BATOD
The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
Promoting Excellence in Deaf Education

Journal - DEI Special Issue: Sign Language and Deaf Education

Volume 9 Issue 4 (December 2007) Issue 9.4 of Deafness and Education International, was published in December 2007 and focuses on sign bilingualism in the education of deaf learners. Ruth Swanwick and Susan Gregory have acted as editors for this special issue.

It is nine years since this was last the topic of a special issue, when the then BATOD journal, Deafness and Education, addressed this topic. Since then there have been many changes in the education scene both generally in the UK and in relation to the education of deaf learners.

Ten years on, the role of sign language in deaf children’s’ education and lives is becoming more complex and diverse reaching across and beyond the increasingly blurred boundaries of communication approaches. A number of developments within deaf education and in education as a whole have contributed to the changing climate of sign bilingual education. These include the move to inclusion of all pupils resulting in the vast majority of deaf pupils being educated in mainstream schools and the development and availability of cochlear implants and improved hearing aids,

The equal number of deaf and hearing authors in this issue perhaps also reflects changes since 1998. This mix offers deaf and hearing perspectives on the topic and illustrates diverse approaches to research. Topics covered include research into current practice in sign bilingualism; views of deaf children themselves; concepts of social justice and using deaf children’s awareness of narrative structure to assist their literacy development.

The publication of this special issue follows the recent publication by the editors of this special issue of Sign Bilingual Education: Policy and Practice.

Editorial 

Susan Gregory and Ruth Swanwick, Editors for this Special Focus Edition

The sign bilingual approach to the education of deaf children was first introduced in the UK in 1990. Nine years ago, in the June 1998 edition, the then British Association of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD) journal Deafness and Education made it a special focus. This was a time of innovation in deaf education with the development of sign bilingual provision; approaches to the assessment of signed languages and a growing understanding of deaf children’s bilingual and bicultural identities. At that time sign bilingual educational policy seemed to offer a clear and distinctive role for sign language in deaf children’s education.

Ten years on, the role of sign language in deaf children’s’ education and lives is becoming more complex and diverse, reaching across and beyond the increasingly blurred boundaries of communication approaches. A number of developments within deaf education and in education as a whole have contributed to the changing climate of sign bilingual education. These include the move to inclusion of all pupils resulting in the vast majority of deaf pupils being educated in mainstream schools and the development and availability of cochlear implants and improved hearing aids.

The equal number of deaf and hearing authors in this issue perhaps also reflects changes since 1998. This mix offers deaf and hearing perspectives on the topic and illustrates diverse approaches to research. Emery’s article reflects this breadth by showing how a holistic approach to the education of deaf children draws on concepts of social justice and citizenship.

Morgan, Rathmann and Mann address the challenge of seeking ways to improve deaf children’s literacy skills. They describe research in progress which aims to build on deaf children’s awareness of narrative structure across both sign and spoken languages.

Following current trends, Sutherland’s paper stresses the importance of the consumers’ view of education, in this instance the pupils themselves. Her research employs a variety of approaches to obtain authentic and valid accounts from pupils concerning their feelings about language and education.

In their paper, Swanwick and Tsverik focus on practice of sign bilingual education and consider what constitutes good practice in a range of settings. The notion of good practice was derived from the practitioners themselves, and they use careful observational accounts together with interview material to examine examples of such practice, its strengths but also the constraints under which it took place.

This range of topics and the differing approach and style of the contributions reflect the complex and diverse issues which are currently shaping the development of sign bilingual policy and approaches to the use of sign language in deaf education.

Citizenship and sign bilingualism: . . . there is nothing wrong with being bilingual . . . it's a positive and fantastic thing!

Steven D. Emery * Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK
*Correspondence to Steven D. Emery, Heriot-Watt University, School of Management and Languages, Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK

Abstract The issue of the education of deaf children is addressed in relation to citizenship and sign bilingualism. Citizenship is a contested concept and those who advocate a sign bilingual approach use the discourse of citizenship when arguing for the value of their method, but so too do other approaches. The sign bilingual approach may benefit from a deeper exposition of the ways in which the concept of citizenship is being shaped, particularly by revealing the phonocentric nature of citizenship and the non-statist values of sign bilingualism. Citizenship, however, does not inevitably have to be phonocentric; sign bilingualism can draw on the concept of social justice to pursue the case for a holistic approach to the education of deaf children.
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Narrative structure and narrative development in deaf children

Christian Rathmann 1, Wolfgang Mann 2, Gary Morgan 3 *
1 Centre for Deaf Studies, University of Bristol, UK; 2 Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, UCL, UK; 3 Language and Communication Science, City University London, UK
*Correspondence to Gary Morgan, LCS, City University London, Northampton Square, London EC1V0HB, UK

Abstract
Researchers, the Deaf community, teachers of deaf children and speech and language therapists all share a concern about how to improve deaf children's written language skills. One part of literacy is story writing or narrative. A finding from a small number of studies is that children exposed to sign language from early childhood onwards achieve the highest level of bilingualism and become skilled readers and writers (Hoffmeister, 2000; Morgan, 2005). Potential contributing factors may include first language transfer, meta-linguistic awareness, cognitive readiness, motivation, parental interaction and emotional well-being. This paper reviews the first three contributing factors and outlines the theoretical case for bilingual narrative activities in deaf children.
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Hate English! Why? . . . Signs and English from deaf children's perception. Results from a preliminary study of deaf children's experiences of sign bilingual education

Hilary Sutherland *, Alys Young, University of Manchester, UK
*Correspondence to Hilary Sutherland, 79 Barkers Mead, Brimsham Park, Yate, South Gloucestershire BS37 7GB, UK

Abstract
To date, much information about Sign Bilingualism,1 gleaned from parents and/or teachers, has been written from a strong hearing viewpoint. As deaf children should be the main beneficiaries from a Sign Bilingual Education,2 this project was designed to enable the children to recall their experiences and share their multi-aspect views with other deaf children and the deaf researcher. The children had opportunities to express themselves freely in their first language, British Sign Language, using the deaf-centred prompting tools to inform/enlighten readers about their experiences of a Sign Bilingual journey.
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

The role of sign language for deaf children with cochlear implants: good practice in sign bilingual settings

Ruth Swanwick *, Isabel Tsverik, The School of Education, University of Leeds, UK
*Correspondence to Ruth Swanwick, The School of Education, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

Abstract
A central feature of a sign bilingual approach is the use of sign language, and the associated role of deaf adults in deaf children's education. This project explores whether this approach is compatible with the goals of cochlear implantation, which are to maximise a deaf child's potential to hear and improve speech perception. There is no specific research into the of role sign language to support deaf children's linguistic and social emotional development post implantation and the notion of good practice has not been explored. This project focused on six sign bilingual educational settings to examine this issue in two phases. Phase 1 identified the distinctive features of sign bilingual provision in the UK. This provided a framework for phase 2 which investigated ways in which this type of provision addresses the language, learning and social needs of pupils with cochlear implants. Central to this was a focus on the participants' own perceptions of good sign bilingual practice for pupils with cochlear implants. The study provides examples of identified good practice and an insight into the benefits of the linguistic and cultural features of sign bilingual settings for pupils with cochlear implants.
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.