In 2012, the Victorian Deaf Education Institute (VDEI) and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) commissioned the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to undertake a project to design, conduct and analyse the learning needs of teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing. The focus of the study was to identify any gap between teachers’ existing skills and knowledge and the skills that are needed to optimise student learning outcomes.
Information was gathered from a variety of sources to development an appropriate process to survey the learning needs of teachers of the deaf in Victoria, including:
· a focus group with the principals from three specialist schools for the deaf regarding their beliefs about professional learning for teachers working in the deaf education sector
· Competencies for Teachers of the Deaf, developed by the National Association of Australian Teachers of the Deaf, with reference to the National Professional Standards
· information provided by participants who attended professional learning programs held at VDEI in 2011-12
· information provided by the advisory group
From the information gathered, a survey was developed and refined. An invitation to complete the survey was extended to all of the schools/facilities/services currently available to deaf and hard of hearing children in Victoria and183 specialist teachers of the deaf working at 20 schools/facilities/services agreed to participate. To further consolidate this information Interviews were then held at a representative sample of school/facilities/service sites.
The data from these sources identified many specific learning needs within the sector and have shaped the VDEI professional learning program for 2014. Some of the areas where there was an identified need from additional professional learning were: language and literacy development: programs and strategies for all communication modalities, student wellbeing, the use of technology , inclusion and catering for individual learning needs, assessing students and setting goals.
The survey which has been developed will be updated and used on an annual basis to gather data to help ensure the VDEI professional learning program continues to meet the needs of professionals working within deaf education. The VDEI would like to thank the researchers who worked on the project: Julie Kos, Marion Meiers and Lawrence Ingvarson and the members of the advisory group.