accommodations available, (i.e. CART)? Are there any limitations on services? What percentage of the faculty in the preparation program can communicate directly with students? Is there an office of Student Services with a designated coordinator of students with disabilities? Can that individual sign?
- What support services are available to students with cultural and or linguistic differences? Are there any programs available specific to students with cultural and linguistic differences? Are there any literacy labs? Foreign Language Centers? What percentage of the student body represents different cultural, linguistic, ethnic and racial groups?
- . Does the program offer ample opportunities for interaction with deaf or hard of hearing students? With deaf adults? Most programs have a practicum component built into their program to allow students to have experiences with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Where and when does this occur in the program? Are the opportunities varied? For example, do you have opportunities to work in both residential and mainstreamed programs? Do you have social as well as academic opportunities to interact with students and community members who are deaf or hard of hearing?
- Is there a strong practicum component to the program? This component of the program should include a substantial amount of time in a variety of appropriate placements.
- What are the specific state requirements for certification? Programs are often dictated by state requirements for certification and vary from state to state. Some states have certification reciprocity or agreements in place with other states. For specific certification information, contact the department of education of the state in which you plan to teach.
- Are any of the instructors themselves diverse? Diversity in terms of hearing status, ethnicity, and gender is desirable and leads to a broader educational experience.
- What is the ratio of full time to part time teachers? Look for programs that have at least two full time teachers available to present the core of the program. They tend to bring continuity and availability to the program. On the other hand, part-time teachers, or adjuncts, often are currently working in the field and bring a great deal of practical knowledge to the classroom.
- Are there lab facilities available for students to use to develop sign language skills, speech and auditory training skills, teaching skills? There should be ample videotapes, auditory tapes or CDs, identified online sites, cameras, and communication partners available for students.
- Do students need transportation to practicum sites or are sites nearby? If you are not going to have a car, make sure you inquire where the practicum sites are located and whether or not there are provisions for students who do not have available transportation.
- What is the nature of the practicum sites? Are there fees associated with the practicum? Some practicum and internship sites are in private schools or involve programs which do not have an identified supervisor for students on site
in these situations there is sometimes a fee charged to the student to pay the supervisor.
- Can the program be completed in the normal time, i.e. four years for an undergraduate degree or two years for a Masters Degree? As programs begin to modify their programs to meet federal and state requirements, some programs are taking longer than normally expected. Many programs now require an extra semester or one or two summer sessions to complete the program.
- Does the teacher preparation program have a reciprocal agreement with other states to honor its students certification or licenses? If you plan to teach in another state upon graduation, it is helpful to know whether that state has a reciprocal agreement with the state program in which you are being educated.
- Are there specific requirements regarding the internship or student teaching requirements of the program which limit the placements in which you may participate? Some programs require that you student teach near the college or university so supervisors can readily visit you. Other programs will allow you to intern anywhere in the country. Some colleges insist on face to face supervision while others will allow the use of video-supervision or the use of a contracted, on site supervisor.
- If living on campus, are the rooms deaf friendly? Check into the availability of visual fire alarms, TDDs, Videophones, door knockers, and outside light switches. How many rooms are equipped? What must a student do to be assured of getting such a room?
- What types of assistive technology are available to students? Is CART available? TDDs? Videophones? What is provided free of charge to the student? Check with the office of student disability services to see how to obtain these devices if you do not already have them.
- What type of financial aid is available to students? Is there any aid specifically reserved for culturally and/or linguistically diverse students? Speak with the head of the Teacher Preparation program, the Coordinator of Services for Students with Disabilities, and the Financial Aid Officer to determine what financial aid may be available for students in the Deaf Education program. They can direct you to websites, resources and in-house scholarships which may meet your needs.