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Ask A REL Response

February 2017


What research has been conducted on reading programs for English language learners who have hearing impairments?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on teacher professional development. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed the effects of professional development on teacher performance and student outcomes in K-12 education. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Cannon, J. E., Fredrick, L. D., & Easterbrooks, S. R. (2010). Vocabulary instruction through books read in American sign language for English-language learners with hearing loss. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 31(2). 98-112.
    From the abstract: "Reading to children improves vocabulary acquisition through incidental exposure, and it is a best practice for parents and teachers of children who can hear. Children who are deaf or hard of hearing are at risk for not learning vocabulary as such. This article describes a procedure for using books read on DVD in American Sign Language with English-language learners who are deaf or hard of hearing. This research examined the effectiveness of DVDs as a tool to increase a student's production of the printed word in American Sign Language. The researchers used expository books with math vocabulary in a multiple-baseline design (ABC) across three sets of five vocabulary words. Four participants aged 10 to 12 with severe to profound hearing loss engaged in vocabulary activities using the DVD math expository books read through American Sign Language. DVDs alone were less effective for increasing vocabulary than when accompanied with preteaching of the target vocabulary words. (Contains 3 tables and 4 figures.)"
  2. Cannon, J. E. & Guardino, C. (2012). Literacy strategies for deaf/hard-of-hearing English language learners: Where do we begin? Deafness and Education International, 14(2), 78-99.
    From the abstract: "The Gallaudet Research Institute confirms a 22.5 per cent increase from 2.7 per cent (2000) to 25.2 per cent (2011) in deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students whose parents use a language "other" than English or American sign language (ASL) at home. These DHH students who are also English language learners (ELLs) struggle to learn English, perhaps their native home language, and quite possibly a third language, ASL. In order to understand how to meet the needs of this growing population, a synthesis of evidence-based and best-practice research over the last 10 years is presented. Strategies for ELL students who have disabilities and DHH ELLs are reviewed. The criteria for inclusion of the studies were based on the US federal research standards. These studies were then categorized based on the components of an effective literacy programme. Recommendations of literacy strategies that practitioners and researchers can begin investigating to document evidence-based practices for this unique and often neglected population are presented. (Contains 1 figure, 2 tables, and 1 footnote.)"
  3. Guardino, C., Cannon, J. E., & Eberst, K. (2014). Building the evidence-base of effective reading strategies to use with deaf English-language learners. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 35(2), 59-73.
    From the abstract: "Nearly 25% of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) students come from homes where a language other than English is used and are known as English-Language Learners (ELLs). Evidence-based practices used to teach students who are DHH ELLs are imperative. To build an evidence-base, successful strategies must be examined across multiple researchers, sites, and participants. This research is a replication of an effective reading strategy; teaching vocabulary using repeated preteaching sessions paired with viewing American Sign Language books on DVD. Five participants with severe to profound hearing loss participated in this multiple-baseline design (ABC) across three sets of five vocabulary words study. Results indicated that after three sessions of preteaching and viewing the DVD, the majority of participants signed correctly 90% to 100% of the targeted vocabulary. Maintenance data were collected 1 to 5 weeks following the intervention. Implications for practitioners and researchers are discussed."
  4. Hermans, D., Knoors, H., Ormel, E. Verhoeven, L. (2008). Modeling reading vocabulary learning in deaf children in bilingual education programs. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 13(2). 155-174.
    From the abstract: "The acquisition of reading vocabulary is one of the major challenges for deaf children in bilingual education programs. Deaf children have to acquire a written lexicon that can effectively be used in reading. In this paper, we present a developmental model that describes reading vocabulary acquisition of deaf children in bilingual education programs. The model is inspired by Jiang's model of vocabulary development in a second language (N. Jiang, 2000, 2004a) and the hierarchical model of lexical representation and processing in bilinguals (J. F. Kroll & E. Stewart, 1988). We argue that lexical development in the written language often fossilizes and that many words deaf readers acquire will not reach the final stage of lexical development. We argue that this feature is consistent with many findings reported in the literature. Finally, we discuss the pedagogical implications of the model."
  5. Trezek, B. J., Malmgren, K. W. The efficacy of utilizing a phonics treatment package with middle school deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 10(3), 256-271.
    From the abstract: "Research indicates that the acquisition of phonemic awareness and phonic skills is highly correlated with later success in learning to read. Numerous studies support the hypothesis that deaf and hard-of-hearing children are able to utilize alternative systems to develop phonological awareness that are not dependent on the ability to hear sounds or accurately pronounce words. A quasi-experimental, pre- and posttest design was employed in this study that evaluated the efficacy of implementing a phonics treatment package with middle-school-aged students. Results indicate that treatment students were able to demonstrate acquisition and generalization of the phonic skills taught. Additionally, acquisition of these skills did not appear to be related to degree of hearing loss."

Additional Organizations to Consult

Council on Education of the Deaf (CED):
From the website: "The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center) is dedicated to supporting state education leaders in their efforts to grow, respect, and From the website: "The Council on Education of the Deaf (CED) is an organization sponsored by seven major national organizations dedicated to quality education for all deaf and hard of hearing students. CED promulgates nationally recognized standards for teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students in all educational settings, accredits university programs preparing teachers of deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and collaborates with a variety of other related organizations through several national committees and workgroups."

American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC):
From the website: "The American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC) is committed to empowering diverse families with deaf* children and youth by embracing full access to language-rich environments through mentoring, advocacy, resources, and collaborative networks. ASDC uses the term "deaf" to be inclusive of various hearing levels, including those who are seen as, or identify as Deaf, deaf, or hard of hearing."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • English learner students, hearing impairments, reading instruction
  • ELLs with disabilities English language learners, reading programs, hearing impaired students

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2001 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.