Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Teacher Education

Major Professor

Kimberly A. Wolbers

Committee Members

Jeffrey E. Davis, David F. Cihak


Educational interpreters nationwide fill a variety of roles in their schools, including interpreter, tutor, assistant, consultant, and others, and the impact of these roles on the interpretation of classroom discourse is uncertain. In order to provide deaf students with the free appropriate public education they are promised through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, we need to know more about the roles educational interpreters are filling and their impact on a deaf student’s access to the classroom discourse. This study was a quantitative study using naturalistic observation of a high school classroom with a deaf student and an interpreter, augmented with qualitative data from interviews with the interpreter, deaf student, and teacher participants. In examining the different roles filled during the class observed, the interpreter in this study filled the interpreter role during only 41.41% of the intervals analyzed. In all, 35.68% of the intervals were interpreted while 39.78% of the teacher’s discourse was not interpreted. Less than 20% of the teachers’ discourse was interpreted while in any role other than interpreter. During the days observed, the interpreter in this study spent more time tutoring rather than interpreting the classroom discourse even though she was not required to do any tutoring. In this study, communication access seems to have been impacted by the interpreter filling multiple roles in the classroom, particularly the tutor role. Knowing the importance of social communication in language development, and thus cognitive development, the roles interpreters fill in the classroom, as well as the placement of the deaf student in an inclusion class, should be carefully examined.

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