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The purpose of the proposed research design is to study the effects of signed text in reading accuracy and reading comprehension of profoundly deaf students. Eight prelingually severe to profoundly deaf students with the primary mode of communication being American Sign Language, ranging in age from five to eight, will participate in a multiple baseline by subjects study. An adapted version of the Sivaroli Classroom Reading Inventory will be prepared for the experiment. During the baseline sessions the participants will be presented with paragraphs in Standard English. In the treatment sessions the participants will be given paragraphs in Standard English with added American Sign Language graphics above the text. Reading accuracy and comprehension will be observed and recorded based on dependent variable measurements.
Keywords: prelingual, profoundly deaf, American Sign Language, signed text, reading accuracy, reading comprehension
Effects of Signed Text in Reading for the Prelingually Profoundly Deaf
Research illustrates that the academic achievement of students who are deaf or hard of hearing falls significantly below that of their hearing peers, particularly in the domain of reading. It has been found that many deaf individuals read at a third to fourth grade reading level. Factors including degree of hearing loss and the extent of access to phonological information determine the degree to which children can access and comprehend text.
Reading is founded on an auditory-based language that integrates both visual and auditory information. Phonological awareness refers to an individual's awareness of the sound structure of language. Such listening skill is essential to the action of reading in that it is the ability to distinguish units of speech: syllables in words and individual phonemes in syllables. The ability to segment and blend phonemes is critical for the development of reading skills, including decoding and fluency (Stewart & Clarke, 2003).
Hearing children already possess the language (the vocabulary and grammar) needed to read. The hearing child can learn the graphic system on the basis of a fully developed phonemic system. Although English has many inconsistencies, a basic phoneme-grapheme, or sound-spelling, correspondence exists. Such acoustic association between spoken language and print serves as a bridge for the application of prior knowledge to anticipate and predict the sequence of information within the text. In contrast, deaf and hard of hearing children do not possess the auditory channel needed to experience spoken language. Because writing is a coded visual representation of speech, both the printed symbols and the language itself are unfamiliar to deaf and hard of hearing students. Gestural association may serve as the necessary bridge for meaning transfer during reading by the deaf. However, because sign language has no written form, gestural clues that might aid the deaf reader in applying prior knowledge are unavailable (Stewart & Clarke, 2003).
For deaf and hard of hearing students who utilize the modality of sign language to communicate, spatial-gestural information may be an integral facet of reconstructing meaning during reading. It is possible to match most signs with their English word counter-part. This matching could allow a means for the phonological coding of English (Stewart & Clarke, 2003). Shand (1982) conducted a 2x3 factorial experiment that examined the sign-based short-term coding of American Sign Language signs and printed English words by congenitally deaf signers. The study consisted of eight congentially deaf subjects from the California State University, Northridge. The subjects all used American Sign Language as their primary mode of communication and were highly proficient signers. A short-term recall task consisting of lists of five American Sign Language signs and lists of five printed English words were administered. For each presentation approach, the stimuli in the lists were either high in phonological relatedness, high in cherological relatedness (a coding based on the properties of the signs, either perceptual or productive), or low in both phonological and cherological relatedness (the control group).
Shand found that congenitally, profoundly deaf individuals who rely on American Sign Language as their principal means of communication recode printed English words into a code based on the sign equivalents for those words. The recoding therefore involves a translation from the named English word into a sign-based coded American Sign Language sign. Shand concluded that deaf subjects in general are less likely to code phonologically than hearing subjects, and that prelingually deaf subjects with a profound hearing loss are less likely to employ phonological coding than deaf subjects as a whole. Such results suggested that deaf and hard of hearing individuals remember printed English words by recoding them into sign (Shand, 1982).
In order to reflect correspondence between English and sign in reading, a graphic representation of sign to the printed English could be employed to help build an association between the printed words and the concepts they represent. Providing the printed word and the graphic representation of sign enables the reader to choose from various coding systems.
Previous research studies have examined the effects of graphic representations of sign language in texts to facilitate literacy development by deaf and hard of hearing students. Robbins (1983) conducted a 3x3 factorial study on the effects of signed text on the reading comprehension of deaf and hard of hearing children. The study consisted of 49 elementary (mean age 11.06) and 32 secondary (mean age 15.9) students with a severe to profound hearing loss. The students were asked to read a paragraph that was print only, print with sign, or cloze (every fifth word the corresponding sign graphic was deleted). Five comprehension questions were then asked to determine if the students understood the material read. The results of the procedure indicated that the signed and cloze sign paragraphs were both more effective in increasing comprehension than the print only paragraph in both the elementary and secondary students. Thus, the results of the study supported that the appearance of familiar gestural signs in the form of picture signs above English words aid deaf readers' comprehension of text.
