Value conflicts surrounding deafness—disagreements about senses, cognition, language, and power—obscure research which connect them. The lack of empirical theory about how and why deaf educators teach constrains researchers and educators who seek to reform the field and exacerbates problems related to deaf learning. Researchers and pedagogues invested in deaf education are divided by conflicts of value. Axiological differences result in "a nearly insurmountable gap between researchers and practitioners" (Easterbrooks, 2017, p. 25 in Cawthon & Garberoglio, 2017). This presentation offers a critical synthesis of the literature on deaf education pedagogy research and focuses on synthesizing issues related to visual discourses and phenomena in teaching practice. Themes emerging from the study evince crucial ruptures in the values, ethics, and aesthetics of deaf research which preclude progress. Conflicts arise from diverse professional orientations, disciplinary foci, and paradigmatic variations but are united by the common problems of teaching deaf students and the promising potentiality of deaf-centric research on visual pedagogy. This study is primarily based on a critical literature review which preceded a two-year multi-method (grounded theory and case study) qualitative study (which is in progress at present). In the early 1900s, Vygotsky described deaf pedagogy as unsystematic and implored change. One hundred years later, Swanwick and Marschark (2010) call our work unsuccessful. Dissensus is manifest in theory’s obstruction; however, dissensus gives clarity relative to the agonistic problems of axiology—the ethics and aesthetics of power in deaf education. Deaf educational theorists need to develop ways to decipher the how and why of deaf visual pedagogy (Cawthon & Garberglio, 2017; p. ix). Deaf social theory enhances how researchers understand vision in learning; however, in spite of advancement, deaf pedagogy theory is underdeveloped (Lang, et al. 1993; Thoutenhoofd, 2010). By synthesizing the following concepts (deaf axiology, the biosocial paradigm, deaf visual pedagogy) I address the following problems: There is no contemporary theory to describe the unified deaf biosocial ecology, no extant theory to productively analyze conflict on vision, or foreground axiology in decision-making, or centralize vision as a strategy to transform power (Bauman & Murray, 2014; Beal-Alvarez, 2017; Fernandes & Myers, 2010; Friedner 2010). There is no systematic theory, no standard toolkit of analytic techniques, or generalized empirical approach. Cawthon and Garberoglio (2017) summarize: “without an adequate research base, there cannot be effective practice. Without an understanding of the needs in deaf education, there cannot be research that supports effective practice." (p. xii). This proposal directly works toward the year's theme: "Connecting the Dots." The project focuses on clarifying the issues that disconnect researchers from teachers and from deaf individuals and society more broadly. Introducing the concept of "Deaf Axiology" "Deaf visual pedagogy" and "the biosocial paradigm of deaf research" to the established corpus of deaf-centric philosophy on teaching (e.g. deaf epistemology and deaf ontology, deaf gains in research on teaching) allows for the development of new critical lexicon to productively address and resolve longstanding conflicts of our field. The ultimate goals of the project include opening trans-disciplinary conversations among stakeholders and enhancing the practices of deaf education teacher-educators.
Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit
Department, Program, or Center
Master of Science in Secondary Education (NTID)
Skyer, Michael E., "Dissensus in Deaf Research: Scaffolding the Conflicts of Theory and Practice" (2019). Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus