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Teaching of American Sign Language (ASL) as a Foreign Language
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Teaching of American Sign Language (ASL) as a Foreign Language
In the Department of Health and Behavior Studies

Program Description

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Program Description

The Program in the Teaching of American Sign Language (ASL) as a Foreign Language prepares individuals to obtain a Master of Arts degree and New York State Education Department Teacher Certification as teachers of ASL as a second language to secondary students from grades 7 to 12 under the Languages Other Than English (LOTE) regulations of the New York State Education Department.

The Program seeks to address critical issues in several areas: (a) the lack of teachers certified to teach ASL to elementary and secondary students for credit, (b) the paucity of teacher training programs in ASL teaching in colleges and universities, (c) deficiencies in theory- and research-based studies on effective ASL teaching practices, (d) insufficient knowledge of current research-based teaching practices among ASL teachers, and (e) a general lack of understanding of and sensitivity to Deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

The purposes of the Master of Arts Program in the Teaching of American Sign Language (ASL) as a Foreign Language are to prepare students so as to (a) study, develop, and disseminate theories, methods, materials, and pedagogues needed in the teaching of ASL; (b) prepare professionals to become certified teachers of ASL for elementary and secondary school-aged students in New York State who are skilled to teach American Sign Language and are knowledgeable of Deaf culture; (c) provide an opportunity for native speakers of American Sign Language to share their knowledge, skills, and experiences directly with the normally hearing population; and (d) enhance cross-cultural skills and understanding by increasing public awareness of the society, culture, diversity, talents, and aspirations of members of the Deaf community and to reduce negative attitudes, stigmatization, and misconceptions about the deaf by the general public.


The objectives of the program are to prepare students to become professionals as teacher-researchers who approach the profession of ASL teaching in a highly scholarly manner and as a contextualized, investigatory, cultural, and problem-solving event. The students in preparation will obtain a firm foundation in anthropology, linguistics, applied linguistics, pragmatics, social psychology, cognitive psychology and information processing, schema theory, academic assessment, instructional systems design (curriculum development), subject area content, the effective schools movement, research methodology as appropriate to the notion of teacher-as-researcher/learner, among other skills and knowledge. As a result, these individuals will be prepared to instruct students demonstrating a wide range of cognitive, social, and academic abilities, especially in schools with high-need classification. To this end the program provides coursework, practica experiences, and related projects for students in the program. Notions associated with pedagogy, school reform, and teacher-as-researchers/learners are infused and the direct instruction in the notion of teacher-as-researcher/learner. Both aspects involve course infusion and direct instruction in teacher-as-researcher/learner notions and methodologies.


The program has two goals. One of the two goals is to prepare students to serve as teachers of ASL to elementary and secondary students and develop the elementary and secondary students' functional communication abilities so as to interact with Deaf people, to develop greater understanding and appreciation of Deaf culture, as well as their own cultures, and to expand their definition and understanding of inter- and intra-group cultural diversity. Another goal is for the students to satisfactorily complete the basic M.A. program and receive a New York State certification as a teacher of ASL as a foreign language and a national certification from the American Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA).