Areas of Study

The development and assessment of literacy has been the focus of a great deal of research in the reading, cognitive, and neuroscience fields. For deaf and hard of hearing individuals, however, who rely on their visual skills for language and learning, the findings from much of this research literature may not necessarily apply.

A new book by Gallaudet University professor of psychology Donna Morere, Ph.D., and Thomas Allen, Ph.D., co-principal investigator of the National Science Foundation-funded Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) at Gallaudet,  Assessing Literacy in Deaf Individuals: Neurocognitive Measurement and Predictors, presents new information resulting from a study of assessment practices conducted by VL2 under a Cooperative Agreement with the National Science Foundation (#SBE1041725).

The volume introduces a “VL2 Toolkit” – a comprehensive series of assessment tools for measuring the academic skills and cognitive functioning of deaf people who use sign language. Skills measured include executive functioning, memory, reading, visuospatial ability, writing fluency, math, and expressive and receptive language. Comprehensive data are provided for each skill measurement, with discussion of validity and reliability issues. The book also explains how the VL2 Toolkit was assembled and describes the procedures of the study, its rationale, and notable characteristics of its participants. This book:

  • Describes each VL2 Toolkit instrument and the psychometric properties it measures.
  • Presents detailed findings on test measures and relationships among skills.
  • Discusses issues and challenges relating to assessing visual representations of English, including fingerspelling and lip-reading.
  • Features a statistical analysis of underlying cognitive structures in deaf learners using Toolkit data.
  • Reviews trends in American Sign Language assessment.

“Construction requires tools,” said Allen. “Whether we are constructing a house, an educated citizen, or a scientific theory, we will be stymied if we do not have the right tools. The building that we are seeking to construct is a strong foundation of knowledge regarding the cognitive underpinnings of how deaf individuals learn, especially how they acquire literacy.”

Assessing Literacy in Deaf Individuals is an essential reference for researchers, graduate students, clinicians, and other professionals working with deaf individuals in such areas as clinical and school psychology, audiology, linguistics, and deaf education,” said Morere.

Morere and Allen, along with VL2 researchers, research assistants, and affiliates Elizabeth Halper, Evan Goodman, Shilpa Hanumantha, Gregory Witkin, Leah Murphy, Daniel Koo, Rachel Roberts, Raylene Paludneviciene, Peter C. Hauser, Dorri Daggett, Kim Kurz, Corrinne Bickley, Mary June Mosely, and Anna Stansky contributed their knowledge and expertise to this endeavor, the building of a foundation of knowledge about assessing literacy in deaf individuals.

The book is available from Springer Press and Amazon.

Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world.

Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) is a Science of Learning Center in the United States, funded by the National Science Foundation, and is based at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. VL2 is a collaborative effort with more than 15 labs nationwide, all interested in the visual learning process. We seek to understand more about how learning through visual processes, visual language, and visually based social experience contributes to the development of language, reading, and literacy, and in ways that provide fascinating cognitive and linguistic advantages to the young visual learner. We seek this knowledge for the benefit of all humans.

Recent News

Stay up to date on all the gallaudet happenings, both stories, and initiatives, we are doing with our Signing community!