Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr. Peggy Hickman


Research studies have shown that if science is taught through inquiry using both hands-on and minds-on instruction, the theory of science-based learning would be the best method to teach students with disabilities (Luckner & Carter, 2001). In the field of Deaf education, it is well known that for a majority of students who are Deaf and/or Hard of Hearing (D/HH), American Sign Language (ASL) is their primary language with its own syntax and grammar. The English language is, in actuality, a Deaf student’s second language. With this in mind, students who are Deaf are functionally English-language learners (ELLs) or limited English proficient learners. Looking at students who are D/HH as actual ELLs, it would seem logical to research what has been used as best practices in teaching Hearing ELL students. Sutman (1993), Barrera, Shyyan, & Liu (2008), Echevarria (2005), and McCargo (1999) all came to the conclusion that exposure to hands-on, inquiry based science helped facilitate the acquisition of language and the development of cognitive skills to hearing English-language learners. If ELLs are successful in learning English through a science-based curriculum, can students who are D/HH do the same? This mixed methods research study gathered data to validate the need to use a science-centered curriculum to support reading comprehension with 4th and 5th grade students at a school for the Deaf in a northeastern, urban region of the United States.

Findings from this action based phenomenological research study included an increase in vocabulary retention in science, as well as an increased trend line of correct responses during English Language Arts (ELA) classes. Along with this quantitative data, qualitative data was collected supporting the perspectives of both teachers and students in this mixed methods study. Six teachers and four students were interviewed that met the criteria of this study and concluded that motivation and experiential learning through the lens of science increased students’ ability to retain information, as well as word identification, compared to an English-centered curriculum.

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