Maths Glossary Evaluation | ISL STEM

Maths Glossary Evaluation

In 2018, an evaluation of the pilot ISL STEM Glossary (maths) was carried out in DCU, led by Dr Elizabeth Mathews.

We evaluated our glossary using three methods of data collection:

  1. We carried out questionnaires with people before and after using the glossary. This questionnaire collected data on attitudes towards maths and attitudes towards talking to deaf children about maths. We also asked participants to state whether or not they had an ISL sign for a selection of 50 maths terms from the primary and post-primary curricula. 
  2. The uptake of the evaluation was measured using user-statistics from the glossary website as well as analytics from the Youtube page hosting the videos.
  3. The asked teachers about their experience of using the glossary using interviews.

There were 78 adult participants involved in the evaluation of the glossary, comprising 53 parents and 25 teachers. A range of questions was posed to assess participants general attitudes towards maths and science. Attitudes towards maths were quite positive overall with over 78% of the sample stating that they were either very comfortable or quite comfortable dealing with maths. Maths ranked considerably higher than dealing with foreign languages for example (45%). Only 6% of the sample stated that they avoided maths if at all possible. This data was supported by findings from the Likert questions asking how participants felt about maths, maths practices in the home, and deaf children learning maths. Again, 77% of participants either agreed or strongly agreed that they liked maths. There was very high agreement (93%) that maths is important in people's day-to-day lives with 74% of participants stating that they discussed maths in their home. However, the fact that 56% of participants either agreed or strongly agreed that deaf children find maths more difficult than hearing children was highlights that admittedly some obstacles in place for this cohort. Perhaps one of the reasons of the difficulty in discussing maths with deaf children with 62% of participants either agreeing or strongly agreeing that discussing maths with deaf children is more difficult than with hearing children. That said, 54% of the sample felt confident discussing maths with deaf children.

We asked parents and teachers before the evaluation began whether or not they had a sign for a selection of mathematical terms. Two observations can be made from their responses. First and unsurprisingly, participants are much more likely to know signs from maths that have high application to everyday life. In particular, terms used to describe time (last year, minute, weekly, early) and location (right, on top, beside) feature in the top ten most known signs. Signs relating to the more technical aspects of maths (improper fraction, predicting, ordinal) are much less frequently known. The low scores can to some extent be explained by the lack of terminology for some of these signs (e.g. improper fraction, standard deviation) prior to this project.

Over the course of our first year, our glossary videos had over 5,000 views.  We collected user data for the first 10 months each time someone entered the glossary to find out who they were and where they were accessing the glossary from.  We collected data from 808 entries to the glossary, made up of 237 times a teacher entered, 108 times an interpreter or interpreting student entered, 105 times a parent entered and 79 times a pupil entered.  The remaining 280 entries classified themselves as 'other' indicating that we have a wide reach to groups outside our target group, something we hope to investigate in further evaluations.

When we interviewed teachers about their experience of using the glossary, a number of common themes emerged.  First, it was common for teachers not to have a sign for science terms: "but I don't have a sign for Quadratic, I finger spell it and then I just do X squared".  Second, teachers regularly improvised when they didn't have a sign for a concept.  They used finger spelling a lot "sometimes on the spot in a class I'd have to try and come up with a sign but generally to err on the side of caution I would just finger spell for the minute".  Teachers also made signs up as they went along, or sometimes resorted to using the signs that were available in another Sign Language, in particular from the British Sign Language Glossary "And to be honest I had to go to England and the Scottish Sensory Website and just adapt them because I was like, I need something in class. I can't finger spell everything, so yeah."  Teachers also agreed that the glossary was needed:

"It's my 15th year teaching, so I am old now, but I always ... for example, a lot of the students arrived from primary school or came in from other schools and we’d have to go back [to teach vocabulary] like. For example the sign for 'mean', maybe a different teacher would fingerspell it, but I had a sign for it. But I feel now all the teachers are using the same signs that it will help the students with their understanding and getting through the work. And it allows for students in mainstream or in primary school who move to our school that they’d also have [access to it]"

"I really have always felt that we needed like standardised signing and we needed teachers to be using the same signs, there was definitely a need. And I always wanted for this for a very long time. ...I think it will be a fantastic resource for all of the teachers, for educators, for interpreters, for parents, for everyone involved in educating deaf children."

While teachers were positive overall, they had some recommendations for how our glossary might improve.  These included: covering the vocabulary needed for exam questions, providing on-site training to staff and pupils in how to use the glossary, reducing the number of clicks to access videos or providing a link to the entire collection in one video where teachers could watch and learn all signs together, providing access to a USB with the glossary signs for those in areas with poor broadband access.