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IES Grant

Title: Exploring the Knowledge, Skills, and Strategies Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments Need to Effectively Teach Braille Reading and Writing
Center: NCSER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Fischer-Baum, Simon Awardee: Rice University
Program: Reading, Writing, and Language Development      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (09/01/2019-08/31/2023) Award Amount: $1,400,000
Type: Exploration Award Number: R324A190093
Description:

Co-Principal Investigator(s): Englebretson, Robert; Holbrook, Cay

Purpose: The primary purpose of this study is to explore factors related to the teaching of braille among teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) and how they relate to students' learning of and proficiency in braille. Braille is the primary means of literacy for children and youth who are blind. It affords these learners the ability to read and write independently and at their own pace and to access computers and mobile devices. However, students who are blind typically demonstrate lower literacy rates than their peers without visual impairments. As such, early and effective braille instruction is critical to promote proficiency in school and after. TVIs are typically the primary link to braille literacy for learners who are blind, yet there has been limited research on factors that underly TVIs' teaching of braille, including their experience with and beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions about braille. For instance, the degree to which TVIs conceptualize braille as a code versus a writing system may play an important role in how they teach braille and how students learn it. Following a code-based perspective, braille would be taught as a means of accessing print (and involves an extra step of decoding braille into the print letters they represent); whereas, a writing-system perspective teaches braille as literacy (which means that meaning is accessed directly from braille). The current project aims to explore several factors related to TVIs' teaching of braille, including their experience with and attitudes and beliefs about braille, their self-efficacy for teaching braille, and their assumptions about whether braille is a code versus a writing system. They will also explore how TVIs' assumptions and skills regarding braille relate to those of their students as well as those of adults who are proficient in braille.

Project Activities: The research team will conduct a series of studies to examine factors related to TVIs' teaching of braille and subsequent student outcomes regarding braille learning and proficiency. In the first study, the researchers will administer a survey to TVIs to assess their experience with and attitudes and beliefs about braille, their self-efficacy for teaching braille, and their assumptions about whether braille is a code versus a writing system. They will use this data to explore how TVIs' experience, attitudes, beliefs, and self-efficacy are related to their assumptions. In the second study, they will collect extant data on students who participate in a braille contest to determine how students' conceptions of braille as a code or writing system relate to their own proficiency. They will also collect the same data for a subset of TVIs who attend the contest with their students to explore the relationship between TVIs' assumptions and skills regarding braille and their students' assumptions and skills. In the third study, a subset of TVIs will complete measures to assess their reading comprehension in braille. This will be compared to the reading comprehension of adults who are proficient in braille and complete the same measures. In the fourth and final study, researchers will conduct finger and eye tracking studies among TVIs and adult braille readers in order to compare how they process braille (as a code or writing system) and determine whether there are differences in how individuals who are natural print versus braille readers process braille.

Products: The products of this project will include data on factors related to the teaching of braille, including TVIs' experience, beliefs, self-efficacy, attitudes, and assumptions about braille and how their assumptions and skills related to braille relate to those of their students who are blind as well as other adults who are proficient in braille. The project will result in peer-reviewed publications and presentations as well as additional dissemination products that reach education stakeholders such as practitioners and policymakers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Primary data will be collected from TVIs and adults who are proficient in braille across the U.S. and Canada. Secondary data will be obtained on students who participated in the Braille Challenge, an annual contest led by the Braille Institute for students who are blind to demonstrate their study of braille. Data will be collected on students who participated in the past five years and those who participate in the first three years during the project.

Sample: Participants will include approximately 200 credentialed TVIs who have taught at least one braille-reading student during the previous two years as well as 50 adults who are proficient braille readers. Participants will also include approximately 1,800 students who are blind in each of the following grade-level groups: (1) grades 1-2, (2) grades 3-4, (3) grades 5-6, (4) grades 7-9, and (5) grades 10-12.

Malleable Factors: The factors under investigation are TVIs' experience, attitude, self-efficacy, and beliefs about braille as well as their assumptions about whether braille is a code versus a writing system.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will conduct a series of studies to explore factors related to TVIs' teaching of braille and subsequent student outcomes regarding braille learning and proficiency. In the first study, the researchers will administer an online survey to assess TVIs' beliefs and attitudes about braille, self-efficacy for teaching braille, and their code- or writing system-based assumptions from 200 TVIs. TVIs will be recruited through a variety of means, including from the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, attendees at the Getting in Touch with Literacy conference, and teachers who travel with their students to the Braille Challenge contest. Survey data will be used to explore connections between teachers' beliefs, attitudes, and self-efficacy and their assumptions regarding braille. Survey data will also be used to link teacher assumptions to student outcomes for a subset of approximately 50 TVIs who attend the contest with their students. In the second study, researchers will use extant data on students' assumptions about braille and literacy skills from the Braille Challenge to investigate whether students' assumptions impact their braille skills and how their assumptions and skills relate to those of their TVIs. In the third study, the braille reading and writing skills of TVIs will be compared to highly-proficient adults. The researchers will recruit 50 TVIs from the 200 who completed the survey and 50 proficient adult braille readers from attendees at the summer convention of the American Council of the Blind. Participants will read passages in braille, their reading rate will be measured, and they will complete a measure of reading comprehension. In the fourth study, researchers will collect eye-tracking and finger-tracking data from 50 TVIs and 25 adults who are proficient with braille (a subset of the participants in the third study) while they read a passage in braille. Specifically, they will collect eye-tracking data for TVIs who read braille by sight and compare this to finger-tracking data for braille-reading adults and eye-tracking data for TVIs who read print. Data from each study will be analyzed throughout the project. The results are intended to inform the development of in-service and pre-service programs for TVIs to improve the teaching of braille and ultimately the outcomes of students who are blind.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: A researcher-developed, previously validated online survey instrument will be used to collect data on TVIs' experience with braille reading, writing, and teaching; beliefs and attitudes about braille; self-efficacy for teaching braille; and their code-based or writing system-based assumptions about braille. Extant data from the Braille Institute will be used to assess students' assumptions about braille and their braille reading and writing outcomes. Specifically, spelling, speed and accuracy, and proofreading will be used to determine whether students approach braille as a code or writing system and reading comprehension will be used to assess literacy skills. A subset of TVIs who attend the challenge with their students will also complete tasks to assess their spelling, speed and accuracy, proofreading, and reading comprehension. An additional subset of TVIs and adults who are proficient in braille will read passages in braille to assess their reading rate and comprehension. In addition, eye-tracking and finger-tracking data will be collected from TVIs and adults who are proficient in braille as they read passages of text in braille on a computer screen for visual readers or in embossed hardcopy for braille readers.

Data Analytic Strategy: Regression analyses will be used to analyze the survey data from the first study. Data from the second study will be analyzed using mixed-effects modeling and analyses will be conducted separately for each of the grade-level groups. Analyses of variance will be used to analyze data from the third study, to determine whether TVIs skills and assumptions about braille differ from adults who are proficient in braille. For the fourth study, mixed-effects modeling will be carried out separately for the finger-tracking and eye-tracking data to compare how TVIs and adult braille readers process words.


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