Grant to Improve Problem-Solving Skills for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing
MAY 1, 2012
By Michelle Cometa, RIT University News Services
* Students will participate in hands-on activities in the Toyota
Production Systems Laboratory at RIT.
* The modules will be part of foundation-level engineering courses
required for students pursuing engineering and technical degrees at
* The study will continue for three years with assessment by the Center
for Education Research Partnerships at NTID.
Researchers have found that differences in the way deaf and
hard-of-hearing students learn are multifaceted: from the development
and mastery of early language skills in both American Sign Language and
spoken languages, to the organization of knowledge and individual
Further understanding of these unique differences and providing
solutions to improve learning outcomes, particularly in science,
technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM fields, is the focus
of new research at Rochester Institute of Technology.
The university has received a $198,172 grant from the National Science
Foundation for “Integration of Experiential Learning to Develop Problem
Solving Skills in Deaf and Hard of Hearing STEM Students.”
A multidisciplinary research team will develop a series of classroom
and laboratory modules that rely on experiential learning and
structured, visual problem-solving approaches. This will immerse
students into a context-rich, industry-like environment with hands-on
activities in the Toyota Production Systems Laboratory, located in
RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering, says Andres Carrano,
associate professor of industrial and systems engineering and principal
investigator of the grant. He is joined on the research team by Wendy
Dannels, lecturer in engineering studies at RIT’s National Technical
Institute for the Deaf, and Matt Marshall, associate professor of
industrial and systems engineering.
“The project represents a critical step in translating knowledge of
deaf education into effective pedagogy,” Carrano says. “Using
experiential learning and a structured, graphical problem-solving
methodology, the modules address the barriers that deaf and
hard-of-hearing students face in developing problem-solving skills.”
The modules will be part of foundation-level engineering courses
required for students pursuing engineering and technology degree
programs at NTID. Despite an understanding of how deaf and
hard-of-hearing students differ from hearing students in the
development and application of problem-solving skills, progress lags in
the development of effective pedagogy for educating deaf and
hard-of-hearing students in the STEM fields, Carrano says.
Critical to the development of problem-solving is the fact that deaf
and hard-of-hearing students typically bring less content knowledge to
the classroom and often fail to comprehend how variables in a complex
system are interrelated.
The team will develop the modules this summer, implement the material
over a three-year period and assess learning outcomes by the Center for
Education Research Partnerships, a center specializing in deaf and
hear-of-hearing education based at NTID. Particular emphasis is placed
on the concepts of teamwork, problem solving and process improvement by
studying the fundamental behavior of production lines.