Qualitative Reasoning in Education of Deaf Students: Scientific Education and Acquisition of Portuguese as a Second Language

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Brazilian educational system is faced with the task of integrating deafs along with non-deafs in the classroom. A requirement of a bilingual education arises, with the Brazilian Sign Language as the native language and Portuguese as the second
  Qualitative reasoning in the education of deaf students: scientific education and acquisition of Portuguese as a second language Heloisa Salles Department of Linguistics , University of Brasilia  Brasília, DF, Brasil hsalles@unb.br Paulo Salles Institute of Biological Sciences , University of Brasilia  Brasília, DF, Brasil  psalles@unb.br Bert Bredeweg   Department of Social Sciences and Informatics, University of Amsterdam Amsterdam, Netherlands  bert@swi.psy.uva.nl Abstract Brazilian educational system is faced with the task of  promoting deaf people educational rights. Presently, the deaf are integrated in the classroom along with hearing students. Qualitative Reasoning may provide tools to support Portuguese acquisition in the context of the development of scientific concepts. This study describes an experiment with eight deaf students being exposed to three articulate qualitative models organized in gradual levels of complexity. Questionnaires were used to assess ther students’ ability of expressing ideas in written Portuguese using the ontology  provided by the models. An interesting result was that five students were consistent in the ability of recognizing objects and processes, build up causal chains and apply them to a given situation, assessing derivative values of quantities and making predictions about the consequences of changes, and write up a composition about an ecological accident, using linguistic descriptions of the relevant physical and social  processes. These preliminary results are encouraging and ongoing work is the development of models and textual material in different domains, such as electrochemistry, to explore the potential of qualitative models in second language acquisition. Aspects of the linguistic and educational situation of the deaf in Brazil Two major problems arise in approaching the linguistic and educational situation of deaf people. Firstly, they have developed a natural sign language, which evolved over generations, enabling them to communicate and interact within their community. However, this situation is not as successful as it seems: there is great variation in the ability to use a sign language among the deaf, which in turn is due to a number of facts, such as age of exposure (if so) to sign language, family and educational support, the evolution of legal rights in the society etc. Secondly, due to the impairment in audio ability, it is very difficult for the deaf to use aural languages, which proves to be a strong barrier in their integration within the broad society, leading to their isolation and at best to their insertion in the so-called ‘deaf culture’. As a corollary, a minority language, manifested in the visual modality, coexists with a dominant majority language, manifested in the aural modality. As far as Brazilian deaf people are concerned, the situation is essentially as described above (cf. Ferreira Brito, 1993; Quadros, 1997; Salles et al  . 2002). Given the cross-country heterogeneity in the educational system, we shall concentrate on a single situation, namely that of (few) deaf students in Brasília. Being the capital of the country, Brasília displays a wide system of state schools, which essentially assume the orientation in the ‘Salamanca Declaration’ regarding educational ‘inclusion’. Accordingly, the deaf are integrated in the classroom along with hearing students. Portuguese being the official language in Brazil, there is a requirement on a bilingual education. In spite of all sorts of limitations, namely teachers qualification, financial support in the development and use of educational technology among others, most educational methods have  been oriented by the assumption that  Língua Brasileira de Sinais (henceforth, LIBRAS), the ‘Brazilian Sign Language’, is the native language of the deaf community 1 , Portuguese being their second language. 2  This policy has 1  The Brazilian Federal Law n o  10.436, published in 24/04/2002, legally recognizes LIBRAS as the language of the deaf community. 2  Depending on educational orientation, some deaf students are worked as to develop aural abilities – also referred as lips reading  . In the past, this procedure used methods prohibiting the use of a sign language, which is nowadays heavily criticized, given the understanding that the signed language is the most adequate for deafs, as a native language. Nowadays, it is still controversial that only the written version of the (second) aural language should be used for educational purposes. In the present study, the aural abilities of the student will not be taken into consideration, in spite of their (arguable) importance in the (written) use of the aural language.   