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Study of deaf kindergartens in the U.S., France and Japan.mov

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Published on Mar 24, 2011

This 30-second video clip reveals a scene that might be typical of any kindergarten recess. The teacher pulls two boys aside who hadn't been sharing well. Using sign language (ASL), he points out their inappropriate behavior and has them spend a few minutes thinking about their actions in "time out." But when it's time to return to the classroom, he takes the teaching moment a step further.

He stands the boys shoulder to shoulder facing him. A hand on each of their backs, he deliberately guides them across the door threshold together, back into the classroom as a unified pair. The cultural messages of equality, solidarity, and harmony are unequivocal.

Learning to be a member of a culture is a primary developmental task for all young children. For most, it happens at home. But for deaf children around the world -- more than 90 percent of whom live with hearing parents and siblings -- their assimilation into Deaf culture, the world of sign, and their national culture is likely to begin in early-childhood programs in schools for the deaf.

A multidisciplinary research team of ASU faculty, doctoral students, and alumni has won major support from the Spencer Foundation to better understand this acculturation process. Gathering video ethnography data in deaf kindergarten classrooms in Japan, France, and the United States, the researchers hope to uncover the links between the teaching approaches in signing classrooms and how children come to perceive themselves as members of Deaf culture, and of their wider culture, community, and society.

Co-principal investigators for the three-year project are Joseph Tobin, an educational anthropologist and early childhood education specialist who holds the Nadine Mathis Basha Professor of Early Childhood Education in the College of Arts and Sciences' School of Social Transformation; Thomas Horejes, assistant professor of sociology at Gallaudet University; and Joseph Valente, assistant professor of early childhood education at the Pennsylvania State University. Horejes and Valenti are alumni of ASU doctoral programs in justice studies and education, respectively.

Rounding out the team are Professor Tobin's dissertation advisees Akiko Hayashi, Patrick Graham, and Jennifer Hensley, graduate students in ASU's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

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