Cognitive and Metacognitive Foundations of STEM Learning by Deaf Students

Principal Investigator: 
Co-Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

The project seeks to understand the cognitive and metacognitive foundations of STEM learning by students with significant hearing loss. Of particular interest is their demonstrated lack of comprehension monitoring relative to hearing peers, their frequent failure to recognize when content material is not understood, and a relative lack of automaticity in applying knowledge in new learning contexts.

Setting: 

Rochester Institute of Technology which includes the National Technical Institute for the Deaf - together educating over 1300 deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Research Design: 

The research design for this project is longitudinal and cross-sectional, and is designed to generate evidence which is associative/correlational (quasi-experimental), causal (experimental, quasi-experimental), and synthetic (meta-analysis). Individual studies include a variety of interventions including different modes of classroom communication, alternative classroom materials, different instructional strategies Comparison studies include "standard" versus augmented classroom communication, reading versus sign language, structured versus unstructured preparation, and hearing versus deaf students. Longitudinal analyses of achievement data utilize multiple baseline procedures. Primary data analyses involve analysis of variance, analysis of covariance, and multiple regression analyses. Meta-analyses include iterative multiple regression. This project collects both original data and analyzes secondary data (longitudinal achievement data collected by school programs (K-12)). The instruments/measures used in this project primarily involve content-specific pretests, learning assessments (posttests), and gain scores. In addition, surveys concerning communication skills, educational experience, motivation, and perceptions of learning are utilized. Demographic information is obtained from self-reports and institutional databases. Primary data analyses involve analysis of variance, analysis of covariance, and multiple regression analyses. Meta-analyses include iterative multiple regression.

Findings: 

In research described in Borgna et al. (2011) and other reports, we extended our earlier work relating to deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students' learning from text versus through-the-air communication (signed or spoken language). Studies consistently replicated earlier results showing no difference in STEM learning through reading or through classroom lectures (signed and/or spoken, depending on student skills and orientation), a finding that has created considerable discussion in the field. That is, until this work, investigators and educators had assumed that because DHH students' reading challenges are so well-documented, they must learn more through sign language than they do from print. Our work showing that this is not the case has revealed that it is not simply STEM textbooks that create difficulties for learning, but the language of instruction itself creates significant challenges for DHH students. Work on this project extended that finding to metacognitive judgments of text comprehension and classroom learning (How much did I learn?), again demonstrating no differences. That is, DHH students are no more accurate in their judgments related to learning via sign language than they are to learning via print. In both, they generally over predict their accuracy at a significantly greater rate than hearing peers.

The above findings are consistent with work by Keith Thiede and colleagues involving hearing college students, insofar as we found that providing scaffolding support in the form of either key points in the content or difficult vocabulary did not improve DHH students' learning or their metacognitive judgments. This finding appears to be the result of DHH students' lesser content knowledge leaving them unable to make active use of either vocabulary or may not-point scaffolding during learning. As in Thiede's findings, we found that inserting a delay between study and test provided for such utilization (and improved performance) by hearing students, but it did not improve performance for DHH students. In a follow-up study, we provided DHH and hearing students with Criterion-Referenced Instruction. Results clearly indicate that DHH students' learning improved and metacognitive judgments became more accurate relative even to a condition in which they had written materials in front of them a time of test.

The project also demonstrated that DHH and hearing students' reported reading strategies (using the Reading Awareness Inventory) mapped precisely onto cognitive differences previously identified in the two populations. In particular, hearing students are more likely than DHH students to utilize relational processing strategies and seek to understand unfamiliar material in the context of what they already know. To follow up this finding, we created inventories to complement the Reading Awareness Inventory that tap DHH students' processing strategies in the STEM classroom – one version for students who depend on sign language and one for hearing students and for DHH students who depend on spoken language. Overall, both
DHH and hearing students showed greater metacognitive awareness of ongoing comprehension and repair strategies during reading than for language in the classroom, but DHH students scored lower than hearing students in both modalities. Both groups indicated they were more likely to adopt inappropriate strategies in classroom contexts than during reading.

A related paper (Marschark et al., in press) found that DHH students' ACT scores significantly predicted reading habits and extent of print exposure (textbooks, Internet, fiction/nonfiction, etc.), and vice versa. This result contrasts with the usual finding (and ours) with hearing students, in which hearing students' reading projects achievement, but not the other way around. The results also indicated that although DHH students report reading more than hearing classmates, that is because it takes them longer to read, not that they read (quantitatively) more. This study also demonstrated the viability of title recognition tests as valid measures of DHH students' print exposure.

