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Stuart Wittenstein, Ed.D. Superintendent,
California School for the Blind
Fremont, California

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Ed.D. Teacher of the Visually Impaired
Eastport South Manor School District, New York

Presented at the 2002 AER International Conference
July 17-21, 2002Toronto, Canada

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Rationale for Study

"Blind children are not being taught braille because the teachers who are supposedly trained to do so themselves do not know the braille codes sufficiently, much less the teaching methodology." Spungin, 1989, in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

"A little honest reflection about this situation (decline in braille literacy) suggests that the real culprit here is the inadequate and inappropriate education of the special education teachers who are not competent or confident themselves in using Braille and who also believe that their students should not be expected to compete successfully in school or in life." Ianuzzi, 1992 in Braille Monitor

Braille Training Groups
(as selected by respondents)

Group 1 — transcription, rule knowledge, formatting, proofreading

Group 2 — same as above plus some (10% of class time) methodology in the teaching of braille reading

Group 3 — same as above plus an emphasis (more than 10%) on methodology in the teaching of braille reading

Figure 1: Braille Training Groups 1991

Group 1 — transcription, rule knowledge, formatting, proofreading; 42.9%

Group 2 — same as above plus some (10% of class time) methodology in the teaching of braille reading; 35.9%

Group 3 — same as above plus an emphasis (more than 10%) on methodology in the teaching of braille reading; 21.2%

Figure 2: Attitudes After Training
Braille Skills V. Teaching Ability

Group 1 Braille Skills 67.7%; Teaching Ability 28.6%

Group 2 Braille Skills 80.6%; Teaching Ability 50.1%

Group 3 Braille Skills 86.4%; Teaching Ability 74.5%

Figure 3: Current Attitudes
Braille Skills V. Teaching Ability

Group 1 Braille Skills 61.7%; Teaching Ability 50.1%

Group 2 Braille Skills 71.2%; Teaching Ability 69.3%

Group 3 Braille Skills 73.9%; Teaching Ability 79.0%

Figure 4: Confidence in Braille Skills
After Training V. Current

Group 1 Confidence After Training 67.7%; Current 61.7%

Group 2 Confidence After Training 80.6%; Current 71.2%

Group 3 Confidence After Training 86.4%; Current 73.9%

Figure 5: Confidence — Teaching Ability
After Training V. Current

Group 1 Confidence After Training 28.6%; Current 50.1%

Group 2 Confidence After Training 50.1%; Current 69.3%

Group 3 Confidence After Training 74.5%; Current 79.0%

Figure 6: Teacher Attitudes Towards Braille

Enjoy teaching braille 73.7% yes; 4.9% no

Technology should not replace braille 89.4% yes; 2.6% no

Braille is not important 1.1% yes; 96.8% no

Technology makes braille unnecessary 2.7% yes; 91.3% no

Figure 7. Most Likely Decline for Braille Literacy

Increase in Multiply-handicapped population 54.1%;

Reliance on technology 40.1%;

Caseloads/itinerant model 27.7%;

Emphasis on vision utilization 21.0%;

Inadequate teacher preparation 18.5%;

Teacher attitude 14.4%;

Teacher incompetence 8.6%;

Complexity of braille 8.3%

Figure 8. Braille Training Groups 2001

Group 1 — transcription, rule knowledge, formatting, proofreading 33.0%

Group 2 — same as above plus some (10% of class time) methodology in the teaching of braille reading 40.4%

Group 3 — same as above plus an emphasis (more than 10%) on methodology in the teaching of braille reading 26.6%

Figure 9. A Comparison of Groups by Year

1991 Group 1 42.9%; Group 2 35.9%; Group 3 21.2%

2001 Group 1 33.0%; Group 2 40.4%; Group 3 26.6%

Figure 10. Received Braille Training

1991 undergraduate 34.1%; graduate 61.6%

2001 undergraduate 19.9%; graduate 82.1%

Figure 11. Braille Training as Part of Degree Program

1991 part of degree 69.5%

2001 part of degree 42.8%

Requirements Which Were Included in Braille Training

Proficiency with braillewriter

Ability to read braille

Knowledge of braille reading methodology

Proficiency with slate and stylus

Proficiency in Nemeth Code

Development of teacher made materials

Write lesson plans

Present sample lessons

Evaluate curricula

Review journal articles

Figure 12. Observed Changes in Requirements for Braille Training

Proficiency with slate and stylus 1991 39.6%; 2001 65.8%

Proficiency in Nemeth Code 1991 50.2% 2001 67.7%

Development of teacher made materials 1991 53.9%; 2001 65.3%

Knowledge of braille reading methodology 1991 50.4%; 2001 56.0%

 

