Direct Learn home | Online conferencing home | Contact us


The conference is split into two themes, d/Deaf education and ethics & professionalism. As well as the key note, each theme will have further formal sessions, as well as informal sessions which run throughout the conference.

The conference environment will be open one week before the conference starts, for reading only, so that delegates can read and view the various presentations and papers. The conference itself will be open for contributions from Wednesday 28th January 2009 to 8am (GMT) to 8am (GMT) Sunday 1st February 2009. The environment will remain accessible for reading only, so that delegates can catch up on anything they missed, for a further four weeks.

For further information on how the conference works, see the FAQ section.

Please click on the presentation titles for more information.

Theme One (28th/29th January): d/Deaf Education
Keynote presentation: Supporting deaf youth - Interpreters as members of the educational team Melanie Metzger and Earl Fleetwood
Policy and practice in sign Bilingual education: Development, dilemmas and directions Ruth Swanwick
Students educated in public schools with a total communication approach: Perspectives & reflections Linda J. Spencer
The social life of deaf children in the mainstream John Anderson
Schooled in discretion: Empowerment tools for
interpreters in the educational environment
Lynette Reep
Theme Two (30th/31st January): Ethics and Professionalism
Keynote presentation: The 'role' of the community/public service interpreter
Peter Llewellyn-Jones and Robert G. Lee
The power of personality: A study of signed language interpreters Karen Bontempo
Fair enough? In support of care ethics Ben Karlin
Shaping our future professional interpreters through formal mentoring: A pilot project T. Pearce, J. Napier, P. Cody, S. Leane, M. Curtis, C. Clark
Giving and receiving feedback (provisional title) Caron Hawkings
Dilemma workshop
Lynette Reep and Judith Mole
Other online sessions (throughout the conference)
General Discussion area
Social area
Live chat
Resource/announcement area


Theme One: Deaf Education

The social life of deaf children in the mainstream (John Anderson)

How well do we prepare deaf children for mainstreaming? We all know that they need to have strong language and speech skills. But we also know that deaf children struggle with social relationships in the mainstream. Friendship can be difficult to build and maintain. Do deaf children need intensive training in social skills for mainstreaming? What is the role of self-advocacy in social relationships? Are there special issues for deaf teenagers? These are some of the questions that we will explore for this presentation.

Students Educated in Public Schools with a Total Communication Approach: Perspectives & Reflections (Linda J. Spencer)

The objective of this presentation is to provide outcome data describing the speech production skills, and the educational/vocational achievement for two cohorts of pediatric cochlear implant recipients. The children were educated for the most part in their local communities using a Total Communication philosophy. The first cohort received their implants when CI technology was just beginning to be implemented as a treatment option for children with prelingual, profound deafness. Those "children" are now young adults with up to 20 years of CI experience. The second cohort received their implants after the year 1997, was younger on average, at time of implantation, and now has up to 11 years of CI experience. These two cohorts of CI users who used sign language compared favorably to their hearing peers on academic achievement measures. Although there was a wide distribution of educational and vocational outcomes for the first cohort, the children tended to follow the educational/vocational patterns of their parents. As age of implantation decreased, speech intelligibility scores improved, and preliminary analysis reveals less variability in overall outcomes.

Policy and Practice in Sign Bilingual Education: Development, Dilemmas and Directions
(Ruth Swanwick)

The development of sign bilingual educational policy and practice began in the 1980s and opened up new questions at that time about the role of sign language in deaf education and issues for deaf children’s language and literacy development. This very dynamic area of educational development has always raised profound questions about language development, culture, identity and learning and these questions continue to grow in their complexity and intensity. As developments in the fields of audiology, health and technology provide increasingly sophisticated opportunities for early detection and intervention, we need to reflect on the potential of sign bilingual education to respond flexibly to the changing and diverse language and communication needs of deaf children. This paper will outline the development and growth of sign bilingual education in the UK over the last 20 years and describe what has come out of our most recent analysis of the current issues. Ways in which deaf children's language and communication needs are changing will be discussed and the implications for the place of sign language and the associated role of deaf adults in the educational context will be explored.

Theme Two: Ethics and Professionalism

Keynote presentation: The 'Role' of the Community/Public Service Interpreter (Peter Llewellyn-Jones)

It could be argued that the last serious discussion on the 'role' of the sign language-spoken language interpreter in the UK took place some twelve years ago in the pages of a special issue of the journal Deaf Worlds (1997). Heaton and Fowler, Pollit, and Tate and Turner, to name just a few of the contributors, discussed the issue of role from different perspectives and Robert Lee, in a 'A View From the States', observed that the role varied depending on the 'model' of interpreting (i.e. helper, conduit, communication facilitator, 'bi-bi') adhered to (Lee, 1997).
Just one year later, a new model began to emerge with the publication of Interpreting as Interaction (Wadensjö, 1998). This was soon followed by Cynthia Roy's Interpreting as a Discourse Process (Roy, 2000): and the 'participant' model had arrived. These two texts have had a significant impact on how community interpreters approach their work and both now appear on the set book lists of most graduate and postgraduate courses in interpreting studies. As 'an active third participant with potential to influence both the direction and the outcome of the event … [which is] … intercultural and interpersonal rather than simply mechanical and technical' (Roy, 2002), the community interpreter needed to look again at how they approached, and behaved in, 'public service' type bilateral interpreting settings.

