The academic English literacy acquisition experiences of deaf college students
Schmitz, Kathryn L.
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The purpose of this dissertation was to describe deaf college students' perceptions of their experiences learning academic English literacy. The study examined the narrated academic English literacy acquisition experiences and practices of 11 deaf and hard-of-hearing students at a hearing university with a large deaf student population. Through paradigmatic analysis of narrative data, the study located common themes that revealed their perceptions of academic English literacy acquisition. The study was conducted with deaf students attending a college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, which is one of eight colleges at a major northeastern university. Methods employed in the study were phenomenological interviewing and recursive analysis. The primary data sources were participant interviews and a focus group. Analysis was conducted through recursive interaction with the data, in which repeated reviews served to first elicit themes and meanings and then confirm interpretation of same. First, the study identified pre-college literacy experiences and beliefs about literacy learning, activities that took place in college English courses, and obstacles perceived to limit participants' progress through the academic English system. Second, the study examined assistive and collaborative learning experiences discussed by participants as well as the roles of their deaf peers in these experiences. Third, the study examined participants' perceptions of instructors, expectations, and teaching methods. The study resulted in the following findings: (1) participants struggled to find the right balance between working with assistance and working independently; (2) participants' experiences resulted in a preference for highly competent communicators for instructors, and these tended to be deaf instructors; (3) participants observed a difference in the kind of assistance they received within their own college and the larger university; (4) they expressed a preference for learning environments that they perceived to be more visually accessible to them, such as group discussions with peers who also signed; and (5) they encountered conflicts that restricted their learning, which ranged from communication to unclear or rigid expectations to internal contradictions between challenge and remediation. The dissertation concluded by showing how understanding deaf college students' perceptions of academic English literacy acquisition may inform and improve teaching practices with this population, especially with regard to promoting proficiency with the dominant literacies of school and work.