National Science Foundation
Breaking the Sign-Language Barrier in S&E Classrooms in IHEs
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Student volunteers wear a small camera located on the eye-tracker into the high-tech IHE classroom to help a research scientists discover how deaf students can succeed in S&E.

Credit: Jeff Pelz and Marc Marschark
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State: New York

Deaf students often rely on sign language interpreting in order to participate in academic programs at institutions of higher education (IHE). The quality of educational interpreting is variable, particularly in science and engineering (S&E) IHE classrooms. IHE S&E material often may be beyond the educational backgrounds of many sign-language interpreters. Research measuring the comprehension and retention of interpreted material in S&E among deaf students in IHE settings is scarce.

These research projects collect and analyze information concerning how learning through interpreting interacts with various characteristics of deaf students and their educational settings. One focus of this research involves analysis of visual attention strategies of deaf and hearing students in high-tech classrooms. Through the use of an eye tracker, it was discovered how deaf students and hearing students differ in the allocation of their gaze (i.e., divide their attention) among a sign language interpreter, the instructor, and a visual display. Results are still in preparation, but early results of this research that focused on the initial question of how interpreting interacts with characteristics of deaf students have been published.

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