Paradigm Shifts, Difficult Truths, and an Increasing Knowledge Base in Deaf Education

Patricia Elizabeth Spencer and Marc Marschark

in The Oxford Handbook of Deaf Studies, Language, and Education, Vol. 2

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780195390032
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Paradigm Shifts, Difficult Truths, and an Increasing Knowledge Base in Deaf Education

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  • Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology



Three major paradigm shifts or advances in knowledge have occurred in education and services for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons over the 20th and early 21st centuries: (1) sign languages have been recognized as complete and viable natural languages, leading to more appreciation for use in educational settings, as well as among deaf people; (2) technological advances, including more sophisticated hearing aids and cochlear implants, have increased access to sound and to spoken language; and (3) the identification of hearing loss in infancy and accompanying early intervention services have raised the rate and level of children’s developmental progress. Despite advances, significant problems remain to be addressed. These include a lack of information about the development and needs of hard-of-hearing persons—despite the fact that they compose the largest proportion of the population with hearing loss, and with persons using cochlear implants functionally increasing that proportion. In addition, persons with multiple disabilities and those living in nonindustrialized countries have been insufficiently studied, and appear not to be benefitting from the aforementioned advances. Information is also lacking on causes of and effective responses to specific cognitive profiles identified for students with hearing loss, on effects of specific educational intervention approaches, and on patterns of social-emotional development and their interaction with other developmental areas. Increased focus is needed on the development and evaluation of interventions designed to assure that the advances made are shared across the population and impact varied aspects of development and achievement.

Keywords: deaf; hard-of-hearing; advances; knowledge base; research needs

Article.  3920 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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