The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Gallaudet an $800,000 grant to advance visual-centric teaching and learning for deaf students worldwide. Part of the Mellon Foundation’s social justice efforts, the three-year grant will allow Gallaudet to create a new worldwide model for improving the overall quality of teaching and learning for deaf students and other students who learn best visually. Gallaudet will use the Mellon grant to develop an innovative digital pedagogy that is visually centered, grounded in American Sign Language (ASL) and English bilingualism, and culturally responsive.

“Gallaudet is honored to have been awarded this important grant by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,” said President Cordano. “Deaf people live and learn through a visually-based language, yet the majority of classrooms are largely based on spoken language, even in today’s new era of remote learning. With Mellon’s support, Gallaudet now has the opportunity to establish an innovative, global 21st century model for visual learning and help create greater access, inclusion, and equity for deaf students.”

Gallaudet’s grant project will address several key areas of teaching and learning, including access to visual-centric bilingualism; culturally responsive and trauma-informed education; and digitally adaptive learning matched to the strengths and needs of visual learners. The trauma-informed education model, for example, will address interactive and visual approaches to conflicts and issues using interactive theater.

Key expected outcomes and benefits of the Visual-Centric Teaching and Learning project include:

  • redesigning campus-wide professional development curriculum to integrate visual-centric, ASL and English bilingual, culturally responsive. and trauma-informed pedagogy;
  • establishing faculty mentors and coaches to implement the pedagogy;
  • redesigning of teaching strategies and course content to establish multiple approaches to address important social issues, including racism, sexism, economic injustice, and audism;
  • training for faculty and staff with Bilingual Approaches and Multicultural Curriculum Transformation seminars;
  • redesigning of more than 100 courses for the visual-centric, bilingual, culturally responsive, and trauma-informed pedagogy; and
  • establishing an extensive digital video library of exemplary best practices.

A key goal of the Visual-Centric Teaching and Learning project is to address ongoing social inequities deaf students and other linguistically diverse learners continue to face. Inadequate access to visual language and learning remains a critical societal issue. Additionally, more than 90 percent of deaf and hard of hearing children are born to hearing parents where spoken language, not American Sign Language, is used at home. Even when families choose to learn ASL, young students who are deaf and hard of hearing are usually not educated in ASL and English bilingual learning environments. These and other factors result in deaf students continuing to be underrepresented in higher education.

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