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Collaborative evaluation: Benchmarking growth and opportunities within Gallaudet’s undergraduate Field Experience program

by Margie English


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The undergraduate program at Gallaudet University is unique in one significant way: the program is situated within an ASL-English bilingual liberal arts university. The undergraduate student interpreters begin their immersion in American Sign Language (ASL) from their first day on campus. Some students arrive as a freshly minted freshman, and others transfer their credits to enter as a junior from a community college program. The Bachelor of Arts in Interpretation (BAI) program approaches this challenge with a two-pronged strategy: provide a discourse-based curriculum design and facilitate situated learning experiences (Shaw et al, 2006). The goal is to provide the students with opportunities to connect theory with practice through their courses, mentorship, and a situated learning experience in an internship. This careful approach to providing student interpreters with hands-on experience is a result of the department’s desire to produce prepared novice interpreters for the benefit of the Deaf community.

My work with the internship program within the BAI’s Field Experience program provided me with an opportunity to explore program evaluation in a social constructivist manner. The purpose of this evaluation was to identify the competencies of a BAI student who is ready for an internship experience, and to distinguish that from a BAI student who is not ready. This knowledge will help formulate further evaluations to track the development of those characteristics. The findings from this evaluation can be addressed at the programmatic level that addresses the needs of the students before they begin an internship. This involved development of a program theory, with a clear identification of the theory of change, the focus of the evaluation, and the development of the evaluation using feedback from program stakeholders. This was developed with the Field Experience team as well as with the BAI program coordinator. This is a report of this experience, with a focus on the collective work on this evaluation process and the team’s experience as a result. As the evaluator, this report benchmarks our team’s collective contribution to and the sharing of our experience to build a collective knowledge to aid in further enhancements to the BAI program.

This presentation will focus on the process taken by the Field Experience team in the development and the design of this evaluation and make the case for the value of a collaborative approach to program evaluation. An argument will be made on the need for a distinct connection to be made between the program and its stakeholders, and how it reflects the opportunities that exist within the interpreting field for collaboration with the members of the Deaf community. With the reporting of this experience, my hope is that this experience will translate into a commitment to further collaboration between program stakeholders about the dynamics of the Field Experience program during and after data collection. The workshop will close with ideas that are being considered by our Field Experience on how to further engage stakeholders in sharing knowledge and resources during program evaluations for replication at other educational programs that incorporate situated learning.

Participants will:

  • Note the nature of collaboration of Gallaudet’s Field Experience faculty in formulating a program theory for its internship program.
  • Consider the value of the social-constructivist process involved in developing the program evaluation methodology and data collection.
  • Assess the relationship between the evaluation purpose with the interpretation of the qualitative data, and the interpretation of the findings.

A white woman with grey shoulder length, wavy hair wearing grey sweater and pink blouse smiles at the cameraMargie English is studying for her doctorate in Interpretation and Translation at Gallaudet University. While also working as an internship coordinator for Gallaudet’s Field Experience program, Margie collaborated with faculty within this program to enable a social constructivist approach to evaluation. As a practitioner, she interprets primarily in the educational and legal settings, with 100+ hours of legal interpreting training. Over the years she has engaged in technical projects including training curriculum overhauls, ASL-English translations, and program development.