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					   Fifth Biennial Getting in Touch With Literacy
                    Conference
      November 9, 2001        Philadelphia, PA

A Descriptive Study of Standards
  and Criteria for Competence in
  Braille Literacy Within Teacher
   Preparation Programs in the
     United States & Canada
                    Sheila Steiner Amato, Ed.D.

                                                   1
Literacy is:
 An issue of national concern
 Involves reading, writing, math, computer skills, culture (Rex, 1989)
 Technology skills (Koenig, 1992)
 Necessary to function on the job and in society (National Institute for
  Literacy, 1993)
 Demonstrated at various levels throughout one’s lifetime (Koenig,
  1992)
 The means to a limitless array of activities and encounters (Schroeder,
  1989)
 The means to a better quality of life (National Institute for Literacy,
  1993)

                                                                            2
Braille literacy can:
 Make it possible for a person who is blind to participate
  equally in society (Nemeth, 1988) and in the cultural and
  political life of the community (Stephens, 1989)
 Open the way to information by tearing down barriers of
  myth and ignorance (Schroeder, 1989)
 Determine the degree of independent functioning on the
  job (Johnson, 1989)
 Enable individuals who are blind to read and write for
  themselves


                                                              3
By the numbers...
         In 1989                     In 2000
70% of working age people   74% of working age people
  who are blind were          who are blind are
  unemployed or               unemployed or
  underemployed               underemployed (Maurer,
  (Schroeder, 1989)           2000)

Of the 30% who are          Of the 26% who are
  employed, 85% read          employed, 85% read
  braille (Spungin, 1989)     braille (Maurer, 2000)

                                                        4
However… there is evidence of a nationwide
decline in braille literacy
            In 1968                     In 1999
  40% of children who        less than 10% of children
    were blind or visually      who were blind or visually
    impaired could read         impaired could read
    braille                     braille

  45% read large print       more than 40% could read
                               neither
  9% could read neither
                                     (APH, 1999)
                                                         5
Consumer services have placed partial blame
for the decline in braille literacy on:
 Teacher incompetence in using and teaching
  braille (Allman & Lewis, 1997)
 Teachers’ lack of proficiency in braille
  (Mullen, 1990)
 Teachers’ poor attitudes (Mullen, 1990)
 Inadequate preparation of teachers by the
  university teacher preparation programs
  (Spungin, 1989)
                                              6
The catalyst … WHY????
The National Literary Braille Competency Test (NLBCT) was developed
   by the National Library Service for the Blind/The Library of Congress
 Purpose: to allow teachers of children and adults who are blind to
   demonstrate their competency in writing braille with the braillewriter
   and the slate and stylus, their ability to proofread braille, and their
   knowledge of braille code rules
 Administered to 396 candidates between May, 1994 and June 1999
   (Stark, 2000)
 The discovery that there is a 25% passing rate for teachers who take
   the National Literary Braille Competency Test



                                                                             7
Issue of concern for:
 Students of university teacher training programs ~
  and staff who teach them
 Their future students or clients
 Braille consumers
 National organizations using these statistics to
  support their contention that teacher training
  programs were graduating less-than-competent
  teachers (NFB, 1995)

                                                       8
Questionnaire Standards and Criteria for
Competence in Braille Literacy was designed by the
investigator
 Descriptional survey design
 Purpose: to examine the issue of teacher competence in
   braille literacy and the specific role played in the
   achievement of braille literacy by university teacher
   preparation programs in blindness and visual impairment

Thank you!
Some of the questions designed for a previously completed Teachers
   College doctoral dissertation that investigated Braille Training and
   Teacher Attitudes: Implications for Personnel Preparation, 1993 were
   either used in their entirety or modified with the written permission of
   the author, Dr. Stuart Wittenstein.

                                                                              9
Pilot instrument
 Pilot version of initial questionnaire draft was distributed
  to 13 individuals in fields of:
   blindness & visual impairment
   regular education
   special education
   literacy & reading
   statistics & measurement
   teacher training
   and a consumer who uses braille
       revisions made were based on their feedback

                                                                 10
Final document Standards and Criteria for
Competence in Braille Literacy
 Section 1 - course format
 Section 2 - course content
 Section 3 – course expected outcomes
 Section 4 - grading and determining the level of
  competence
 Section 5 - opinion poll
 Section 6 - demographic information for the
  respondents
                                                     11
Programs Surveyed
 The list of programs was gleaned from “Colleges and
  Universities in the United States and Canada Offering
  Programs for Teachers of Visually Impaired Children
  Recognized by AER” (http://www.afb.org)

