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Released Februrary 17, 2004

By Angela Cutrer

HATTIESBURG -- Dr. John Muma and Dr. Henry Teller, professors in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at The University of Southern Mississippi, have produced a book they hope will help change teaching techniques in deaf education.

Proactive Deaf Education: Cognitive Socialization proposes to "change the clinical field on a number of issues that deal with language," Muma said. "The Cognitive Socialization Approach is relatively new in the last decade. This book helps make some major changes in deaf education and has been well-received. The book challenges some of the traditional views held about language and cognitive development."

The publication relates issues about teaching the "pregrammatical" child and the "grammatical" child. "There is not a distinction in the field; professionals have been relying on test scores and we point out recognition of a child's range of skill and repertoire are important," Muma said, who has been teaching in the field for the last 30 years, six at Southern Miss. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in speech pathology from Central Michigan University and a Ph.D. from Penn State University. A fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, he has been recognized by the ASHA President's Council with the Award of Excellence for developing the Cognitive Socialization Approach.

"Another traditional view is that educators tend to think in terms of grade or age level," he said. "We point out, again, that the child's repertoire and acquisition of sequences and active loci of learning (are vital). We can assess a child and be more precise in what he's learning at a given time, so our views on assessment are changing. Assessment and therapy are spontaneous with the new approach because spontaneous speech and actual social interaction rather than drill or instruction are more beneficial to the students. The benefit of the new approach is that children will go home and do well - it will carry over. Before, they forgot it before they got home."

The new book is a companion to Muma's 1998 publication, Effective Speech-Language Pathology: A Cognitive Socialization Approach, a book that many consider especially important for the field of speech-language pathology because it is the only book in the field that received laudatory comments from three of the most important scholars in language acquisition: Roger Brown of Harvard University; Jerome Bruner of Harvard University, Oxford University, and New York University; and Katherine Nelson of New York University. That book identified nearly 40 major substantive issues that need to be addressed toward upgrading the field, especially in Mississippi.

Teller has taken this research into his classroom. "What we've taken are some of Dr. Muma's ideas and applied them to deaf education," he said. "The old instructional model is now replaced by active learning where students can discover and create their own knowledge. In this constructivist model, students develop their own concepts and ideas and apply them."

Teller explained the "three C's of learning" - the concepts of active learning:

" Collaboration: Children learn better when they work together to form and use their own ideas. "Such learning is much more successful," Teller said.

" Content: Is what we teach purposeful? Teller asked. "It makes you look at what's being taught in the classrooms," he added.

" Choice: Structured situations where students have options to get the same information. "It's the concept of active learning," Teller said.

"We've taken all these concepts - the cognitive social model and constructionism- and applied them to deaf education," he added, "and that's what makes this book unique."

Teller's deaf education students spend one day a week in the field, which includes a 100-mile radius of Hattiesburg. "We're now using the book in my teaching methodology class. The students apply these concepts rather than the old-school type of instruction that relied mainly on memorization. We have 23 students in the field in Jackson, Mobile, the Coast, and in Southeast Louisiana," he said. "This (teaching style) is new to a lot of teachers (they work with); some are old-school (who rely on the) instructivistic learning. But once they do try (this style teaching), they embrace it."

Teller, who earned a bachelor's degree at the University of West Alabama, a master's degree from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and an Ed.D. from the University of Alabama, said he has changed his teaching through his research for this book.

"I used to lecture, but now I give more collaborative assignments," he said. "You want to cover the main concepts, but you can give them options on how they want to pursue it."

"The lecture (transmission) model is not always the best way. It's easier to lecture, but 90 percent of what you hear is forgotten a few days later."


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM