The Roles of a Teacher of the Deaf or Hard of Hearing

The issue

Historically, teacher of the deaf or hard-of-hearing (TODHH) training programs focused on preparing teachers to work two educational settings: a school for the deaf or deaf education classroom within a public school.  Today over 95% of students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing (DHH) are spending all or some portion of their day in a regular, general education (GE) classroom. Thus, not only must teachers be prepared to work in a variety of settings, but often they also must serve on evaluation teams as the expert for consultation on placement, transition, curriculum and accommodation decisions.

What we know

The roles of TODHHs vary greatly depending on the setting as well as the needs of their students.  Teachers may be hired by the school district or through a shared educational services agency, such as Georgia’s Regional Educational Services Agencies.  They may hold primary or secondary responsibility for students’ education.  Some TODHHs supervise paraprofessionals and educational interpreters as well as provide consultation for GE teachers and administrators.  An itinerant TODHH thus must be prepared take on various roles and responsibilities that require various skill sets.
These roles lie on a spectrum of providing instruction and services which includes but are not limited to the following:
  • School for the Deaf/Day School for the Deaf TODHH
    • provides direct instruction to DHH students in all or some subject areas on a full-time basis
    • holds primary responsibility for 6-8 DHH students’ daily instruction, educational progress, and education program management
    • supervises paraprofessionals.
  • Self-contained Classroom or Center-based TODHH
    • provides direct instruction to DHH students in all or some subject areas on a full-time or part-time basis
    • holds primary or secondary responsibility for 6-10 DHH students’ daily instruction, educational progress and education program management
    • supervises paraprofessionals and educational interpreters
    • consults with GE teachers.
  • Resource room TODHH
    • provides direct push-in or pull-out instruction to DHH students in some subject areas on a part-time basis.
    • holds primary or secondary responsibility for 10-15 DHH students’ daily instruction, educational progress and education program management.
    • supervises paraprofessionals and educational interpreters
    • consults with GE teachers.
  • Itinerant TODHH
    • provides direct push-in or pull-out instruction to DHH students in some subject areas on a part-time basis
    • consults with   GE teachers
    • holds secondary responsibility for 15-20 DHH students’ daily instruction and educational progress but primary responsibility for the students’ education program management.
  • Consulting TODHH
    • provides consultative services to the GE teachers and administration
    • holds secondary or tertiary responsibility for 20-60+ DHH students educational progress and education program management.

What we don’t know

Several studies have examined trends in teacher preparation programs.  These studies looked at how teachers are prepared for addressing the various modes of communications students’ would likely use or aligning with various educational philosophies in deaf educations (e.g., bilingual, total communication).  We do not know to what extent these programs educate teachers to take on the variety of responsibilities that exist in these different educational settings.  Many programs label themselves as “comprehensive,” but that does not indicate how much they focus on training teachers to serve in different, diverse settings, particularly the resource-to-consulting end of the spectrum.

Once teachers are working, little research exists on to what degree their job placement aligns with the preparation program they attended.  TODHHs play a significant part in students’ academic progress. Yet, we do not know if these teaching roles are effective at addressing different students’ educational needs. Also, with such variability in roles, it is unclear who is responsible for the student’s academic progress, educational program management, and transition planning between grade levels and/or between educational placements, or to what extent.

Implications

Existing teacher preparation programs must modify their curricula to better prepare future teachers to work in different settings. TODHHs play a significant role in students’ academic progress, but the teachers’ influence may be constrained by how their responsibilities are defined as well as how they were trained.  It is important for schools and families to consider which TODHH role(s) are most appropriate to serve their students’ needs.  The appropriateness of the match should also be re-evaluated when students transition to the next grade level or between placements.

Posted on April 4, 2017 by
Thomastine Sarchet
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
taskba {at} rit.edu

Jessica W. Trussell
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
jwtnmp {at} rit.edu

 

Further reading