Figure 13. Teacher of the Blind Certification

1991 93.8% yes; 6.2% no

2001 89.2% yes; 10.8% no

Figure 14. Respondent's Selection of Teaching Assignments

residential schools 1991 26.3%; 2001 28.0%

self contained classroom 1991 5.2%; 2001 9.8%

resource room 1991 9.7%; 2001 7.2%

itinerant 1991 42.5%; 2001 43.3%

consultant 1991 10.3%; 2001 10.3%

early intervention 1991 2.4%; 2001 8.1%

other 1991 3.7%; 2001 13.4%

Figure 15. Total Number of Students on Caseload

1-10 students 1991 39.7%; 2001 42.1%

11-20 students 1991 34.4%; 2001 28.9%

21-30 students 1991 14.6%; 2001 11.7%

31-40 students 1991 6.4%; 2001 3.8%

more than 40 students 1991 4.9%; 2001 4.8%

Figure 16. Number of Students on Caseload Who Use Braille

1-5 students 1991 81.7%; 2001 58.7%

6-10 students 1991 11.7%; 2001 6.3%

11-15 students 1991 4.3%; 2001 2.3%

16-20 students 1991 1.4%; 2002 1.0%

more than 20 students 1991 1.0%; 2001 1.8%

Figure 17. Total Number of Years Teaching Experience

1-10 years 1991 32.7%; 2001 67.6%

11-20 years 1991 47.7%; 2001 22.6%

21-30 years 1991 15.9%; 2001 9.0%

more than 30 years 1991 3.7%; 2001 .05%

Figure 18. Primary Reading Mode

Braille 1991 2.4%; 2001 1.2%

Print 1991 96.9%; 2001 98.1%

Tape 1991 1.2%; 2001 .7%

Figure 19. Attitudes After Training Braille Skills V. Teaching Ability

Braille skills satisfactory 1991 76.3%; 2001 74.9%

Ability to teach satisfactory 1991 46.1%; 2001 44.5%

Figure 20. Current Attitudes Braille Skills V. Teaching Ability

Braille skills satisfactory 1991 67.7%; 2001 59.6%

Ability to teach satisfactory 1991 63.1%; 2001 52.2%

Figure 21. Confidence in Braille Skills After Training V. Current

Braille skills satisfactory 1991 76.3%; 2001 74.9%

Current skills satisfactory 1991 67.7%; 2001 59.6%

Figure 22. Confidence - Teaching Ability After Training V. Current

Ability to teach satisfactory 1991 46.1%; 2001 44.5%

Current ability satisfactory 1991 63.1%; 2001 52.5%

Figure 23. Agreement with Statements Regarding Braille Competency

Knowledge of Nemeth Code is satisfactory 1991 35.8%; 2001 40.7%

Slate and Stylus should be taught 1991 70.4%; 2001 63.2%

Figure 24. Legislation Requiring the Teaching of Braille

Agree 1991 21.9%; 2001 35.9%

Neutral 1991 19.3%; 2001 30.4%

Disagree 1991 58.7%; 2001 33.5%

Figure 25. Most Likely Cause of a Decline in Braille Literacy

Increase in multiply handicapped population 1991 54.1%; 2001 45.9%

Vision utilization 1991 21.0%; 2001 10.8%

Large caseloads 1991 27.7%; 2001 38.4%

Inadequate teacher preparation 1991 18.5%; 2001 25.8%

References

Amato, S.S. (2002) Standards and Criteria for Competence in Braille Literacy Within Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States and Canada. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.

Spungin, S.J. (1989). Braille literacy: Issues for blind persons, families, professionals, and producers of braille. New York: American Foundation for the Blind.

Wittenstein, S.H. (1993). Braille training and teacher attitudes: Implications for personnel preparation. RE:view, 25, (3). 103-111.

Wittenstein, S.H. (1994). Braille literacy: Preservice training and teachers' attitudes. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 88 (6). 516-524.

Wittenstein, S.H., & Pardee, M.L. (1996). Teachers' voices: Comments on braille and literacy from the field. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness — Special Issue on Literacy 90 (3). 201-209.

See also "Braille literacy" Spungin, S.J. & D'Andrea, F.M. (2001) in Library of Congress, Braille into the next millennium, pp. 444-446.

See also June, 1989 special issue on literacy of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.