An Overview of the Program

More about Our Quest

[T]he elements that shape your intellectual abilities lie to a surprising extent within your own control.  Understanding that this is so enables you to see failure as a badge of effort and a source of useful information.”  

~ Peter Brown (2016, p.7)

As stated previously, the objectives of our grant include decreasing the time between graduation and RID certification and diversifying the interpreting profession. As many of our advisors have noted, this is a big challenge.

Part of our quest for an answer is in evidence-based practices.  We are using research about the science of learning to inform the development of our program.  A significant resource for this is Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014) .  The  book shares a number of evidence-based principles that are counter-intuitive to how people think learning works.  Peter Brown, the principal author, shares these big ideas:

  • Learning is about getting it out of your brain, not putting it in.
  • Some difficulties are desirable.
  • A growth mindset can be motivating.
  • Our intuition about learning often leads us astray.

Our development process seeks to use these ideas in ways that leverage the power of cognitive science to make professional development more effective.

Part of our quest for an answer is in community.  Transforming interpreter education can not succeed with the efforts of one initiative or institution.  So we are building foundations for communities of practice.  Wenger, who coined the term, describes community of practice as “a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger, 1998). More recently, Wenger has discussed how these smaller groups are located within a “landscape of practice.”   In our landscape of practice, we gathered input from surveys and focus groups with 100 alumni of the VRS Interpreting Institute School to Work program. We have over 30 advisors from diverse communities and experiences who have shared their insight and expertise in 1:1 discussions as well as in an online Think Tank.   

Part of our quest for an answer is repairing the divide between the community and academic realms.  Dennis Cokely (2005) noted how the positionality of interpreter education has shifted from the Deaf community to being centered in academic institutions, with some positive and not so positive consequences..  Hall, Elliot, & Holcomb (2016) have identified how, as a result of this shift, interpreter education has taken on the values of academia with the consequence of a decreased connection to the Deaf community.  For this project, we are creating experiences that use evidenced-based practices and include 150 hours of Deaf community connection for our program participants. as well as having a supervised interpreting placement so that interpreting agencies and community organizations are a part of the solution.  With these plans, we will attempt to keep the best of what academic rigor offers while re-connecting interpreting to its roots in the Deaf community.

Part of our quest for an answer is finding the balance between building on the legacy of materials developed in the field and expanding who is a part of the program development process.  There are many materials created that provide a good foundation, yet there are many people and communities who have not been included in those processes.  Having a more diverse group of people helping to build the program takes more time.  In that process, we are finding that an expanded circle of people are more invested and trust the process if they are in the discussions from the beginning—helping to shape it from the ground up—rather than simply responding to other people’s ideas.  

Throughout the grant, we will continue to evaluate what works and does not work and share it with the field.

Brown, P., Roediger, H., & McDaniel, M. (2014). Make it stick: The science of successful learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Cokely, D. (2005). Shifting positionality: A critical examination of the turning point in the relationship of interpreters and the Deaf community. In M. Marschark, R. Peterson & E. Winston (Eds.), Sign Language interpreting and interpreter education; New York: Oxford University Press.

Hall, W. C., Holcomb, T. K., & Elliott, M. (2016). Using popular education with the oppressor class: Suggestions for sign language interpreter education. Critical Education, 7(13).  Retrieved from

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice : Learning, meaning, and identity (Learning in doing). Cambridge, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.