With particular reference to 'Politeness Theory' (Brown & Levinson, 1987) and 'Accommodation Theory' (Giles, Coupland & Coupland, 1991), this paper will ask whether many of the behaviours traditionally and, often, still displayed by sign language-spoken language interpreters in the name of 'professionalism' actually militate against the interlocutors' 'opportunity for a successful interaction' (Cokely, 1992).


  • Brown, P. & Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Cokely, D. (1992) Interpretation: A Sociolinguistic Model, Butonsville, Maryland: Linstok Press
  • Giles, H., Coupland, J. & Coupland, N. (eds.) (1991) Contexts of Accommodation,
  • Lee, R.G. (1997) 'A View From the States' in Deaf Worlds, vol 13, issue 3
  • Roy, C. (2000) Interpreting as a Discourse Process, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Roy, C. (2002) 'The Problem with Definitions, Descriptions, and the Role Metaphors of Interpreters' in Pöchhacker, F. & Shlesinger, M. (eds.) The Interpreting Studies Reader, London & New York: Routledge
  • Wadensjö, C. (1998) Interpreting as Interaction, London & New York: Longman

The power of personality: A study of signed language interpreters (Karen Bontempo)

Is there a personality type, or set of dispositional traits that might be predictive of performance as a signed language interpreter? Organisational psychologists have long theorised that the notions of a "work personality" and "person-vocation fit" have legitimacy, and interest in measuring the range of factors that may be predictive of performance in the field of signed language interpreting has increased in recent years. Identifying the characteristics that are likely predictors of success in the profession would be extremely valuable for interpreter educators, as such information may impact on program admission criteria and course curricula; would likely improve student outcomes and exit standards; and could reduce attrition rates from courses and the profession. Better understanding the personal and cognitive characteristics that may contribute to competent performance in the profession has merit in the present context of limited supply of practitioners, increasing demands in the marketplace, and higher consumer and employer expectations of quality and standards of practice. However, no definitive findings about the psychological 'make-up' of signed language interpreters have been gleaned from previous studies to date. Yet, a number of factors considered promising predictors of performance in the field of organisational psychology, specifically those arising from a social-cognitive paradigm for the study of personality, have not been measured in signed language interpreters. These include factors such as self-efficacy, goal orientation and negative affectivity.

This research paper will report on the findings of a questionnaire administered to 110 signed language interpreters in Australia, which was designed to measure self-efficacy, goal orientation and negative affectivity.

Fair Enough? In Support of Care Ethics (Ben Karlin)

The ethics of justice philosophically underpin much of the work on ethics in interpreting. This outlook gives consistent guidance to interpreters in a wide variety of situations. Many dilemmas still arise because of particular circumstance where justice is difficult to define. Is justice served by providing Deaf people with linguistic access, or even adding cultural components? If more is required because of individual differences, how can it be fair to do more for some than for others?

Another set of ethics that has grown out of examining the roles and decision-making of women and their experiences. These are sufficiently flexible to set a different standard than justice, a legalistic concept. Care ethics envision the entire set of relationships in which a Deaf individual participates as well as their needs and the resources available.

This paper lays out a basic understanding of what the ethics of care are, and the impact of their application in place of justice ethics. These differences have particular value for interpreters and especially for the Deaf people who they serve.

Shaping our future professional interpreters through formal mentoring: a pilot project (T. Pearce, J. Napier, P. Cody, S. Leane, M. Curtis, C. Clark)

Mentoring has been recognised as a form of training which can be uitilised by sign language interpreters in order to provide guidance in professional development on completion of a formal interpreter training program (see Napier, 2006). To date, however, formal mentoring systems have been few and far between and graduates have found themselves isolated in their skills development and relying on the goodwill of more experienced interpreters to guide them on an ad hoc basis. In order to address this problem, The Auslan Interpreters Mentorship Project was conceived and developed by a partnership between ASLIA Victoria and Vicdeaf in Melbourne, Australia. These organisations both believe passionately in the development of the sign language interpreting profession in both Victoria and Australia. This initiative is one of many both organisations have become involved in as they attempt to further the professional development of interpreter practitioners. The goal was to develop more highly skilled interpreters and to encourage interpreters of all experience levels to remain in the field. The high attrition rate of new and more experienced interpreters has long been identified as an issue for the profession, and therefore for the community it serves.

This project specifically targeted recent interpreter graduates of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Diploma of Interpreting (completion 2005 and 2006). The focus of the project was new graduates, and therefore preparation, program planning and training was developed with this cohort as the focus. The project team consisted of Sandi Leane (ASLIA Vic) as Coordinator, Marc Curtis (Vicdeaf) and an evaluation team comprised of Dr Jemina Napier, Consultant (Macquarie University) and Project Officers Tamara Pearce and Pip Cody.

The evaluation team developed a range of evaluation tools to gather data across the course of the program year. These tools included pre and post interviews, questionnaires, focus groups and a journal that was completed by both the mentees and mentors throughout the course of the program.

Upon completion it was evident that the program had made a significant impact on the participants. This paper will provide an overview of the project, give examples of data from the mentors and mentees, and give recommendations for the use of formal mentoring as an important part of training and development to shape the profession in Australia and worldwide.

Giving and receiving feedback (Caron Hawkings)

This session will explore good (and bad!) practice in providing feedback to other interpreters. We hope to elicit the experiences of delegates of positive and negative ways of getting and giving feedback on interpreter performance and jointly develop some guidance which can be used by interpreters, mentors and clients. A devil's advocate will be joining the session to present an alternative view.