Chapter Two continued...
Societal changes helped deaf people participate more fully in U.S. society--that is, after the 1960s civil rights movement paved the way for rights of communicative access. These changes primed society to accept signing as an integral part of many deaf children's school curricula. In sharp contrast to the 1880 International Congress on Education of the Deaf, which passed a resolution effectively banning signing in schools and barring deaf individuals from teaching in many countries, today newly trained teachers of the deaf must typically be able to sign the national signed language and use both the signed and written forms of the national spoken language.(1)
Since sign language has been integrated into many programs for deaf students, it is now high time to look at the attendant verbal thought development and processes in deaf students. We are only now beginning to develop a body of research that explicitly goes beyond the nonverbal thought processes of deaf individuals and taps their verbal processes.
The Role of Language in an Overall Conception of IntelligenceTheoretical models of cognition that allow and, indeed, compel us to explore the realm of language and deaf education are those characterized as sociocultural or cultural-historical (Vygotsky 1978). In a Vygotskian framework, learning is a transactional process with the child and a more knowledgeable other constructing knowledge together in an interactive partnership. Vygotsky believed that mastering semiotic systems, including language, transforms an individual's existing (i.e., natural) forms of mental functioning into higher psychological processes. From such a perspective, an individual's interactions with knowledgeable others--within the contexts of sign-mediated (2), goal-oriented activity--bring higher-level cognitive and metacognitive strategies.
We may envision this transactional process using the following diagram, borrowed from Harre (1984) and Raphael and Hiebert (1995).