First Advisor

Micki M. Caskey

Date of Publication

Summer 8-8-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Curriculum and Instruction


Curriculum & Instruction




American Sign Language -- Study and teaching (Higher), Communities of practice, Rural college students -- Attitudes



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 153 pages)


The number of students taking American Sign Language (ASL) at the post-secondary level continues to increase as more Deaf-related graduate programs and employment settings require fluent ASL skills. Western Oregon University (WOU) is one of the few existing programs in the United States that offers four years of ASL instruction; however, as a rural university it has limited access to a Deaf community. The problem of practice is that students often have little exposure to rich language models who are fluent in ASL, which impacts their legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) in the local Deaf communities of practice (CoPs) and reduces apprenticeship opportunities that might be beneficial for their language acquisition experiences. While research suggests that direct engagement with language models has a significant impact on language acquisition and fluency in general, there is scant literature in the field of ASL that addresses this connection. My dissertation research addressed this gap in the literature. To address my problem of practice, I used a qualitative research design with both descriptive and comparative research questions to complete three case studies. Using semi-structured interviews, this study explored participants' attitudes and beliefs about their experience in local Deaf CoPs. The three participants in my study were Western Oregon University students enrolled in ASL 8 course. Data analyses included inductive analysis of qualitative data, a within case analysis, and a cross-case analysis. Findings showed that participants were interested in moving past LPP in local Deaf CoPs, and were interested in identifying apprenticeship opportunities because they realized the importance of engaging with native language models.


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