Wilson and Hyde (1997) carried out a similar study to assess the use of signed English pictures to facilitate reading comprehension by deaf students. The study was comprised of sixteen students (9 boys and 7 girls), ranging from 8 to 13 years of age with a severe to profound hearing loss. The students were divided into two groups, A and B, based upon their reading level. Higher level readers were allocated to group A, whereas lower level readers were assigned to group B. Four reading books were used in the study: two in group A and two in group B. One book for each group was print text only; the other book had signed English pictures in association with the text. Each student received a signed English text and an unmodified text. The students were prompted to read each text. The students were evaluated using two comprehension measures: answering six comprehension questions and retelling the story. The results showed that students performed more effectively with the signed English text on the two measures of comprehension used in the study. Under this condition, the students recalled more story details in correct sequence and with fewer semantic miscues than they did under the unmodified text condition. In addition, the students expressed a preference for the signed English texts. They stated a higher level of enjoyment and motivation with such format.
A study conducted by Stoefen-Fisher and Lee (1989) examined the effectiveness of the graphic representation of signs in developing word identification skills for deaf and hard of hearing readers. The study was comprised of twenty-four children (8 females and 12 males) between the ages of six to eight with a severe to profound hearing loss. The subjects participated in two reading tasks: a word identification task and an immediate retention task. Two sets of word lists were prepared for the word identification task: a list of print plus sign words (printed English word with the graphic representation of the sign for that word placed directly above the word) and a list of print only words. The subjects were divided into two groups. The subjects in group one were given the print plus sign word list first, followed by the print only list. The subjects in group two were administered the print only list first, followed by the print plus sign list. Each subject was addressed individually. The subjects were told to watch the screen and to read the word projected on it using sign, voice, or both. They could not use fingerspelling.
In order to evaluate immediate retention, one word list in print only form was administered to the students; once after the print plus sign condition and once after the print only condition. Students retained more words following the print plus sign condition (Stoefen-Fisher & Lee, 1989).
The researchers found that the subjects performed better in the print plus sign condition than in the print only condition. The order of the administration of the lists had no statistically significant effect on the results of the subjects' performance. The researchers concluded that the use of graphic representation of sign with the printed word assisted deaf and hard of hearing readers in identifying unknown words that are part of their spoken/signed vocabulary (Stoefen-Fisher & Lee, 1989).
A recent study by Hoffman and Wang (2010) examined the use of graphic representations of sign language in leveled texts to support deaf readers. The intervention focused on two first grade students (1 female and 1 male), one with auditory neuropathy and one with a profound hearing loss, both attending a bilingual/bicultural program in an urban public school. Each student utilized American Sign Language as their primary means of communication. A leveled reading book was used for the study. The researcher placed signed graphics above the words in the book. The students were prompted to read and sign the book in turn. When the student's reading was completed, she or he was asked to explain what happened in the story. The results of the study demonstrated that adding sign language graphics to texts had a positive effect on the reading behaviors of the students. The presentation of books prepared with signed graphics allowed for reading of the English print with high accuracy, establishing sight word vocabulary and increasing fluency.
The purpose of the proposed research design is to study the effects of signed text in reading accuracy and reading comprehension of prelingually, profoundly deaf students. The proposed research questions are as follows: What are the effects of signed text in regards to reading accuracy for the prelingually, profoundly deaf? What are the effects of signed text in regards to reading comprehension for the prelingually, profoundly deaf? Based upon previous research on this topic and the evidence of a cherological coding system in deaf individuals, the hypotheses posed are as follows: The addition of signed graphics in printed English text will significantly increase prelingually, profoundly deaf readers' accuracy. The addition of signed graphics in printed English text will significantly increase prelingually, profoundly deaf readers' comprehension.
The research design that will be used for this study is a multiple baseline across subjects. The multiple baseline across subjects addresses the effectiveness of the intervention of the independent variable on the dependent variable for the same behavior for different subjects. Once the baseline is established, the independent variable is introduced to one of the subjects. During this time, baseline is maintained for the other subjects. When improvement is observed in the first subject, the intervention is then introduced to the second subject. This method and procedure is repeated for the remaining subjects in the study. The design has replicated baseline and intervention phases to demonstrate experimental control. The extraneous variables are controlled by arranging a series of multiple baselines in a way that the dependent variable is only affected during the application of the independent variable (Hedge, 2003).
