For obvious reasons, demonstration and explanation frequently occur as a delivery method in vocational education. To make this format of teaching accessible to your deaf student, you will find that you will need to adapt how you present the information. You will need to be ever-mindful of the fact that your deaf student cannot simultaneously watch you (to lipread) or an interpreter (if his or her primary language is Auslan) and look at any demonstration or visual support materials you are using (e.g. from static materials such as a PowerPoint presentation to demonstrating a skill in real time, for example, how to apply hair dye).
You will need to make a clear separation between what you say about the demonstration and the actual demonstration itself. This is best managed by first explaining the process, then demonstrating it without speaking, then re-capping to note any specific points requiring clarification. This may be a strategy that you already use as it supports the learning of all students, especially when introducing new information, materials or concepts.
A tip to assist you in letting you know that your deaf student is following is to watch his or her eyes. If s/he is lipreading you, follow his/her eyes as they move from eye contact with you to the demonstration and back to eye contact with you.
If the deaf student is using an Auslan/English interpreter [see more], then watch for him or her to break eye contact with the interpreter to look at the demonstration. A very important factor to keep in mind here is that an interpreter is always at least a few words behind and so a few extra seconds are needed after you stop talking and before you start demonstrating.
It is also helpful – if the object of demonstration is complex, such as an engine – to indicate roughly where to look to see what you will show.
If you are using either video clips or DVDs, it is important to consider:
- the need to use ones with open captions or with captions that can be turned on (DVDs only) – these often can be sourced from your library
- when using video clips from the internet, the need to avoid using the auto-caption option on YouTube clips as the speech recognition software that is used is unreliable and often the captions are nonsensical
In addition, for a deaf student who is lipreading and/or using technology to access your spoken words, please be mindful that you:
- need to face the students whenever you speak (that is, you cannot make notations on a whiteboard whilst speaking – complete all writing before turning back to the students to elucidate, but it is not necessary to constantly maintain eye contact with your deaf student)
- may need to wear a special transmitter (similar to a microphone) that interacts with the technology used by the deaf student
- may need to re-phrase something you have said, if the student asks for clarification
Also be aware that background noise can significantly interfere with a deaf student’s ability to access the spoken word.
An important tip is to present as much information about the lesson in writing (for example a step-by-step instruction on a laboratory procedure), thereby minimising misunderstanding and reinforcing the lesson objectives.
Safety information is critical in environments like laboratories and workshops. Strategies to ensure all students understand safety procedures include providing instructions in writing, holding a quiz to check for understanding, asking students spot questions at the start of each class and planning classes so students work in pairs to monitor each other’s practice.
Make sure you understand how emergency alarms work in the learning environment. Does a light get activated or only an auditory alarm? Flashing emergency signals help everyone in an emergency. Talk to your facilities department about installing a visual warning system [see more].