 Cross reference done with the National Plan for Training
  Personnel (NPTP) (Council for Exceptional Children,
  1999)



                                                             12
By the numbers:
 Surveyed 39 institutions that offer programs in
  Blindness & Visual Impairment
 Represent 21 states from within the United States
 Represent 3 Canadian Provinces
 Include undergraduate, graduate (Master’s &
  Doctoral) and post-graduate programs



                                                      13
Rate of Response
Responses were received from 34 programs (87.2%).
  Thus, it is possible to say that these results are
  truly representative of teacher education programs
  in blindness & visual impairment throughout the
  United States and Canada
Caveat~
These data should not be interpreted as a means to judge the quality of the
   programs, nor to claim superiority or inferiority of practice or the
   instructor.



                                                                         14
Major Findings of the
Demographics of Respondents
 55.5% institutions offer only graduate programs in BVI
 46.6% of university level braille courses are taught by
  adjunct instructors or graduate faculty
 39.9% have tenure or are in tenure-track positions
 43 instructors have:
    known braille for a mean of 26.4 years
    taught a total of 5,356 students during the past 25 years
    69.0% received their braille training as part of a university
     graduate program
    65.1% hold no certification unique to braille (as distinguished from
     certification as a teacher of students who are blind/visually
     impaired
                                                                       15
Results in a nutshell
Widespread diversity and lack of consistency
 within university level braille courses in
 terms of:
  format of instruction
  content and instructional materials
  expected student outcomes
  standards and criteria for competence in braille
   literacy
                                                  16
Research Question 1: What is the format of instruction
offered in braille as a method of written communication in
university level teacher preparation programs in BVI?
 75.6% incorporate the term “Braille” as part of their course title
 31.1% offer only one semester of braille, the other programs offer
    either 2 or 3 semesters of braille.
   93.0% have freedom and latitude to create their own syllabus within a
    general framework
   48.9% programs (primarily graduate programs) follow a “traditional”
    university semester of meeting once a week for approximately 15
    weeks
   75.6% meet for a time period between 1-3 hours per class session
   46.7% use distance learning as an integral part of their braille course
   68.9% report average class size range is 6-15 students



                                                                          17
Research Question 2: What topics and instructional materials
are included in the university level braille course syllabus?

 20.0% of programs do not include instruction in the Nemeth Code for
  Mathematics and Science Notation in their teacher preparation
  programs
 48.9% of class time spent in direct instruction
 37.8% of class time spent in combination with
     direct instruction, drill & practice, use of instructional videos, web-based
      research, braille games, quizzes, exams, and student presentation of
      lessons
 Texts used:
     48.9% use Instructional Manual for Braille Transcribing,
      3rd.edition
     42.2% use New Programmed Instruction in Braille
     42.2% use Learning the Nemeth Braille Code
     53.3% use Instructional Strategies for Braille Literacy (non-code)
                                                                                 18
Research Question 3: What are the expected student
outcomes in terms of the acquisition and demonstration of
braille-related skills and knowledge for these courses?
 All require demonstration of braille transcription by use of a
    braillewriter
   All require translation of braille into print
   93.3% read braille visually
   82.9% transcribe braille by using a slate & stylus
   77.8% transcribe mathematics by using the Nemeth Code
   73.4% instruction in braille reading methods
   15.6%-62.2% other skills and knowledge: teacher made materials,
    creation of lesson plans, presentation of sample lessons, evaluation of
    curricula, access technology, observation of braille user, observation of
    master braille teacher, identification of resources
   38.6% expect less than 5 hours/week out-of-class study
   45.5% expect between 6-15 hours/week out-of-class study
                                                                           19
Research Question 4: What are the standards and criteria for
competence in the braille code as employed by university
level teacher preparation programs?
 59.1% count total number of errors per assignment (which may vary in length
    and/or complexity)
   40.9% provide the option for the student to redo/resubmit an assignment that is
    not passing
   38.6% require the student to redo/resubmit an assignment that is not passing
   56.8% allow students to use “open books/open notes” when taking exams
   38.6% permit use of a standard dictionary, but allow no braille code reference
    materials during exams
   40.0% minimum grade for competence is B range
   42.2% minimum grade for competence is C range
   72.7% will receive grade of “incomplete” if not competent at end of course
   56.8% will be required to repeat the course
   38.6% will receive grade of “F”


                                                                                 20
Research Question 4 continued:


 75.0% of instructors indicated that their students
  were required to pass a teacher-made braille
  competency test in order to receive a passing
  grade for the course.