The multiple baseline across subjects experimental design can answer the research question posed in the study for the reason that if one subject demonstrates improvement when the intervention is implemented, it is probable that the improvement was due in part to the independent variable. If improvements were seen in the other participants' reading comprehension, even though they were in baseline, the conclusion could be derived that the independent variable was not the probable reason for the observed changes.
In addition, the multiple baseline across subjects design allows the components of the literacy research to be more closely examined. Such design will personalize the data process for the reason that each subject is individually analyzed. For the reason that the data is individual to each subject, conclusions can be deduced in terms of which subjects improved, remained consistent, or deteriorated under the experimental treatment. The subject's personal characteristics can be matched with the results obtained from the study.
Eight participants will be involved in the study. Seven criteria will be used to select participants for the study: age between five and eight years, severe or profound hearing loss (unaided hearing loss of 75dB or more in the better ear); prelingually deaf; no other severe or uncorrected disability present, that is, severe learning difficulty, gross motor coordination dysfunction, or severe behavioral disturbance; IQ scores at the average level or better; demonstrated competency in the reception of American Sign Language; and enrollment in a residential program using American Sign Language as the primary mode of instruction.
Criteria for non-selection will include the following: no previous placement in a signed English program, no previous placement in a total communication program, no previous placement in an oral program, and no previous exposure to signed English.
An informed consent form is to be signed by the child's legal guardian in regards to the child's participation in the study. The form will include the title of the study, the principal researcher, purpose of the study, procedures, time duration, potential benefits and risks, statement of confidentiality, costs for participation, compensation for participation, voluntary participation, and contact information for questions or concerns.
Independent and Dependent Variables
The independent variable is the adapted version of the kindergarten level Sivaroli Classroom Reading Inventory paragraphs with graphic representations of American Sign Language.
The dependent variables in the proposed study are reading accuracy and reading comprehension. Reading accuracy is operationally defined as the reading of a passage of 100 or more words at a kindergarten level (based on the Sivalroli Classroom Reading Inventory) with 90% accuracy. Accuracy in reading is the number of omissions, substitutions, additions, and fingerspelled items compared to the total number of words in the text. Reading comprehension is operationally defined as the answering of factual and inferential questions about reading passages in terms of how effectively it matches the information required by the question.
Setting and Materials
The study will be set in a residential school classroom as a daily after-school clinical reading program trial. The participants will work one-on-one with a trained teacher from the residential school. During both the baseline and intervention phases, the trained teacher will sit with the participant at a student desk, facing the participant.
The instrument for the study will be original and adapted versions of the kindergarten level Sivaroli Classroom Reading Inventory paragraphs. The paragraphs are designed to assess the student's ability to comprehend material at a specific grade level. The signs used in the adapted paragraphs will be photocopied from The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language. Adaptation procedures are as follows: paragraphs will be retyped in Times New Roman typeface on legal-size paper with two inches in between the lines; and appropriate signs will be photocopied, reduced to fit between the lines, and attached to the typed copy.
Corresponding comprehension questions from the Sivaroli Classroom Reading Inventory manual will be used. Each paragraph contains five corresponding comprehension questions.
Primary grade level teachers at the residential school will be trained to administer the adapted and original versions of the paragraphs and the corresponding comprehension questions. A video camera will be used to record the sessions. The video camera will be equipped with a fully charged battery and a blank 120 minute tape at the beginning of each session. The video camera will be set to record ten minutes before the session begins and checked for appropriate functioning. Two trained judges will watch the tape after the session is completed and record his/her data individually, thusly establishing interjudge reliability. Calibration of observers is the attempt to increase reliability of the measurement by increasing the uniformity of their ratings. The observers meet to discuss disagreements in recorded measurement. The observers seek to reach consensus on rules for rating the behaviors (Hedge, 2003).
In the baseline sessions of the experiment, the participant will receive the original version of the kindergarten level Sivaroli Classroom Reading Inventory paragraph (English print only). The participant will be prompted to begin reading in American Sign Language. The participant will be videotaped reading the paragraph. Reading will not be interrupted for corrections. If the participant encounters an unfamiliar word, they will be told to guess. Five comprehension questions will be asked verbatim from the Sivaroli Classroom Reading Inventory test manual in American Sign Language by the trained teacher. Questions will be repeated a maximum of three times to accommodate the response pattern of individual participants. The participant's answers to the comprehension questions will be videotaped. The participant will not be informed of the status of their answers to the questions (Robbins, 1983).