Consistent with previously-obtained results from NSF-supported research, a study in the present project (Marschark, Richardson, et al. 2011) identified differences in the goals and attitudes of STEM university faculty who normally teach hearing students versus DHH students. Consistent with predictions made by Marschark (2000), mainstream instructors tend to emphasize 'knowledge transfer,' whereas skilled instructors of DHH students report the goal of 'conceptual change.' This result is consistent with our previously reported findings indicating that when taught by such instructors, DHH students learn as much as their hearing peers (even when they come into the classroom with lesser content knowledge). A related paper examined the attitudes of DHH students in mainstream and separate STEM classrooms (Richardson, Marschark, et al., 2010). While both hearing and DHH students were found to be concerned with good teaching and the acquisition of generic academic skills, students in separate classes were more positive about workload expectations, instructor feedback, and flexibility in their coursework. Students in mainstream classes at the same university reported being positive about the analytic skills again and their instructors' interest in them.

Publications & Presentations: 

Publications from the NSF-supported research program include:

Marschark, M., Sarchet, T., Convertino, C. M., Borgna, G., Morrison, C., & Remelt, S. (in press). Print exposure, reading habits, and reading ability among deaf and hearing college students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.

Marschark, M. & Hauser, P.C. (in press). How deaf students learn. Oxford University Press: New York.

Marschark, M., Spencer, P.E, Adams, J. & Sapere, P. (2011). Evidence-based practice in educating deaf and hard-of-hearing children: Teaching to their cognitive strengths and needs. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 26, 3-16.

Marschark, M., Spencer, P.E, Adams, J. & Sapere, P. (2011). Teaching to the strengths and needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing children. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 26, 17-23.

Borgna, G., Convertino, C., Marschark, M., Morrison, C., & Rizzolo, K. (2011), Enhancing deaf students' learning from sign language and text: Metacognition, modality, and the effectiveness of content scaffolding. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 16, 79-100.

Marschark, M. & Wauters, L. (2011). Cognitive functioning in deaf adults and children. In M. Marschark & P. E. Spencer (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Deaf Studies, Language, and Education, Volume 1, second edition (pp. 486-499). New York: Oxford University Press.

Marschark, M., Richardson, J.T.E., Sapere, P., & Sarchet, T. (2010). Approaches to teaching in mainstream and separate postsecondary classrooms. American Annals of the Deaf, 155, 481-487.

Richardson, J.T.E., Marschark, M., Sarchet, T., & Sapere, P. (2010). Deaf and hard-of-hearing students' experiences in mainstream and separate postsecondary education. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 15, 358-382.

Marschark, M., Sapere, P., Convertino, C., Mayer, C., Wauters, L. & Sarchet, T. (in press). Are deaf students' reading challenges really about reading? American Annals of the Deaf.

Convertino, C., Marschark, M., Sapere, P., Sarchet, T., & Zupan, M. E. (in press). Predicting academic success among deaf college students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.

Hauser, P. & Marschark, M. (2008). What we know and what we don't know about cognition and deaf learners. In M. Marschark & P. C. Hauser (Eds.), Deaf cognition: Foundations and outcomes (pp. 439-458). New York: Oxford University Press.

Marschark, M. (2006). Intellectual functioning of deaf adults and children: Answers and questions. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 18, 70-89.

Marschark, M. (2007). Comprendre et utiliser les fondamentaux cognitifs de l'apprentissage des enfants sourds. [Understanding and utilizing the cognitive underpinnings of learning by deaf children.] Enfance, 59, 271-281.

Marschark, M., Convertino, C., & LaRock, D. (2006). Assessing cognition, communication, and learning by deaf students. In C. Hage, B. Charlier, & J. Leybaert (Eds.), L'évaluation de la personne sourde (pp. 26-53). Brussels: Mardaga.

Marschark, M., Convertino, C.M., Macias, G., Monikowski, C.M., Sapere, P.M., & Seewagen, R. (2007). Understanding communication among deaf students who sign and speak: A trivial pursuit? American Annals of the Deaf, 152, 415-424.

Marschark, M., Convertino, C., & LaRock, D. (2006). Optimizing academic performance of deaf students: Access, opportunities, and outcomes. In D. F. Moores & D. S. Martin (Eds.), Deaf learners: New developments in curriculum and instruction (pp. 179-200). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.

Marschark, M., Convertino, C., McEvoy, C., & Masteller, A. (2004). Organization and use of the mental lexicon by deaf and hearing individuals. American Annals of the Deaf, 149, 51-61.

