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An evaluation of natural and formal language programmes with deaf children Bunch, Gary Owen

Abstract

This investigation was designed to evaluate the success of the natural and formal language teaching programmes for deaf children in teaching the usage of selected grammatical principles. Evaluations of the success of each programme relative to the language abilities of young normally hearing children and of each programme relative to the other were performed. Forty-nine subjects were selected from a residential school using the natural method of teaching language and twenty-six subjects were selected from a residential school employing formal methods. The subjects from each school were divided into three age ranges; nine years to ten years, eleven months; twelve years to thirteen years, eleven months; fifteen years to sixteen years, eleven months. Subject selection criteria included consideration of intelligence levels, hearing loss, absence of major additional handicapping conditions, school-age career history and age of onset of deafness. Extensive quantitative and qualitative analysis was performed on the variables of method, age and sex. Test instruments were Menyuk's "Test of Grammatical Competence" and Berko's "Test of Morphological Rules". Examination of programme goals revealed that neither school had delineated goals in the area of language programme in a manner conducive to the evaluation of any specific language principle. Intended situational, input, process and outcome factors were not congruent with their observed counterparts. Observed outcomes did not approximate intended outcomes as implied in the language programme goals. Goals and targeting evaluation were recommended for both schools. Quantitative analysis demonstrated that neither language teaching programme enabled deaf children in the age ranges examined to deal with the selected language principles with anything approaching the ability displayed by nursery school and kindergarten age normally hearing children. Children taught under one programme did not fare any better than children taught under the other. Some evidence that females deal with language principles on a higher level than males was found. Language ability appeared to be age-related with older children achieving significantly higher scores than younger. Qualitative analysis indicated that a limited number of deaf children demonstrated considerable competence in dealing with the language principles examined. The majority of the seventy-five subjects demonstrated almost total inability to deal with any grammatical principle. As a group the deaf subjects of this study performed as though they were memorizing grammatical rules rather than internalizing them. Little support was found for theories suggesting that deaf children parallel normally hearing children in language development though at a somewhat slower pace or that deaf and hearing children approach language tasks with common rules of performance.

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