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Transforming Perspectives on Interpreting in K-12 Settings: Key Learnings from an Intervention Study

by Debra Russell, Amy Williamson & Jen Hayes

Interactive Workshop

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Interpreting in educational settings involves multiple demands that are complicated and challenging. To ensure the students have access to their education, interpreters facilitate interaction among teachers, deaf students, and their classmates. Additionally, interpreters must be adequately prepared to understand and interpret varied educational content.

This presentation will share the findings of a Canadian and US based intervention study with interpreters working with deaf students from kindergarten to high school. There has been limited research about the preparation strategies used by interpreters in classrooms working with children and youth. This study attempts to address that gap in the North American literature by exploring active and passive preparation strategies that interpreters report using. The study chose an intervention methodology where interpreters were exposed to information that may not have been included in their interpreter education program. Interpreters were then asked to apply that information to their daily work in the classroom and create reflective journals about the application and impact of the intervention information.

Interpreters from both countries were invited to participate in the multi-phase study which included completing an on-line survey, a sample of work, and accessing a self-paced webinar. The webinar focused on educational discourse, specifically what teachers do in both ASL and English direct instruction and provided strategies that interpreters could use to enhance their preparation for classroom interpreting, which is mediated instruction. After the webinar, the study interpreters applied the strategies to the classrooms in which they work and completed weekly reflective journals. Journal entries were focused on the impact of the strategies on their interpretation product, the ways in which the strategies contributed or detracted from greater deaf learner engagement, and the opportunities that emerged to forge closer teacher-interpreter relationships. The results revealed a range of preparation strategies that can support effective classroom interpreting.

This interactive presentation will engage participants in discussion and will conclude by making suggestions for improving approaches to preparation when interpreting in educational settings and sharing ten strategies that appear to lead to enhanced student engagement.

Participants will be able to:

  • describe the purpose of the intervention study and methods that were utilized to address the challenges interpreters face in a mediated classroom.
  • contrast the study findings with their own experiences in supporting interpreters in K-12 educational settings.
  • analyze the strategies presented to determine the application within their own practices as educators, mentors, or practitioners.

A white woman with short brown hair wearing a light brown and orange scarf and white sweater sits in a restaurant with people standing behind her smiling at the cameraDebra Russell is a Canadian certified interpreter, educator, and researcher. Her interpreting practice spans over thirty years and continues with a focus on medical, legal, and educational settings. She is the Honorary President of the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI). As the previous David Peikoff Chair of Deaf Studies at the University of Alberta, she has conducted research about interpreting in mediated education, legal settings, and Deaf-hearing teams. Debra is recognized internationally for pioneering efforts in the field of sign language interpretation. She is extensively published and her teaching has taken her to 63 countries. She is also a dedicated student of yoga, who loves to travel.

A white woman with shoulder length grey hair wearing a grey sweater and black blouse smiles at the camera.Amy Williamson, MA, CI, CT, SC:L, Ed: K-12. Amy holds a Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies with an emphasis in Pedagogy from Western Oregon University and is currently a Ph.D. student in Interpreting with an emphasis in Research at Gallaudet University. She is the Director of Academic Programs and Initiatives with Sorenson Communications. Amy has conducted research on interpreting in mediated education, legal settings, and interpreters who are native bilingual-bimodals (Codas). Amy and her husband, Bill, live in Montpelier, VT with Amy’s two sons, Otis and Ben, their Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Polly, and their incredibly mischievous cat, Loki. They also occasionally house their three adult children; Mika, Katie, and Billy who are continuing to find their place in the world.

A woman with reddish-purple hair swept off to one side wearing a black leather jacket sits at a table with her head on clasp hands looking at the cameraJen Hayes, MS, NIC, is an interpreter, educator, mentor, and novice researcher. Since earning her master’s degree in ASL/English Interpreting Pedagogy through the University of North Florida, she has been honing her ability to connect with interpreters in meaningful ways through curriculum development, teaching, and mentoring. She has over 15 years experience interpreting, primarily in post-secondary, medical, and professional settings. Jen developed a high interest in supporting interpreters who work in K-12 educational settings, while working as a research assistant on a project with Dr. Debra Russell and Amy Williamson. Her interest has intensified and lead to work as a facilitator with the TIPS program and the development of a statewide mentoring program for Wisconsin interpreters in education. If you find Jen during a rare free moment, you will find her enjoying time with her husband and four children, dabbling in photography, or decorating cakes.