Our Director, Gail Dudson, completed her MA studies at the University of Sheffield in 2018, writing a dissertation on the benefits of Singing and Signing for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Young People, which was based on our Great Singing, Great Signing project with Doncaster Deaf Trust.

It’s a bit of an advantage, being able to study something you are so closely involved with, and Gail was very pleased to get a good mark for the project. The University’s Music Department have recently asked if the dissertation can be distributed to this year’s MA students, as a good example.

We also thought, as the dissertation has some valuable contributions to make towards practising singing and signing, that we’d share it with all you lovely folks out there too…

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Gail's dissertation on
the benefits of Singing and Signing
for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Young People

Pulse, Rhythm and Tempo with Deaf and hearing impaired young people

Gail's findings from her research alongside the GS,GS project could have a massive impact on the way that singing and signing is approached by professionals across the UK in the future and it may also highlight different and more effective ways to engage Deaf and Hearing Impaired (DHI) young people in educational settings (not just in singing or musical activity). To boot, it is a fascinating read...

Here is a small snippet of what she has discovered:

As part of our Great Singing, Great Signing project we’ve been working with Deaf and hearing impaired (DHI) young people to teach basic music skills. One of the Deaf professional musicians we’ve worked with explained that, once she had grasped pulse and rhythm, she was confident about mastering everything else – it was the key to her musical understanding and the bedrock of her skills. Our music leaders found lots of ways to present ideas of pulse and rhythm visually and physically.

Whoosh - normally a warm up circle game; passing  ‘Whoosh’ across the circle with a responding ‘Whoosh’ from the receiver and by the people on either side of them with ‘Chop’. Normally a game of speech, we made it a game of pulse and triple metre; ‘Whoosh, Whoosh, Chop!’ The challenge was maintenance of a constant speed (no advantage to getting in quickly), and for tempo changes between rounds.
Young person
The learning pattern for pulse and rhythm was see, do, then create.  Participants were very quick to learn to recognise a song from note values on a board (without pitch being indicated) and were quickly ahead of where their hearing peers would be expected to be.  Next, they used cards to make their own four-bar patterns and lead the group in sight-reading the pattern (see below). Once the pattern was completed with the cards, they were turned over and the exercise was repeated from memory with a good degree of accuracy by most of the children; those who were less confident knew which of their peers they could rely on to watch and copy, acknowledging the skills of their peers.
Graphic representation of a rhythm pattern next to a child
The children built themselves into the rhythm pattern, with one participant directing and shaping them into shape, then clapping the pattern solo. One of the music leaders also said that the children had developed the ability to write down a simple rhythm if they saw it being clapped with high levels of accuracy and consistency.
Children trying out a rhythm pattern
This led to songwriting starting with a rhythmic base, and dancing, using their strong grasp of pulse and rhythm as a basis for new activity.

Gail's presentation for the University of Sheffield

Gail gave a presentation on the subject of her MA to her colleagues and lecturers on the Psychology of Music course. She had 10 minutes to present the aims of her subject of study, the background behind singing and signing, her approach to the research and she revealed some of her findings and outcomes of her project so far. These include:

  • Yorkshire Youth & Music created a national summit to begin a discussion about developing a comprehensive guide to good practice
  • Speech therapists at the school in Doncaster are ‘copying’ the music learning ideas presented in the Great Singing, Great Signing project when they engage with the children themselves
  • Active participation is close to 100% most of the time
  • The barrier articulated by young hearing impaired people is that ‘singing isn’t for Deaf people’ – which can be and has been addressed
  • Children seem less inhibited about performing solo than hearing children
  • Memorising skills have been noted as improved, as have signing skills (because being part of the choir is an interesting way to learn)

Gail also commission the following graphic recording of the Singing and Signing Summit, as drawn by Beka Haigh (@beka_haytch on Twitter and Instagram):

Singing and Signing Summit: a graphic recording by @beka_haytch