been responsible for the diffusion of LIBRAS within the educational community and among deaf students. Although the situation is far from ideal, various primary and secondary school teachers use LIBRAS or teach with the support of an educational interpreter/translator LIBRAS-Portuguese. Apart from this, some schools make use of special classrooms, exclusive for the deaf, which are intended to offer additional support with homework and written Portuguese. In this context, tools are required to articulate knowledge and to facilitate second language acquisition, in order to promote the social inclusion of the deaf. Qualitative Reasoning (QR) is an area of AI that aims at the development of formalisms for reasoning with incomplete knowledge (B. Bredeweg and P. Struss (eds). 2003. Current Topics in Qualitative Reasoning.  AI Magazine, special issue, Volume 24, Number 4, winter, pages 13-130).QR techniques are therefore taken to be powerful tools in the education of deaf students, given that they articulate knowledge about different physical and social systems in conceptual models; they use a restricted set of modelling  primitives to represent a wide class of scientific concepts; they use a concise vocabulary, expressed in ‘everyday language’ to describe different classes of phenomena; they  provide a clear description of the system structure; they have explicit representation of causal relations within the system, where it is possible to ground explanations about the system behavior. Due to the relevance of articulating different tools in the education, the importance of the  present study is that it provides a formal representation of dynamic aspects of the systems under study in a situation involving students with special needs, to whom the use of logical reasoning embedded in a visual pedagogy in the development of their linguistic abilities proves to be of great interest, in a society seeking for human development. Assumptions in this study are: (i) the (non-linguistic) diagrammatic representation of causal relations in qualitative models should be easily captured by deaf students due to their visual abilities (cf. Hawkins, 2001); (ii) the basic vocabulary should be familiar to them, due to their educational level (secondary school students); (iii) the vocabulary and the causal relations represented in the models should be understood, due to their ability to work out logical deductions; (iv) the understanding of the causal relations and the articulation of old and new vocabulary can  be read off the linguistic description of physical and social  processes and the textual connectivity in their written composition in Portuguese; (v) while conceptual connectivity ( coherence ) is a function of the understanding of the causal relations represented in the qualitative model, grammatical connectivity ( cohesion ) is a function of the level of proficiency in each language (cf. Halliday & Hasan 1976; Koch, 2003, for details on the opposition coherence/ cohesion ), LIBRAS, being expected to indicate native mastering, whereas Portuguese, some level of second language acquisition. This paper is organized as follows: section 2 describes models and simulations developed for this experiment. Section 3 discusses methodological aspects of the experiment and the results are presented in section 4. Finally, discussion and final remarks are presented in section 5. 2. Models and simulations The Qualitative Process Theory (QPT) (Forbus, 1984) was chosen for this work because it provides an ontology for explicit representation of situations, processes and causal relations. Also, QPT was the basis for a number of studies in cognitive science. Of interest for this work are the theoretical framework for learning about physical domains defined by Forbus & Gentner (1986) and the semantic studies of Kuhene & Forbus (2002) and Kuhene (2003). The qualitative simulator The models were built in the modelling environment HOMER (Jellema, 2000; Bessa Machado & Bredeweg, 2002), and simulations were run in the qualitative simulator GARP (Bredeweg, 1992). The visualizing tool VISIGARP (Bouwer & Bredeweg 2001) was used to present the students diagrams representing objects and relations, quantities, quantity values, causal dependencies and state transitions during the simulations. Accordingly, the pair <magnitude, derivative> represented quantity values, and for the most important quantities quantity spaces were {small, medium, large} and {hot, mild, cold}. Causal relations are modelled by using two primitives: direct influences  (I+ and I–), used to represent the effects of  processes, and qualitative  proportionalities  (P+ and P–), used to represent how changes caused by processes  propagate through the system. Model 1 - The ‘growing tree’ Deaf students were presented with three models. The first model represents a ‘growing tree’ and was used mainly for introducing the vocabulary and modelling primitives used to capture knowledge in the