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Professional Standards and Guidelines for Interpreters in Educational Settings

by Kristen Guynes, Deborah Cates & Angie O’Blenness

Poster Session

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Despite the fact that many public schools are unprepared to meet the specialized educational needs of students who are Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH), recent trends towards inclusive education have resulted in most DHH students being mainstreamed to some extent, with decreasing support provided by certified teachers of DHH students (Antia, Stinson, & Gaustad, 2002; Benedict, Johnson, & Antia, 2011). Meanwhile, sign language interpreters in educational settings are assuming a wider range of service provision.  While the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows for a comprehensive level of service provision for which the educational interpreter is deemed qualified, educational interpreters have long been the only legally-designated Related Service Providers (RSPs) unregulated by standardized expectations in their preparation, training, and credentials.

Decades of research have indicated a continued state of confusion among stakeholders regarding what appropriate and quality educational interpreting actually entails. Continued research, alongside the development of guidelines and supportive tools, have consistently been acknowledged as essential first steps in addressing the concerns of interpreted education (Antia & Kreimeyer, 2001; Dahl & Wilcox, 1990; Hayes, 1991; Johnson, Taylor, Schick, Brown, & Bolster, 2018; Jones, Clark, & Soltz, 1997; Langer, 2004; Patrie & Taylor, 2008; Smith, 2016; Schick, 2007; Stuckless, 1989). The Professional Standards and Guidelines for Interpreting in Educational Settings respond to these longstanding calls in the field.

The development of the Guidelines in their current form officially commenced in 2015 when a first draft was begun by the National Association of Interpreters in Education (NAIE) Steering Committee.  However, its inception began long before, with an official discussion of the need for national standards occurring among the 1989 Educational Interpreting Task Force, which was followed by an official review of thirteen state-level handbooks for educational interpreters.  More recently, a four-year investigation into the patterns of practice in educational interpreting was hosted at the University of Northern Colorado, sponsored by funds from an Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) grant.  Results confirmed a continued state of confusion regarding expectations and that interpreters in educational settings are often still largely underqualified for the positions they fulfill.  Although decades apart, each of these projects served as springboards to the recent finalization of the Guidelines as put forth by the National Association of Interpreters in Education (NAIE), with several layers of feedback having been collected and revisions made to ensure validity in the representation of current best practices.

While the Professional Standards and Guidelines for Interpreting in Educational Settings are relevant to a myriad of stakeholders in the education of DHH children, interpreter educators have the potential to fulfill a distinctive role towards this paradigm shift in the field of education.  This poster presentation has been designed to outline the history of the Guidelines’ development, as well as to highlight key content and rationale. Printed copies of the Guidelines will be available at no cost, and interested attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions to the presenters, who are Board Members of the NAIE, one of whom was a co-author.


Antia, S. D., & Kreimeyer, K. H. (2001). The role of interpreters in inclusive classrooms. American Annals of the Deaf, 146(4), 355-365.

Benedict, K. M., Johnson, H., & Antia, S. D. (2011). Faculty Needs, Doctoral Preparation, and the Future of Teacher Preparation Programs in the Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students. American Annals of the Deaf, 156(1), 35-46. doi:10.1353/aad.2011.0012

Antia, S. D., Reed, S., & Kreimeyer, K. H. (2005). Written language of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in public schools. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 10(3), 244-255.

Dahl, C., & Wilcox, S. (1990). Preparing the educational interpreter: A survey of sign language interpreter training programs. American Annals of the Deaf, 135(4), 275-279.

Hayes, P. (1991). Educational interpreters for deaf students: Their responsibilities, problems, and concerns (Doctoral dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 1991). Ann Arbor, MI: Proquest.

Johnson, L. J., Taylor, M. M., Schick, B., Brown, S., & Bolster, L. (2018). Complexities in educational interpreting: An investigation into patterns of practice. Edmonton, Alberta: Interpreting Consolidated.

Jones, B. E., Clark, G. M., & Soltz, D. F. (1997). Characteristics and practices of sign language interpreters in inclusive education programs. Exceptional Children, 63(2), 257-268.

Langer, E. C. (2004). Perspectives on educational interpreting from educational anthropology and an internet discussion group. In E. A. Winston (Ed.), Educational interpreting: How it can succeed (pp. 91-112). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.

Patrie, C., & Taylor, M. (2008). Outcomes for graduates of baccalaureate interpreter preparation programs specializing in interpreting in K-12th grade settings. Rochester, NY: RIT Digital Library Printing.

Schick, B. D. (2007, August 1). EIPA Guidelines of Professional Conduct for Educational Interpreters. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from: http://www.classroominterpreting.org/Interpreters/proguidelines/ EIPA_guidelines.pdf

Smith, Kristen R. “Towards the Validation of the Educational Interpreter Roles and Responsibilities Guiding Checklist.” Texas Tech University, May 2016, ttu-ir.tdl.org/ttu-ir/handle/2346/67143.

Stuckless, E. R. (1989). Educational Interpreting for Deaf Students: Report of the National Task Force on Educational Interpreting.

Participants will be able to:

  • identify the historical concerns in the field of educational interpreting.
  • articulate the rationale for Standards and Guidelines related to educational interpreting.
  • summarize key content areas addressed in both the Standards and Guidelines.

A white woman with light brown shoulder-length hair smiles at the camera in front of light tan backgroundDr. Kristen Guynes is a full-time instructor in the School of Communication Science and Disorders at Florida State University, where she is passionate about introducing aspiring speech language pathologists and audiologists to the cultural perspective of Deafness. She began her professional career as an educational interpreter while obtaining her graduate degrees in Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) education. She taught DHH students from pre-kindergarten to adult education for eight years, during the last five of which she also served as the DHH program coordinator. Her primary research focus is related to roles and responsibilities of educational interpreters, and she advocates for a paradigm shift in which they are considered fully contributing educational team members. She is currently serving as the Publications Director for the National Association of Interpreters in Education (NAIE).

A white woman with long red hair wearing green rimmed glasses and a brown shirt stands on the Gallaudet campusDr. Deborah (Deb) Cates is the Sign Language Program Coordinator at the Iowa School for the Deaf. She oversees staff sign language development, the administration of the SLPI program, and educational interpreter professional development. Deb has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of California, Davis. Her research interests include the relationship between form and meaning in signed languages, bilingual education, and the cognitive demands of simultaneous interpreting. She actively develops research-based practices for interpreter skill development. Deb also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Deaf Studies with an Interpreting Emphasis from California State University, Northridge. She has been in the field of educational interpreting since 2003 and holds an Iowa interpreting license with her EIPA (Level 4.7 PSE/ASL) and a Nebraska interpreting license with her QAST Level V in Interpreting. She is currently serving as the Secretary for the National Association of Interpreters in Education (NAIE).

A white woman with reddish-brown hair down to shoulders wearing a black sweater looks directly at the cameraMs. Angie O’Bleness, MA; Ed:K-12 is an Interpreter and Interpreter Trainer in the Pacific Northwest. She is a recent full-time faculty at Spokane Falls Community College and an adjunct instructor at the University of Northern Colorado. She serves as a mentor for educational interpreters working toward EIPA assessment standards. She has over 30 years of interpreting experience and works in a variety of settings including VRS, performance interpreting and training. Angie earned a BA in ASL-English studies from the University of Northern Colorado’s DOIT program and a MA in Teaching Interpreting Studies through Western Oregon University where she researched self-efficacy beliefs of interpreters in education. She is currently serving as the Membership Director for the National Association of Interpreters in Education (NAIE).