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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Service Learning in Interpreter Education: Strategies for Extending Student Involvement in the Deaf Community
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Resources, Reasons, and Reform

The program at UALR does not use a specific text on service learning, but students are required to read Smith (2002), Guidelines: Practical Tips for Working and Socializing with Deaf-Blind People. They also read a working paper written by a former student at the end of her program of study, titled Making Service Learning Work for You. At the end of the semester the students read Jacobs (2008), Interpreting as Möbius Strip, and write reflectively on the interpersonal and intrapersonal demands they experienced during the service-learning project.

Prior to implementing service learning, the graduating students experienced awkwardness, hesitation, and lack of ability and confidence in employing the skill sets worked on during Interpreting for Persons Who Are Deaf-Blind. Prior to 1999, few of them remained active with the Deaf-Blind community (only observation and interaction with individuals were required prior to incorporating service learning). Since 1999, a greater percentage of students have remained involved in the Deaf-Blind community as SSPs and interpreters, a win for Arkansas’ active community.

Infusing service learning into two existing courses, Interpreting for Persons Who Are Deaf-Blind and Artistic Interpreting in Educational Settings, did not require curriculum reform; rather, course objectives were revised to add the service-learning requirement and objectives. Recently, the program underwent major curricular changes, including the development of two new courses that incorporate service learning, which is in alignment with UALR’s mission as an urban institution to help meet the community’s real needs.

The following revisions were made to Interpreting for Persons Who Are Deaf-Blind:

    1. We added a learning module titled “Service Learning” to the course.
    2. We added more content knowledge to Blackboard so more class time could be devoted to hands-on simulation activities. Typical activities at social gatherings of individuals who are Deaf-Blind, particularly those likely to be encountered during service-learning activities, are included in classroom activities and are followed by reflective discussion.
    3. We built in more reflective writing and discussions before, during, and after service-learning activities (throughout the course).

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