model. While a tree grows the area of its shade increases, which in turn causes soil temperature to decrease. Only process ‘growth of the tree’ is active. The model was used mainly for introducing the vocabulary and modelling primitives used to capture knowledge in a qualitative model. A simulation presented to the students showed 3 states after the initial scenario, with the directly influenced quantity biomass  increasing from <  small  , increasing  > up to < large , increasing  >, while quantity  shade  changes through the same correspondent qualitative values, and the quantity temperature  of the soil changes from < hot  , decreasing  > to < cold  , decreasing  >. Model 2 - The ‘drying shirt’ This model describes changes in the weight of a shirt drying in the sun. The model explores a more complex situation, involving two processes ( energy/heat production in the sun  and evaporation of water in the shirt) and conceptually relates the shirt’s weight with the mass of liquid water contained in it. A simulation presented to the students demonstrate that the directly influenced quantity liquid water mass  changes from < large , decreasing  > to <  small  , decreasing  > and causes the quantity weight   of the shirt to change through the same correspondent values, while the quantity vapour   in the atmosphere was increasing. Model 3 - ‘Cataguazes’ This model is inspired in an ecological accident occurred in Cataguazes, a Brazilian city, involving the chemical  pollution of several rivers in a densely populated area in the Paraíba do Sul river water basin, maybe the worse accident of this kind in the country (Martins, 2003). A paper industry used to store toxic chemicals it produces in a dam, managed  by the industry itself. In March 2003, the dam broke down and 1.2 billion liters of pollutant substances were released and caused damages to water supply, soil, biodiversity and the economy in a large area of the water basin. Pollution went downstream and first contaminated the Pomba river, where fishing and cattle farms are important economic activities. As the mass of pollutants kept flowing downwards, it reached the Paraíba do Sul river, where half million people was affected. Companies that explore the so-called ‘freshwater shrimp’ in that area reported heavy economic losses, and jobs were lost. The model includes notions of management and removal of pollutants from the dam to demonstrate the effects of good and bad management. Vocabulary, cause – effect relations and logical deductions were explored in the experiment by using the Cataguazes model. Its causal model was also the basis for a written exercise (see Section below). Objects, quantities and causal relations of the Cataguazes model are presented in Figure 1. A simulation with the ‘Cataguazes’ model We present here, to illustrate, a simulation with the Cataguazes model. The initial scenario describes a bad situation: quantity  pollution  has value < large , increasing  > at the dam and the rivers, while cattle  and  shrimp  have values <  small  , decreasing  > and jobs in both activities are also <  small  , decreasing  >. The simulation shows the effects of greater control on the pollution that leads to an increasing amount of pollutants being removed from the dam. A  behaviour path [1   2   3   10   11   14   12   22  20] was selected to be presented to the students because it shows the ideal results: in the states 1, 2, and 3 the management effects cause the reversion in the derivatives of the instances of  pollution . Next, this quantity decreases first in the dam (states 3, 10, 11), then in the Pomba river (states 11, 14, 12) and finally the conditions improve in the Paraíba do Sul river (states 12, 22, 20). Economic activities follow improvement in river water quality. These results are shown in Figures 2 and 3. Figure 1: Objects manager, dam, farmer, businessman, Pomba river and Paraíba do Sul river, associated with quantities and causal relations in the Cataguazes model.    (a) (c)(b)   Figure 2. State-graph of a simulation on good management of the Cataguazesmodel Figure 3. A selected simulation of good management using the ‘Cataguazes’ model. (a) values of concentrations of pollution in the dam and in two rivers; (b) recovering of cattle and farming jobs in the Pomba river area; (c) recovering of shrimp and related jobs in the Paraíba do Sul  3. Methodology Subjects This study is a joint activity in a secondary state school, with deaf students from the 2 nd  year and their teachers and interpreters of LIBRAS-Portuguese in the classroom. The students are fluent in LIBRAS and display some knowledge of Portuguese as a second language, given their exposure to this (written) language since their early (formal) education. The students were exposed to three qualitative models organized in gradual levels of complexity. As for their  background, they are familiar with some of the scientific concepts articulated in the models, due to their education in  physics, chemistry and biology, although unfamiliar with their