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Deaf Education Programs


Updated December 25, 2011

Do you want to become a teacher of the deaf? You can, by majoring or specializing in deaf education. Many colleges offer deaf education majors at both the undergraduate and the graduate level. Some also offer certificates.

At the undergraduate level there are usually courses on language development, American Sign Language, and signed exact english (or manually coded english). There may also be overview courses in auditory education, in teaching speech, literacy and reading, and additional communication strategies. Other topics include psychology of deafness, and deaf culture.

Undergraduate courses that focus on teaching skills in general include courses on how to teach academic subjects to deaf and hard of hearing students, and overview courses on teaching and child development. There are also courses in assessing deaf and hard of hearing students.

At the graduate level, the courses are similar. The general education courses are more specialized, with courses such as introduction to teaching at the elementary level, and introduction to teaching at the secondary level. More special education courses may also be offered, for both the elementary and secondary levels.

It is also possible to major in special education and specialize in a deaf education certification. Plus, those who are already teachers can also take courses and receive certification in deaf education. Some colleges, such as the University of Arizona, may offer an on-line program. Completing a deaf education program is usually one of the qualification requirements to obtain state certification or licensing in deaf education. Requirements for licensing vary by state. For example, in Colorado, students must complete an approved program, get a recommendation, and pass the state's own licensing exam.

Entry criteria varies for each deaf education program, with some being more challenging than others. As an example, at the undergraduate level, the entrance requirements for the deaf education program at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC include an interview with the Undergraduate Teacher Education Admissions Committee. At the graduate level, Gallaudet's applicants must have ASL goals and American Sign Language Proficiency Interview scores of two or higher.

Deaf education programs' philosophies also vary. Some deaf education programs may describe themselves as bilingual bicultural, with an emphasis on sign language. These programs also expect that prospective teachers be able to teach all subjects to deaf and hard of hearing children. Prospective teachers must therefore have the same performance expectations for deaf and hard of hearing children as for hearing children. For this reason, students must take courses in general education as well as in deaf education. An important distinction of the bilingual bicultural deaf education programs is that they may require more sign language training than other deaf education programs. For instance, Utah State University's undergraduate bilingual program requires four sign language courses, while the undergraduate program at the University of Montevallo in Alabama only requires one sign language course according to its Course Overview.

Deaf education programs, regardless of degree level, usually include a field internship. With a field internship, students actually go into schools and work with deaf and hard of hearing students. The field internships may be at residential schools, day programs, or in mainstream programs. Students are thus prepared to work in a variety of settings, with an emphasis on public schools, where the demand for qualified deaf education teachers is expected to increase.

Furthermore, to receive certification in deaf education, some students may have to take and pass the Educational Testing Service (ETS) Praxis series test on Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students. This is a two-hour test with 40 multiple choice questions and two constructed-response questions for which students must write answers. The exam is divided into three parts: Human Development and the Learning Process, Educational Policies and Practices, and Constructed Response: Integrating and Applying Knowledge.

Questions on the Praxis test cover core knowledge areas in deaf education teacher preparation programs. The questions were developed via both a committee of experts on deaf education, and a job analysis study. A sample test question asks how a teacher should prepare for a deaf child's first Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting when the deaf child's parents do not speak English. Another sample question, from the constructed-response section, asks who should be on a child's IEP team when that deaf child has behavior problems, and has also just been identified as having learning disabilities.

Finally, the Council on Education of the Deaf (CED) has a directory of programs that prepare students to be teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing. Many deaf education programs are endorsed by the Council, meaning that they have been professionally evaluated and found to satisfy standards in deaf education. The CED also has a separate listing of deaf education programs that are not approved by the CED.

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