Thursday, April 5, 2012

Two ideas: one in gesture and the other in sign

Deaf students make gestures like hearing children when trying to explain math concepts - and these gestures are different from the ideas they expressed in sign language. Researchers at the University of Chicago watched 40 deaf children explain math problems and noted they used gestures, as do hearing children, when explaining a math problem. Psychologist Susan Goldin-Meadow, who led the study, says previous research involving hearing children shows that gestures that do not match speech indicate there are teaching opportunities for the student. She believes the new research indicates the same is true for deaf children, in that gestures that are not ASL-based reveal a teachable moment. Goldin-Meadow says, “The gestures ASL signers use tell us when they are ready to learn math." If this is the case, it reveals a weakness in having a hearing teacher convey concepts to a deaf student through an interpreter. The interpreter may be looking at the student and miss the teachers gestures and not relay the information conveyed in those gestures. The deaf student is then only getting a part of the information, the part conveyed through spoken English. Funding for the study came from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development and the National Science Foundation. Details are in the journal Cognition.

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