University of Edinburgh

Assessment Issues in Relation to Deaf Pupils

Presented in January 2000

Linguistic Issues

Status and Recognition of BSL

This has implications in relation to rights of access.

States shou/d ...undertake measures to provide access to information and communication... (inc/uding)

3. Use of sign language in the education of deaf children and the use of sign language interpreting services generally.

The UN Standard Rules on Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (UN, 1993)

Queries re the status of BSL within deaf education

Do educationalists fully accept this linguistic status?

If there is ambivalence towards it, how does this affect decision-making?

Are those making decisions aware of the nature of BSL and how it works?

Giving an advantage

It is sometimes claimed that signing may provide an unfair advantage as against other deaf children or hearing children.

Is there any linguistic basis for this?

The claimed 'element of interpretation' in signed language

Is there any basis to this?

What does it mean?

Is confusion arising because of the different meanings of 'interpretation' in English?

The different treatment of carrier language and technical language

Is it appropriate to treat these differently within 'translated' texts?

What is the rationale for allowing signing of questions, but not signing of responses?

What are people's views on this?

Standardisation issues

Are there difficulties?

Can they be overcome?

Issues of practical implementation

SQA Suggestions and responses to these.

Linguistic options

How would teachers and SQA view the notion of 'multiple linguistic options', eg; making an assessment available on CD-ROM with the assessment presented in written English, BSL, Sign Supported English?

Modifications to English

Can we distinguish between modifications which work for all candidates, eg; use of clear
English - and those required for deaf pupils?

Is the assessment system being asked to deal with a wide variety of issues relating to 'language delay'?

Might we building the expectation of language delay into the system?

Can we distinguish 'language delay' factors from 'language variety' factors, ie the notion
that Deaf people may use a different variety of English?

What are your views on the following?

Abstract Terms

'There is also a substantial body of vocabulary which is abstract and undoubtedly difficult for many hearing-impaired candidates, but which is used in a wide variety of contexts and is frequently almost impossible to change in an acceptable way...'

'A far more difficult group consists of a number of abstract terms, which are regularly used even in papers for practical subjects, but for which it is extremely difficult to provide simpler alternatives, eg;


characteristics properties
suitable details
process disadvantage
purpose cause

If the teacher's ingenuity can find an appropriate way of discarding such word, that is totally good. In many cases, it will not be possible and teachers will have to assume that candidates have been taught these words...'

Anglo-Saxon v Latin

"The way the English language has developed has given us many examples of pairs of words, identical or similar in meaning, one with Latin, one with Germanic roots. The Anglo-Saxon monosyllables are to be preferred to the Latin polysyllables.

use not utilise
make not produce
need not require
find not locate
enough not adequate
now not current

A long list could obviously be compiled. It should be noted that, as with other
recommendations, such substitutions cannot be applied automatically. Other criteria may
come into operation."