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Teaching the Deaf
Learning How to Teach Deaf or Hard of Hearing Children

University programs in the United States that prepare teachers of children who are deaf or hard of hearing provide both teacher certification and opportunities for research. Teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing in the United States may work in public or private programs. Some students with hearing loss attend state residential schools and private day schools. Larger cities have public school programs that include small classes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing as well as resource programs for children who spend part or all of their time in the regular classroom. Many rural areas serve their deaf or hard of hearing students using sign language interpreters and traveling teachers known as itinerants. University research in the area of deaf education focuses on various aspects of deafness:  deaf culture and the deaf community, native signed languages, technology advances, and teaching methods for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Deaf Culture

Most graduate programs can offer to international students, both hearing and deaf, the opportunity to study deafness as a culture and apply that knowledge to their own countries of origin. Almost every country has a community of deaf individuals. In the United States, this community is active, and reaches out to other communities around the world through Deaf Way celebrations, Deaf Connection, and the presence of deaf international students in college programs such as Gallaudet University and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Linguistic Studies

Many deaf education programs require students to become proficient in American Sign Language. Part of cultural experience is a shared language. There are several graduate school programs throughout the United States that research sign language linguistics. The faculty and students from these programs attend national and international conferences where American Sign Language is compared with the national signed languages of many other countries.

Technology Research

Technology research by faculty in universities in the United States focuses on three primary areas: communication, education, and audiology research. Communication technology includes rapidly growing fields such as computer-based communication, visual telephone relay services, and captioning for film, and television. Educational technology includes computer software designed for the learning needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing, real time captioning for the classroom, and use of the world wide web, videotapes and compact DVDs to help students learn to read and write. Audiology technology includes work in improving hearing aids and cochlear implants, as well as improvement of FM sound systems in classrooms, businesses, and community centers such as churches and theatres. Professors in Deaf Education do not usually conduct audiology research; however, many universities have programs in both audiology and deaf education that may work together.

Educational Research

Research studying various methods for improving education for students with hearing loss is taking place in graduate programs in universities across the United States. Education for children who are deaf or hard of hearing is a topic in which there are deep divisions in American universities and schools. Professionals, parents, and members of the deaf community disagree about whether children with hearing loss should speak or use sign language or both, whether cochlear implants are ethical for use with young children, and whether young children with hearing parents should be introduced to members of the deaf community. Although many American deaf individuals are literate in English, language and reading progress has been very limited for the majority of deaf children leaving secondary school. Unemployment and underemployment is high for deaf individuals in the United States.

Important Questions

International students coming to the United States to attend graduate programs in deafness or education of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing should look carefully at the program they are considering.

  • Does this program have a single philosophy about communication mode or language instruction for deaf children? Does the program provide instruction in various ways that individuals who are deaf communicate? The graduate student's own country may have specific educational trends that may match one graduate program philosophy better than another.
  • Do faculty members of this university conduct research in a specific area or areas as well as offering teaching endorsements? Results of research relating to cultural issues, signed languages, technology, communication modes, audiology, and teaching methods may often translate into information useful in other countries.
  • Is a part, or all, of the university program available through distance education? Although distance education is convenient, a student must have strong skills in written English to participate successfully.
  • If the graduate student plans to live and study at the university, does the deaf education program have access to other facilities, such as clinics and public and private schools where the student can get practical experience?

Work being done in graduate programs in deaf education in the United States can be applied to the education of similar populations in other countries. Research, particularly in technology and linguistics is becoming international. Scholarly articles from other countries are published in American professional journals, and American sources are used in research taking place elsewhere. International students can benefit from these programs.

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