Plans to instill critical thinking throughout an interpreting course

"Question everything generally thought to be obvious." —Dieter Rams
I co-created this with two other teachers as a group project in the Teaching Critical Thinking teacher symposium at VRSII.

Proposed Syllabus for Instilling Critical Thinking throughout a Course: Consecutive ASL-to-English Interpreting (adapted from UBD Lesson Planning Template)

By Daniel Greene, Doug Stringham, and Christia Williams, colleagues in VRSII Symposium for Teaching Critical Thinking

Desired Outcomes/Goals (After the course/lesson the student will be able to…)

Recognize, analyze, apply, and evaluate the use of critical thinking skills in consecutive interpreting from English to American Sign Language (ASL).

Essential Questions (Assumption Hunting)

  • What is the relationship between ASL skills and Interpreting skills?
    (A possible assumption may be that students assume ASL skills = interpreting skills; One must have native-like fluency in order to effectively interpret into ASL.)
  • How do my assumptions about the topic (pace, speaker, etc.) during brainstorming and prediction affect my performance during the work?
    (Possible assumptions may be that students fear certain topics or faster rates of speech, etc. and that will reduce the level of critical thinking during interpreting work.)
  • What does “evidence of processing” look like?
    (A possible assumption may be that students are unaware of observable behaviors present during processing; students may be unaware of the correlation between effective processing and interpreting product.)

Evidence (How will I know the student has achieved these outcomes?)

Performance Assessments
  • Consecutive interpreting product
  • Self-analysis of product with critical thinking reflection
Other Evidence
  • Journal Responses
  • Critical Incident Questionnaires (CIQs)
  • Informal Instructor Observations

Activities (How do I support the acquisition of the knowledge and skills above?)

According to Brookfield (2012), activities should be sequenced developmentally and represent the following categories: Social/Small Groups (S), Modeling (M), Concrete (C), Disorienting Dilemmas (DD)

Worked Problem Exercise (Beginning, M/C/S)
Related to cognitive load theory, worked problems have been shown to increase cognition and understanding of a given task. Instead of giving a novel or decontextualized setting or problem, allow students to view a prerecorded interpretation (e.g., what is the problem, show the process and solution) as well as interact with the problem. Before starting, lead a TAP (talk about/think aloud protocol) or ‘pre-brief’ (predictive assumptions review), produce an interpretation, and then debrief after the event. What assumptions did/do they have about the problem? Elicit observations or assumptions on their self-monitoring behaviors. Based on those assumptions, did they have the same ideas about the process and/or solution?
Rapid Text Exercise (Advanced, C/DD)
Using/Engineering a text that is rapid in pace but light in content (e.g. extra fillers, nonsemantic information, etc.), have students interpret the text. Film their interpretive work and then allow them to watch the work to how they react to the stress of the text. Allows students to self-monitor their reactions to the event.
Cold Text Exercise (Advanced, C)
Similar to the Rapid Text Exercise, have students cold-interpret a text. Film their interpretation and then allow them to watch their work to observe how they reacted to the stress of the text. Allows students to self-monitor their reactions to the event.
Back-translation Exercise (Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced; S/C)
Can be adapted to meet the developmental needs of students at any level. Model with an anonymous interpreting sample (Beginner); invite a student to produce an interpretation (I1) and then allow another student to watch the interpretation in order to produce a derivative interpretation (I2) without sharing the results (Intermediate) or with peer debriefing (Advanced); finally, students back-translate their own interpretations. How equivalent are the two interpretations? Are there observable self-monitoring behaviors present?
Original Text Analysis Exercise (Beginning if working with someone else’s original text, Intermediate to Advanced if working with peer/self-generated texts; S/C)
Have students either produce an interpretation of or listen/take notes to an original text. Debrief on a comparison of their interpretation/notes and what the text actually contains. Were there discrepancies? How did students listen/not listen to the text? An adjunct critical thinking event might be to have a discussion about WPM: “how does a high WPM impact your assumptions? A low WPM? Is it possible that WPM is deceiving? WPM vs. units of meaning per minute?”
Discourse Mapping Exercise (Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced, depending on stimulus; S/C)
Lead students in a discourse mapping (Merithew, 2002) event. Before starting, lead a TAP (talk about/think aloud protocol) or ‘pre-brief’ (predictive assumptions review), watch the interpretation, create discourse maps (both in groups and/or individually), and then debrief after the event. What assumptions do they have about the interpretation? Based on those assumptions, what ideas presented/appeared (which do you prefer? I don’t know if resulted makes sense) in their maps? Did they observe any self-monitoring behaviors?

Additional Resources and References

Brookfield, S. D. (2012). Teaching for critical thinking. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Witter-Merithew, A. (2002). Understanding the meaning of texts and reinforcing foundation skills through discourse analysis. In Tapestry of Our Worlds: Proceedings of the 17th National Conference of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. Alexandria, VA: RID Publications.

Author: Daniel Greene

I facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people, and I teach people American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting. Apart from doing the work I love, my greatest joys are family & friends, entertainment, food, photography, and travel.