Regular Education Teachers - Potential Limitations
Through teamwork, the teacher and the educational interpreter can work together to overcome some of the limitations that accompany an interpreted education. Each student is unique and the educational team needs to understand some of the issues that may come up with an interpreted educational placement. Simply providing an educational interpreter does not ensure educational access to the general curriculum and may not result in adequate yearly progress – the goal for all students.
Some of the potential limitations of educational interpreting include:
- Academic problems may be linked to interpreter performance − Deaf adults report that it is exceptionally difficult to learn when the interpreter is not highly qualified. Problems with student achievement may be related to the quality of interpreting and not the student’s abilities or language skills. If a student is having problems learning the material taught in class, the teacher must make sure the interpreting is adequate before assuming the problem rests with the student.
- The student's language and vocabulary skills - Good teachers adjust their communication to the students' level. If a student who is deaf or hard of hearing has language skills that are delayed compared with his/her peers, it may be difficult to learn all the content.
- Not all interpreters are qualified − Just because a student has an interpreter does not mean that the student has full access to the classroom. Research shows that 60% of working educational interpreters do not have adequate skills to be working in the classroom. Even when the interpreter is highly qualified, full access is difficult to achieve.
Although the educational system would not hire a teacher who does not possess excellent English skills, many interpreters are hired even though they have poor sign language and interpreting skills. The inadequate skills of the interpreter often lead to a teacher’s well-designed and delivered lesson being reduced to unintelligible and fragmented concepts. As a result of the interpreter’s inability to convey the teacher’s message effectively, the student’s ability to learn is severely affected.
If you have concerns about whether the interpreter is qualified to provide access to your classroom and curriculum, you should discuss these concerns with the IEP team that is responsible for ensuring an appropriate education.
- Visual access can be difficult − Hearing people are able to look at a picture or a book and talk about it at the same time. Teachers assume that students will use their eyes and ears to gather information. However, a student who is deaf or hard of hearing cannot use his/her ears to gather information. When a teacher uses visuals as part of a lesson (i.e., the blackboard, overheads, models), a deaf or hard of hearing student must be able to concentrate on the interpreter as well as the visual the teacher is using. As a result, the student often misses information.
There are some simple rules that can help create a visually-accessible learning environment:
- Slow down and don’t talk during looking time − Slow down and stop talking to give the student a few moments to look at the visuals. In this way, the student does not need to coordinate looking at the interpreter and the visual at the same time.
- Require other students to raise their hands and be identified as a speaker − Interpreting spontaneous outbursts is challenging. It is often difficult for the deaf or hard of hearing student to know who is speaking. Is it Mary, who always has the right answer, or Molly, who likes to make jokes?
- Let students know where to look − Hearing students know where to look because they are able to see a teacher’s gestures and follow his/her gaze. However, the deaf or hard of student may need to be explicitly told where to look.
- Use visual materials and writing as learning supports − Visual materials and writing on the board or overhead projector are great learning supports. Use diagrams, photos, figures, vocabulary maps and other vocabulary materials to provide visual support for deaf or hard of hearing students who are visual learners.