Strategic Focus Areas
SFA 4: Translation in Education-Translational Products, Tools, and Dissemination
The goal of this SFA is to develop and test innovative instructional practices that are motivated by the discoveries made in Center research. (Melissa Herzig, Leader)
SFA 4 is powerfully aligned in content and resources to bridge the fruits of our VL2 laboratory research discoveries (as well as those in the field) to provide the richest input into principled and meaningful translational products, services, and knowledge dissemination for the benefit of society. Supporting these efforts is a framework developed by Petitto (2009) and others that links discoveries in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience investigations with their principled application to education (Educational Neuroscience, e.g., Petitto 2009). Specifically, VL2 brings together individuals from diverse backgrounds, including cognitive neuroscientists, linguists, psychologists, and educators. These individuals are joined in their mutual commitment (a) to enhance our understanding of visual learning in developing children, (b) to understand the human visual learning capabilities over the life span (both in brain and in behavior), (c) to ground educational change for all students in the highly principled application of research that employs both behavioral as well as a multitude of modern methodologies (including functional brain imaging), (d) to advance a common set of scientific tools/resources, interventions, training strategies, and research practices that can be made available to a broad set of stakeholders that includes scientists, educators, policy makers, students at all educational levels, and society at large.
Our long-term goal is to identify and evaluate learning experiences and tools that promote an optimal fit between visual learners’ perceptual strengths and their learning environments during “sensitive periods” in the development of visual processing and attention in visual learners. Our success in achieving this outcome constitutes a core measure of our “Theory of Change” (Funnell & Rogers, 2011) that frames how we assess the impact of our translational products and innovations.
Our studies of visual attention and our studies of reading in visual learners have offered key insights that may become a catalyst for new approaches to teaching reading that circumvent problems associated with traditional learning and teaching methods in deaf education. These insights are amplified by new perspectives gained from interviews with teachers and parents of deaf learners (conducted by VL2 researchers, Mounty et al., 2013). Poor outcomes in education may in fact be the result of failing to identify unique affordances of visual learners, or to embrace new understanding about bilingual learners (especially bilingual bimodal-print bilinguals), or indiscriminately applying educational methods that were developed for auditory-visual learners to visual learners. To be sure, one of our translation goals is to extend new knowledge about bilingual visual learners and the science of bilingualism.
Our SFA4 also takes seriously the fact that translation is a bidirectional process, and we emphasize collaboration, community engagement and dissemination of research-based knowledge, products, and services throughout our enterprise. Many of the researchers actively engage schools and educators to gain their insights and ideas for research inquiry. Further to this, we have developed numerous Center-mediated venues to collect input from our stakeholders, from discussions in National Forums and school-based workshops to social networking.
In Years 8-9, and beyond, our translational activities include (but are not exclusive to) the items listed here. For expanded discussion regarding some of these items see section 4.3 below.
- Running and maintaining to the highest academic standards the newly begun VL2-initiated PhD in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) program at Gallaudet University (which welcomed its first class of students in fall 2013).
- Releasing more bilingual storybook apps, especially “The Little Airplane That Could” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
- Releasing a crucial “Author App Program.”
- Creating and producing new Primer Storybook Apps to focus on early readers (emergent readers, e.g., children ages approximately 2.5-3.5 years old).
- Widespread distribution of the VL2’s Parent Information Package, along with surveys and focus group assessments. Conducting careful analyses of “use,” including “user characteristics” and “user experience” evaluations regarding both The Baobab Bilingual Interactive Reading App for children and the Parent Information Package.
- Continuing the distribution of our Research Briefs and the translation of our Research Briefs into more languages. (To date, we offer translations in Spanish and Mandarin.)
- Continuing to present at important international and national conferences to share VL2’s research findings.
- Continuing our “Benefits and Risk Assessment Committee,” which is conducted prior to the release of our VL2 translational products and which is dedicated to the protection of the public consumer vis-a-vis our products (much like an IRB is dedicated to the projection of research subjects).
- Establishing a groundbreaking “Quality Assurance Review Board” to ensure the maintenance of high quality products for children.
- Establishing a groundbreaking Ethical Research Practices with Minority Populations advising service
- Creating support materials (such as activities and guides) for teachers, parents, and professionals for use at home, in classrooms with children, or in discussion groups.