Date of Award

December 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Urban Education

First Advisor

Amy Otis-Wilborn

Committee Members

Thomas Humphries, Sandra Pucci, Karen Rigoni, Patricia Stevens


American Sign Language, American Sign Language Programs, ASL, ASL Curricula, ASL Curriculum, Post-secondary Institutions


This dissertation is a comprehensive analysis of three universities that have degree awarding American Sign Language programs. The overall theoretical approach was grounded in Freirean thought. For each of these programs, I collected various documents that allowed for an in-depth analysis of the structure, curriculum and program philosophies. A document review of the syllabi, course description, the courses required for graduation, and analysis of data collected through individual interviews with each program coordinator, helped answer research questions: (1) What are curricula designs and infrastructure of existing American Sign Language degree programs? (2) What are the philosophies within the American Sign Language degree programs? (3) How do program structures, philosophies and curricula serve to empower or oppress the linguistic and cultural aspects of ASL and the Deaf community? Two inquiry approaches were utilized to analyze data. Analytical inquiry was used to define the curriculum used at each of the universities. The process consisted of three stages, curriculum interpretation, curriculum development and identification of the structural model used in each program. Ampliative inquiry was used to identify program philosophies through itemizing implicit norms and assumptions then determining if those are appropriate which means that the program celebrates and strives to empower ASL linguistically and culturally. This allowed for targeting practices that empower ASL. Practices that oppress ASL are also noted to serve as cautions for others who want to implement degree based ASL programs elsewhere.