Marschark, M. & Hauser, P.C., Editors (2008). Deaf cognition: Foundations and outcomes. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marschark, M. & Hauser, P. (2008). Cognitive underpinnings of learning by deaf and hard-of-hearing students: Differences, diversity, and directions. In M. Marschark & P. C. Hauser (Eds.), Deaf cognition: Foundations and outcomes (pp. 3-23). New York: Oxford University Press.

Marschark, M., Leigh, G., Sapere, P., Burnham, D., Convertino, C., Stinson, M., Knoors, H., Vervloed, M. P. J. & Noble, W. (2006). Benefits of sign language interpreting and text alternatives to classroom learning by deaf students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 11, 421-437.

Marschark, M., Pelz, J., Convertino, C., Sapere, P., Arndt, M. E., & Seewagen, R. (2005). Classroom interpreting and visual information processing in mainstream education for deaf students: Live or Memorex?® American Educational Research Journal, 42, 727-762.

Marschark, M., Peterson, R., & Winston, E.A., Editors (2005). Interpreting and interpreter education: Directions for research and practice. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marschark, M. & Sapere, P. (2005). Educational interpreting – Does it work as well as we think? In J. Mole (Ed.), International Perspectives on Interpreting (pp. 5-20). Brassington, UK: Direct Learning Services Ltd.
Marschark, M., Sapere, P., Convertino, C., Mayer, C., Wauters, L. & Sarchet, T. (revised manuscript under review). Are deaf students' reading challenges really about reading?

Marschark, M., Sapere, P., Convertino, C.M. & Pelz, J. (2008). Learning via direct and mediated instruction by deaf students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 13, 446-461.

Marschark, M., Sapere, P., Convertino, C., & Seewagen, R. (2005). Educational interpreting: Access and outcomes. In M. Marschark, R. Peterson, & E.A. Winston (Eds.), Interpreting and interpreter education: Directions for research and practice (pp. 57-83). New York: Oxford University Press.

Marschark, M., Sapere, P., Convertino, C., & Seewagen, R. (2005). Access to postsecondary education through sign language interpreting. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 10, 38-50.

Marschark, M., Sapere, P., Convertino, C., Seewagen, R. & Maltzan, H. (2004). Comprehension of sign language interpreting: deciphering a complex task situation. Sign Language Studies, 4, 345-368.

Marschark, M. & Wauters, L. (2008). Language comprehension and learning by deaf students. In M. Marschark & P. C. Hauser (Eds.), Deaf cognition: Foundations and outcomes (pp. 309-350). New York: Oxford University Press.

Pelz, J., Marschark, M., & Convertino, C. (2008). Visual gaze as a marker of deaf students' attention during mediated instruction. In M. Marschark & P. C. Hauser (Eds.), Deaf cognition: Foundations and outcomes (pp. 264-285). New York: Oxford University Press.

Sapere, P., LaRock, D, Convertino, C., Gallimore, L. & Lessard, P. (2005). Interpreting and interpreter education – Adventures in Wonderland? In M. Marschark, R. Peterson, & E. Winston (Eds.), Interpreting and Interpreter Education: Directions for Research and Practice (pp. 283-297). New York: Oxford University Press. 

2010-2011 presentations citing NSF support:

P. Sapere & C. Convertino, 'Interpreters, Deaf Students, and Classroom Lectures: Preferences and Comprehension.' ICED2010, Vancouver, July.

P. Spencer & M. Marschark, 'The Evidence Base in Deaf Education: It's Easier to Get Where We Are Going if We Know Where We Are.' ICED2010, Vancouver, July.

M. Marschark, 'Deaf students' learning through print, sign, and speech.' University of L'Aquila, International Research Consortium, October 1.

M. Marschark, 'Myths and Misunderstanding in Deaf Education: What We Know, What We Don't Know, and What We Think We Know.' National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester, October 26.

M. Marschark, 'How Deaf Children Learn...Why They Sometimes Don't and What We Can Do about It' Invited presentation, Coalition of Private Schools Serving Deaf Children, Captiva, Florida, January 17.

M. Marschark, 'Myths and Misunderstandings in Deaf Education' Invited keynote address to the American College Educators-Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Fort Worth, TX, February 18.

M. Marschark, 'Myths and Misunderstandings in Deaf Education: Putting Children First' ? CEASD, Honolulu, April 22.

M. Marschark, 'Sign Language in Deaf Education: Foundations and Outcomes,' Hong Kong Education Department and Rehabilitation Advisory Committee, Hong Kong, May 16.

M. Marschark, 'Sign Language in Deaf Education: What We Know, What We Don't Know, and What We Want to Know,' Peace Evangelical Education Centre, Hong Kong, May 17.