News Archive

Singleton and Crume present research in Monterey

Jenny Singleton and grad student Peter Crume presented at the recent meeting of the Association of College Educators of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACEDHH) in Montery, California on their research into how a set of American Sign Language (ASL) linguistic practices appear to promote development of eye-gaze direction, turn-taking, and literacy knowledge among deaf children.

For deaf children, visual engagement with teachers and peers is critical for successful language development and classroom learning. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, VL2 Researcher Jenny Singleton and her graduate student Peter Crume are seeking to understand the nature of visual engagement and how it develops. In particular, they have examined the strategies that Deaf teachers use to support deaf children¹s development of visual attention and participation in a visual learning community. Their study was based in an ASL/English bilingual preschool and included a group of 4 year-old deaf children from both hearing and deaf families as they participated in teacher-led storybook sharing activities.

At the 2008 Conference of the Association of College Educators for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing held in Monterey, California, Singleton & Crume reported on the range of strategies, both linguistic and nonlinguistic, that the teachers in their study used to gain and direct the attention of their deaf preschool students. In these visually complex interactions, the expected focus of students¹ attention rapidly shifts among multiple targets (e.g., from the teacher¹s signing, to a picture in a book, to a peer¹s signing, and then back to the teacher again). Also important were teacher-provided cues that appeared to help students understand the importance of turn-taking in conversation and behavior expectations for a group setting that relies on visual communication (e.g., sitting in a position that does not block the sightline of a fellow student).

Furthermore, the pattern of teacher responses toward the deaf children born to deaf parents compared to the deaf children of hearing parents suggested that the native ASL signers had already developed a rich repertoire of visual engagement skills. The teacher¹s strategies appeared to not only optimize and extend the visual engagement and participation capacities
brought to the interaction by the native signers, but also provided a clear ³scaffolding² for the nonnative signers to support their developing capacity, helping them to know where to look and how to be involved in a visual learning community.

Singleton & Crume¹s research aims to help researchers and educators understand how visual attention can be socialized so that young deaf children become more self-regulated in their class participation. When children can guide their own visual attention, their engagement with their teacher and peers will undoubtedly lead to enhanced learning outcomes. Singleton & Crume have planned future studies that will focus more on the relationship between particular strategies and children¹s visual attention (i.e., which strategies do teachers tend to use when a child is not paying attention, which strategies are more successful in maintaining attention) and the developmental trajectory of eyegaze functions in classroom discourse.

For more information about this research, contact Jenny Singleton [singletn@uiuc.edu].