 52.3% indicated that their students were required
  to pass a comprehensive exam at the end of their
  educational program, in which braille was
  included
                                                       21
Research Question 5: What opinions do teachers of university
braille courses hold about key issues in braille literacy?

Entry Level* Competence in Braille Skills
 57.8% transcribe, read, and proofread literary braille by
  braillewriter and slate & stylus

 40.0% transcribe math into Nemeth code, proficiency in
  music code, foreign language code, rules of formatting,
  braille access technology, curricula, instructional strategies
  and teaching practice

* Entry level into the field

                                                              22
Research Question 5: What opinions do teachers of university
level braille courses hold about key issues in braille literacy?

Graduate Competence in the Literary Code, Nemeth Code,
  and in Teaching Braille
 48.9% rate students as definitely capable of handling
  almost any literary braille code transcription independently

 22.2% rate students as definitely capable of handling
  almost any Nemeth code transcription independently

 57.8% rate students as definitely capable of handling
  almost any braille related teaching situation independently
                                                              23
Research Question 5: What opinions do teachers of university
braille courses hold about key issues in braille literacy?

Requirement for Refresher or In-Service Braille Training
 97.9% indicated that refresher courses or in-service courses should be
  required, either at regular intervals, or when the teacher feels it is
  necessary to refresh one’s skills
 40.5% believe it is the responsibility of teacher preparation programs
  to provide refresher courses or in-service braille training

Comments about Teacher Competence in Braille
 73.8% believe that competence at time of graduation is a function of
  continuing braille practice
 28.6% believe there is a need for further professional development, the
  opportunity to practice skills, and the availability of braille refresher
  courses and in-service training

                                                                         24
Research Question 5: What opinions do teachers of university
level braille courses hold about key issues in braille training?

Significant Factors in the Development of Braille
  Skills
 26.2% attitude and motivation


 37.7% multiple factors: attitude & motivation, number of
  hours spent in practice and drill, the instructor, previous
  experience with braille, natural talent




                                                                25
Research Question 5: What opinions do teachers of university
level braille courses hold about key issues in braille training?

A Decline Or A Resurgence Of Braille Literacy For People Who Are
   Blind?
 54.8% believe there is a resurgence due to state and federal legislation,
   required learning media assessments, states putting more money in to
   train teachers, computer production, refreshable braille displays,
   refresher courses and conferences, new textbooks, the quest for higher
   standards and accountability, and more positive attitudes towards
   braille

 11.9% believe there is a decline due to large student caseloads, age of
   onset of visual impairment, inability to find quality higher level braille
   textbooks - especially in math and science, the amount of auditory
   material presently available, and lack of national standards

                                                                            26
Research Question 5: What opinions do teachers of university
level braille courses hold about key issues in braille training?

Comments About University Level Braille Training
  Standards
 31.0% standards are not high enough to produce competent
  teachers
 23.8% students are amazingly competent for their short
  exposure to braille
 11.9% we need to teach students how to teach braille;
  knowing the code is not enough
 9.5% we need to establish national standards for braille
  training

                                                              27
Limitations of the Study
 Inclusion of all established programs in blindness
  & visual impairment
 Personal bias of participants
 Self-reported data
 Anonymity
 Exit skills of new teachers trained under different
  models of personnel preparation


                                                        28
Implications for Personnel Preparation
 Recommendation that programs provide 2 semesters of braille
 Inclusion of Nemeth code to enable teachers to transcribe higher level
    math and science
   Program model which provides time for assimilation and practice of
    newly learned skills
   Need for further research regarding effectiveness of distance learning
    for braille instruction
   Commitment to provide ongoing inservice and refresher courses in
    braille
   Use of a psychometrically stable instrument in terms of content and
    construct validity with established reliability as a valid assessment of
    entry level braille skills prior to awarding a degree or teaching license
   Establishment of a high minimum national standard for competence in
    braille literacy
                                                                            29
Implications for Future Research
 Need for documentation of skills of those who will
  teach children
 Need for reevaluation, standardization and field
  testing of university curricula in terms of content
  and criteria
 Exploration of use of distance learning as an
  effective means of service presentation for braille
  courses

                                                        30
For further information...

            Sheila Amato, Ed.D.
                     72 Aster St.
     Massapequa Park, NY 11762
          (516) 541-2296 (home)
                                    31
          brltrans@optonline.net

				
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