Student thesis: Phd


Since the implementation of the New-Born Hearing Screening Program in 2006, deafness can now be identified early leading to early amplification, and early intervention all of which have been shown to positively affect language outcomes for deaf children (Yoshinaga-Itano et al., 1998). Despite this, a gap in attainment between deaf and typically hearing children still exists in all developmental measures, taken at age 5 years in England (National Deaf Children's Society [NDCS], 2021). Although there is a plethora of research that has set out to address this gap, this has largely focused on the development of literacy and maths (Marschark et al., 2011) yet no studies have explored the significant gap in attainment in science for deaf children in the early years, nor considered how best to support children’s development in this area. This thesis addresses this gap in research. Chapter 1 outlines the rationale for the focus on science education and deaf children. Chapter 2 and 3 then discuss the effects of deafness on spoken language and cognition before setting a context for the pilot home-based science intervention we developed in the study. The overarching methodology is the focus of Chapter 4. Chapter 5 presents the first paper, published in Deafness and Education International, which elicited the attitudes and behaviours of caregivers of deaf and typically hearing children towards science, pre- and post-study commencement. Here we found that irrespective of group (control or intervention), participating in a study about science talk led to an increase in caregiver reported science talk and a generally positive view of science across all groups. Chapter 6 reports a study into the effects of the intervention on deaf and typically hearing children’s conceptual understanding of science and their scientific enquiry skills. Here we present the findings of caregiver report assessments which were completed over an ~13-month period. In total, caregivers completed five assessments (each at two different time points); four on their child’s understanding of concepts and one on their developing scientific enquiry skills. We found that all caregivers, irrespective of group, reported positive gains in their child’s conceptual understanding. Caregiver assessments of scientific enquiry reported greater gains for deaf children than those typically hearing. This study offers preliminary evidence to suggest that longer-term interventions may provide an opportunity to narrow the attainment gap between deaf and typically hearing children. Chapter 7 explores, the reported increase in caregiver science talk presented in Paper 1 using analysis of video-recorded interactions between caregivers and their children (deaf and typically hearing) using measures of input quality. In general, caregivers of typically hearing children used a greater quantity of utterances, a significantly greater proportion of complex sentences and made more links to previous experiences than caregivers of deaf children, whereas caregivers of deaf children used significantly shorter utterances and a greater proportion of closed questions. We found the intervention to positively affect utterance length, the number of science and causal words, with effects on the use of science words being greater for caregivers of deaf children. Chapter 8 draws together the findings from across all three empirical studies and considers the implications of our study on future research with deaf children as well as implications for practice.
Date of Award31 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAnna Theakston (Supervisor) & Helen Chilton (Supervisor)


  • Deaf/typically hearing children
  • Early years
  • Assessment
  • Spoken language
  • Daily routines
  • Caregiver/child interactions
  • Scientific enquiry
  • Conceptual understanding
  • Science
  • STEM
  • Early intervention

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