Teaching English literacy to members of the deaf community: insights for bilingual programming
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This study investigated the perspectives of the students and stakeholders involved in a Deaf literacy programme at the Auckland University of Technology. Education practices in NZ and overseas, predominantly determined by hearing professionals, have resulted in the marginalization of many Deaf students. These students have left school dissatisfied generally with their educational outcomes. As a result there is widespread concern within the Deaf community about English literacy levels as for many it is not only necessary for education and employment, but as the primary means of communication with the non-signing majority. The bilingual programme for adults at AUT acknowledges the Deaf as a linguistic and cultural minority and utilizes NZSL to scaffold English language learning in written form. In keeping with this recognition of the Deaf as the primary stakeholders, the emphasis in this study was placed on involving the Deaf students themselves in order to construct an ‘insider’ view of how these needs are being met. The study found that the students valued reciprocity and partnership in the teaching process, and viewed the role of the Deaf Support Tutor as very important. The students also highlighted the necessity for teachers to become fluent in NZSL and to become knowledgeable in Deaf Culture. Finally it was argued that educators of the Deaf needed to work in collaboration with the Deaf Community in the education of their own people. In conclusion the implications of these findings for further programmes are discussed.