In last decade, the hearing impaired students prefer sign language both in school and their daily lives in Turkey. Also, the tendency of the teachers and families of the hearing impaired students to learn Turkish sign language is increasing day by day. It is a fact that, training of TSL should start primarily at home as early as possible. It is stated in the researches of Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry (TOJQI) that training Turkish Sign Language interpreters, developing curriculum and training materials to be used are the urgent needs in Turkey. In this regard, sign language is highly important for a healthy communication with the hearing impaired individuals and for including them to the society. Early and natural acquisition of sign language is a privileged subject. So, at first the families and the families of the children’s peers should be trained about TSL. The biggest problem in this field is the lack of the teachers who know Turkish Sign Language and the bilingual education programs in which the Turkish Sign Language is used in the preschool education and primary education institutions. Family members and teachers have difficulty to reach adequate, comprehensive and practical resources to learn TSL. Not only families but also teachers need a training model that is prepared in accordance with certain standards to learn TSL, can practice as much as they want, and allows them to get education whenever and wherever they want.
It is a fact that besides Turkish Sign Language, families need trainings such as “the psychology of a hearing impaired student”, “approaches to hearing impaired children”, “how to use hearing aid or cochlear implant effectively and etc. This need of families will be provided by this project.
On the other hand, “Turkish Sign Language” is included in the special education teaching undergraduate programs as a 2 credit compulsory course in the 3rd term in the 2016-2017 academic year according to the current new regulation. In the work life of special education teachers two-hour course is not adequate for them to teach academic subjects to hearing impaired students. Therefore, the academic level of a hearing impaired student in the 4th grade is equal to the first grade level of a non-hearing-impaired student. Teachers could not close this gap because they are not capable of using TSL efficaciously; this is because there isn’t comprehensive education material on TSL for teachers.
Moreover, children who are able to hear at a certain level are trained with an inclusive education approach in normal schools. Therefore, the guidance teachers, classroom teachers and vocational teachers working in these schools should also know the sign language in a certain level. On the other hand, teachers who provide education to the hearing impaired individuals have to increase their educational qualifications with different approaches, methods and most importantly, a different motivation. The communication is affected negatively as a result of that most of the teachers who serve in schools for the deaf don’t know sign language in Ankara. A good education in multilanguage is only possible with the teachers who know at least two languages at an advanced level. Especially the branch teachers have lack of a solid sign language infrastructure for transferring field knowledge to the hearing impaired students. Also, it is a well-known fact that among the schools for the deaf in our country, there has not been an institution where the Turkish Sign Language (TSL) is taught deliberatively and this situation resulted in a decrease in the quality of the special education.
Our project’s general objective is to solve these problems mentioned above and so contribute to increase the quality of special education services for inclusive education through innovative and standardized teaching and assessment/evaluation tools. In long term, the new developed occupational standards of TSL training and Interpretership, the training content/ materials developed in line with these standards and e-learning platform (MOOC) which will facilitate the access to trainings will lead to an increase in the quality of special education.
As to the specific objective of our project, it is aimed to achieve equality in both public and private life for deaf people, our project has three main objectives: enhancing the indigenous sign language and determination of its standards; empowerment of families and teachers through online trainings which provides freedom of time and space, and contribute to the equality and quality in education. With this project, it is aimed to enhance the awareness, knowledge and competencies of teachers in particular special education teachers, guidance teachers, classroom teachers, vocational school teachers. Also awareness, knowledge and competencies of families of hearing-impaired students and families of their peers will be increased through innovative digital training tools and establishing effective assessment and evaluation mechanism for the online trainings. Therefore, our project will provide families and teachers an early and easy access to a standardized and qualified TSL course.
The key stakeholders of our project comprise families of hearing-impaired student and families of their peers. Some of the family members start to learn Turkish Sign Language (TSL) when their child started to go to school which is too late for the hearing-impaired child. Besides, teachers especially special education teachers, guidance teachers, classroom teachers, mainstream teachers) and staff of Guidance and Research Centres’ (RAMs) are the primarily stakeholders of our project. Almost no teacher knows TSL in Turkey, even special education teachers start to learn TSL from students when they start to work in schools for the hearing impaired. School directors are one of the key stakeholders of also our project. They will be included to the awareness raising and dissemination activities. Their support is important in the point that they will support and convince the teachers and families to participate the project activities especially to the online courses
With the accurate and timely implementation of our project the key stakeholders mentioned above will benefit from the outputs of our project which can be defined as:
- National occupational standards of TSL Training and Interpretership,
- Training Need analysis report,
- Digital contents (courses) of TSL Training and Interpretership courses and other supportive and comprehensive courses,
- e-learning platform (MOOC) for online courses,
- Assessment and evaluation mechanism (by using Kinect 2 technology) of these courses,
- Awareness raising campaign.
Impact: The biggest effect of this project will be on the family and teachers of the hearing impaired at all levels, especially those who have lost their hearing completely. Turkish sign language education and interpreting and other supportive online trainings to be developed for them will directly affect teachers and family members in a positive way. Teachers and families who will take courses that will be subject to assessment by means of tools which are prepared according to standards approved by VQA and can use the latest technology to measure finger movements with extreme precision and can make digital evaluation, will meet their training needs quickly and effectively.
Risks and assumptions: Like every project, we may face some risks during the implementation of our project such as low participation to the trainings and awareness raising activities, lack of communication between partners and stakeholders, conflict among team members. But needed precautions will be done to mitigate these risks. In the initial process of the project, a risk mitigation plan will be prepared and implemented by the project team. On the other hand, we assume there will be no political change in Turkey’s accession to the European Union.
Project activities: For smooth implementation of project activities, project team and the project office will be established in the initial process. The project team will hold regular meetings to effectively manage the project. Implementation process of the project; In order to meet the educational needs of the teachers and families who are our target audience, an interrelated activity pattern has been established. Firstly, questionnaires specially prepared for families and teachers will be applied in order to clearly determine the training needs of our target audience. After the questionnaires are applied, a needs analysis report will be prepared with the data. The main topics of the digital trainings will be determined based on this report. The vocational qualifications and occupational standards for Turkish sign language training and Interpretership, which will be one of these topics, will be determined through workshops and desk works. These standards will then be approved by the VQA. After the approval, digital content will be prepared for this topic and other topics. These contents will be structured as online courses and transferred to the newly created e-learning platform. This platform will be accessible from both desktop and mobile devices. The theoretical part of the Turkish sign language training and Interpretership course and other supporting courses will be made available to the target audience using the MOOC system. A web-based desktop application will be developed using Kinect 2 (Precise camera technology (can read hand sign with high sensitivity)) technology to perform practical applications for Turkish sign language and to assess and evaluate the level of learning. Pilot implementation will be held for 50 families and 50 teachers Parents and teachers who have successfully completed these courses will also be certified. Apart from online courses, a set of awareness raising and dissemination activities will be held such as seminars for families, workshops for teachers, project logo and brochures, leaflets, introductory videos, news texts for national and regional media and developing project website, kick-off meeting, final conference of project.