In the treatment sessions of the experiment, the participant will receive the adapted version of the kindergarten level Sivaroli Classroom Reading Inventory paragraph (English print with added sign graphics). The participant will be prompted to begin reading in American Sign Language. The participant will be videotaped reading the paragraph. Reading will not be interrupted for corrections. No reference will be made to the accompanying signs. Five comprehension questions will be asked verbatim from the Sivaroli Classroom Reading Inventory test manual in American Sign Language by the trained teacher. Questions will be repeated a maximum of three times to accommodate the response pattern of individual participants. The participant's answers to the comprehension questions will be videotaped. The participant will not be informed of the status of their answers to the questions (Robbins, 1983).
When the baseline is determined for the first participant, treatment will begin. After improvement in reading accuracy and reading comprehension are observed, the second participant will begin treatment. This will carry out until all eight participants of the study have completed treatment.
Observation and Measurement of Dependent Variables
The dependent variable will be observed by two trained teachers. The teachers will watch the recorded video after each session is completed and rate the participant based on accuracy and comprehension of the material. To determine the reading accuracy, the participants' reading will be examined for omissions, substitutions, additions, and fingerspelled items. Participants' omissions and substitutions of words will be compared with the total number of words in the text, and percentages will be calculated. For the comprehension questions, each answer will be scored in terms of how effectively it matches the information required by the question. The comprehension questions will be scored correct or incorrect.
The data will be analyzed for each individual participant of the study. The results of the participants will not be averaged together, but rather kept separate. For the reason that the data is individual to each subject, conclusions can be deduced in terms of which subjects improved, remained consistent, or deteriorated under the experimental treatment. The components of the literacy research can then be more closely examined. The subject's personal characteristics can be matched with the results obtained from the study.
The data will be entered into a table for each individual participant in terms of individual and total omissions, substitutions, additions, and fingerspelling while reading. The data will then be bar graphed to show the improvement, deterioration, or consistency in reading accuracy for each baseline and treatment session. The data will also be entered into a table for each individual participant in terms of the number of correct answers in regards to the comprehension questions. The data will then be bar graphed to show the improvement, deterioration, or consistency in reading comprehension for each baseline and treatment session.
The results of single-subject designs are not analyzed with statistical analyses. Hedge (2003) states, "The experimental effects produced in single-subject designs are large enough to support conclusions without statistical analysesâ€¦Single-subject designs depend upon empirical significance in differences in conditions, not statistical differences." The effects of experimental manipulations of a single-subject design can be seen visually from the first baseline session to the final treatment session.
Two trained judges will watch the tape after the session is completed and record his/her data individually, thusly establishing interjudge reliability. Interjudge reliability is based upon point by point agreements on individual items. Agreement should be 80% or higher. The formula for such agreement is as follows: [(occurrence)/(occurrence + nonoccurrence)] X 100. Calibration of observers is the attempt to increase reliability of the measurement by increasing the uniformity of their ratings. The observers will meet to discuss disagreements in recorded measurement. The observers will seek to reach consensus on rules for rating the behaviors observed (Hedge, 2003).
The research questions proposed for the study are based upon the effects of signed text in regards to a deaf student's reading accuracy and comprehension of Standard English text. A multiple baseline across subjects experiment has been designed to investigate such questions. During the baseline sessions the participants will be presented with paragraphs in Standard English. In the treatment sessions, the participants will be given paragraphs in Standard English with added American Sign Language graphics above the text. The participants' reading accuracy and comprehension will be observed and recorded based on dependent variable measurements.
Future research should take into account the limitations of this proposed study. The pictorial signs are mainly indicators of hand shape. The representations do not convey information in terms of body movement, placement, and facial expressions. Such information is an integral part of the meaning of a sign. A second limitation is that the use of signed texts may not be suitable for mature readers for several reasons: the number of words in upper primary and secondary texts that would require fingerspelling and the impractical requirement to produce a large number of signed texts across a range of curriculum areas.
The proposed study can be replicated with variations in participant types and procedures. The differing ages of deaf students could be researched in terms of the effectiveness of such method on a particular age group. However, an issue in generality arises due to the limitation of signed text support in upper primary and secondary texts. Not all of the English words will have a signed counterpart. In addition to age, varying degrees of hearing loss (mild, moderate) could be examined in terms of the support the signed text gives the reader in terms of accuracy and comprehension of the material. However the participant characteristic of prelingually deafened cannot be generalized. The issue in regards to the deaf and the ability to accurately read and comprehend the text is based upon their lack of a phonological coding system due to their inability to hear individual phonemes. Therefore, generalizing the study to postlingually deafened individuals would cause an issue with the study's results.
A variation in procedures could include the administration of cloze sign paragraphs in which the signed graphic is placed above every fifth English word. Such procedure would determine if signed graphics support deaf readers in reading accuracy and comprehension.