WWeTIWeg-Certifying Interpreter Educators!

by Dr. Betsy Winston, Director
Teaching Interpreter Educators and Mentors Center

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Picture of rulers on a table with a box behind it
Building on WYTIWYG acronym (What You Test Is What You Get: Sawyer 2004, p. 128[i]) I suggest that we, interpreter educators, need to embrace the concept and own it. We need to recognize that What We Test (actually what we don’t test–ourselves) IS What We Get: WWETIWEG!. Indeed, it is really what THEY get, or don’t get-the clients and consumers of interpreting services. While long advocatin
g for valid and reliable certification of interpreters, fervently supporting the certification of ASL teachers, and much more slowly embracing the accreditation of interpreter preparation programs, we have conveniently o
verlooked, ignored, or avoided, the topic of certification for ourselves. We claim that consumers have the right to know that their interpreters are adequately skilled and qualified. We claim that ASL programs must hire certified ASLTA educators whenever possible. We claim (perhaps too weakly) that accreditation leads to higher quality programs.[ii] But, we hold ourselves responsible to no such claims about ourselves as educators.
We have no standards for ourselves! Despite having a set of domains and competencies for effective interpreter educators, Effective Practices for Teaching Interpreting: Domains and Competencies,[iii] available since 2005, there has been no movement toward certifying, nor even monitoring ourselves. We argue that being a signer does NOT qualify anyone to interpret or to teach ASL. But we matter-of-factly accept the idea that interpreters somehow magically “make” effective educators! Although that is no more true for us than it is for interpreters or ASL teachers, our programs routinely hire interpreters to teach and recruit interpreters to mentor, hoping that they might morph into effective educators.
Certification of interpreter educators could provide the community and our institutions with some assurance that those preparing interpreters have the qualifications, skills and knowledge to not only sign or interpret, but to actually prepare students for our very difficult profession. Moreover, it could offer assurances to students that the programs they now enroll in are viable, quality-proven programs. Certifying interpreter educators would mean that we have demonstrated the essential knowledge and skills that have already been recognized as needed in the field. The existing Effective Practices include six domains, with 202 related competencies. The domains are: General Teaching (with 28 related competencies); Teaching and Learning Interpreting (with 52 related competencies); Instructional Design (with 42 related competencies); Assessment and Evaluation (with 52 related competencies); Research (with 17 related competencies); and Mentoring (with 11 related competencies).

History and Development

The Effective Practices for Teaching Interpreting was developed through collaborative conversations with Deaf and hearing stakeholders, including interpreters, educators, and consumers in a variety of settings. These Effective Practices were one result of a larger federal grant (Department of Education grant #H160C030001), funded to investigate, and design, and implement a curriculum for teaching teachers how to teach interpreting. The first step in developing the actual curriculum for teaching teachers how to teach interpreting was to research existing and current practices and curricula for teaching teachers. Key documents and curricula were reviewed, including:

  • the curriculum from the Western Maryland TIP Model Curriculum, published in 1990[iv].
  • Key documents in the interpreting field, such as:
    • the CIT Task Analysis (1984)[v],
    • the CIT National Education Standards (1995)[vi],
    • the ASLTA Certification Procedures and Standards (1996)[vii] and
    • research about teaching teachers in the broader context of post-secondary education were reviewed.

Following this extensive review, stakeholders, both Deaf and hearing, and including interpreters, educators, consumers in a variety of settings participated in review and discussions of the needs. These focus groups were followed by interviews with key experts. [viii]
From that research and design, a set of domains and competencies for a teaching program was developed. A 3-stage formative evaluation process of those domains and competencies was designed.

3-stage Formative Evaluation:

  • Stage 1: Content and Curriculum Expert review and input
  • Stage 2: Targeted Stakeholder input
  • Stage 3: Broad Stakeholder input

Stage 1

Stage 1 was completed in 2004. The original domains and competencies were revised based on the input received in Stage 1 from content and curriculum experts.

Stage 2

Stage 2 of the evaluation was completed Oct. 30, 2004. At that stage, input from and comment from 3 targeted groups of stakeholders was gathered. The targeted groups were:

  1. Experienced interpreting educators (Deaf and hearing): 3 or more years of post-secondary teaching or workshop presentations (at least half-time);
  2. Novice interpreting educators (Deaf and hearing): less than 3 years of half-time experience;
  3. Potential/future interpreting educators (Deaf and hearing): little to no experience teaching interpreting.

Stage 3

Broad stakeholder input was gathered via a national online Roundtable, originally scheduled for November 1-15, 2004. Open to anyone interested in participating, the goal was to collect input from the broader field of stakeholders. The input at each stage informed revisions of the domains and competencies. The original Roundtable discussion period was extended from November 2004 through March 2005 to allow for more widespread input. The Domains and Competencies were recognized by the Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) as the model of effective practices to be followed in the education of interpreting educators for grant funding by RSA.

Initial Dissemination and Implementation

One program, the Masters in Interpreting Pedagogy at Northeastern University, used these to design and implement an interpreter educator graduate degree program. The curriculum was offered after its development until 2011, when it was closed. It is unknown if other programs have used them, as no tracking of their use was put into place. The Effective Practices were further disseminated briefly through a series of workshops for educators around the country between 2005-2010, as well as used as the basis for evaluating graduates of the then existing program. Although well-accepted during these dissemination efforts, they seemed to disappear after 2010.

Challenge!

It is time for them to re-emerge and guide the certification of interpreter educators. Certainly, after more than 10 years, the first step will need to be a thorough review and updating of them, a review that includes a broad group of stakeholders. Although the opportunity for federal funding for such an effort was lost in the current cycle of federal funding, there are enough accredited IPPs and interpreter educators to take on this challenge. We need to hold ourselves to the same kinds of standards that we hold others to. The domains and competencies need to be the foundation for the design, development, delivery, and assessment of any and every program that prepares interpreter educators. They need to be form the core of the establishment of an interpreter educator certification process. To learn more about the Effective Practices for Teaching Interpreting, please go to http://www.tiem.online.tiemcenter.org/curriculum_domains.html Then let’s move toward the certification of qualified interpreter educators!


[i] Sawyer, David B. 2004. Fundamental Aspects of Interpreter Education. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
[ii] Although those programs have yet to offer any evidence to support that claim-it would be great if that were to happen soon! I am a firm believer in the CCIE Accreditation process. But belief needs to become knowledge, and we need evidence that CCIE Accreditation DOES reflect quality IPPs!
[iii] Downloadable at http://www.tiem.online.tiemcenter.org/curriculum_domains.html
[iv] Downloadable at: http://www.tiemcenter.org/tiem.online/curriculum_baker-shenk.pdf
[v] Can be purchased through CIT at www.cit-asl.org
[vi] Downloadable at: http://www.cit-asl.org/natl_stand.htm
[vii] Downloadable at: http://www.aslta.org/certification/index.html
[viii] A full description of the research and literature reviews, and the results can be found in Interpreting and Interpreter Education: Directions for Research and Practice. 2005. Edited by M. Marschark, R. Peterson, and E. Winston; Oxford University Press; ISBN 0-19-5176944.