expression in modelling environments. .3   The goals We are not measuring learning. The goal of the present study is to verify the understanding of the deaf students of causal relations expressed in the models by means of the following instruments: (i) the manipulation of logical implications within the models; (ii) the linguistic description of physical and social processes referring to the causal models and to analogous situations, using LIBRAS and (written) Portuguese; (iii) the use old and new vocabulary in LIBRAS and (written) Portuguese. How to present the models The methodology used in this experiment draws on concepts developed in Forbus & Gentner (1986) and in Salles et al  . (2003). From the first work, we used an approach based on the sequence from perceptual-based representations acquired earlier in the learning process towards sparse and abstracts representations of the domain. We informally followed a canonical learning sequence that corresponds to (i) diagrammatic and verbal everyday problems (protohistories); Next, (ii) the students were stimulated to find out causality in their working models. At that point, (iii) typical representations of qualitative reasoning became insightful for the students (“naive physics”). This experiment did not go for the last step, (iv) the development of expert models (Forbus & Gentner, 1986). From Salles et al  . (2003) we adopted a curriculum  based on the idea of model progression along different dimensions, exploring knowledge spanning from simple to complex  problems, and from local to wide area of coverage. Model  progression based on structural changes was adopted at a general level in the experiment. So the sequence (‘growing tree’ model   ‘drying shirt’ model   ‘Cataguazes’ model) 3  In spite of the above-mentioned heterogeneity in the use of sign languages by the deaf, we shall assume these students to be  proficient in LIBRAS – a detailed analysis of their linguistic abilities in LIBRAS would take us too far a field – being a topic for future research. A superficial inquiry has shown that they have  been exposed to LIBRAS for at least 8 years in school. included models representing the effects of one process, two  processes with few objects and quantities, and two  processes with many objects and quantities. Some features of the models could be explored according to some dimensions (generalization / specialization, analogy, inverse, structural changes, orders). Analogies were used in a number of cases, as for example, in comparing the effects of cattle and shrimp mortality on the availability of jobs. The sessions with the students The experiment was run in three sessions, one for each model. During the sessions the number of students changed. Only three (students 1,2,3) have gone through all the 3 models. Four students explored models 2 and 3, and one student only the third model. Eventually these eight students all completed the last task (to write the essay). An educational interpreter/translator LIBRAS-Portuguese was  present throughout the experiment. The most relevant vocabulary was written in Portuguese in the blackboard and was pointed out several times during the activity. We used a  projector to show the models and run the simulations to the students in real time. Explanations given by the teacher were interpreted / translated in LIBRAS. After the  presentations, details of structure and behavior of the systems were discussed, until the students said they had ‘understood’ the models. At this point, we started the evaluation process. Evaluation of the understanding of the models The tools used for the evaluation of the experiment were questionnaires and VISIGARP screenshots to illustrate the questions. Most of times, VISIGARP’s options ‘E/R structure’ (for objects and relations) and ‘Dependencies’ (for the causal model) were selected. The students were tested in (written) Portuguese on the understanding (i) of representational aspects, such as quantity, objects (by answering questions); (ii) of causal model diagrams (by identifying positive and negative influences, drawing arrows and answering questions); (iii) of if-then implications regarding cause-effect relationships (by filling in blank spaces in sentences); (iv) of providing explanations by back-tracking the causal model (by filling in blank spaces in sentences); and (v) by writing an essay about a topic  presented in a qualitative simulation model. The questionnaire consisted of 12 questions (Q1-Q12) distributed among the three models. The questions are explained below. Questions about the ‘growing tree’ model Five questions were presented to the students about the ‘growing tree’ model, with the following objectives: a) to identify the names of two objects in a list (Q1); b) to identify a process and to assess two utterances about influences on quantities (Q2); c) to count states in a state graph (Q3); d) and to identify the two values – magnitude and derivative – of a quantity represented in a diagram:
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