Michele Castiglione (IT)

Michele Castiglione (IT)

Michele Castiglione has been a sign language teacher since 1995. He has taught different levels and has long been a coordinator of sign language courses.

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Michele Castiglione has been a sign language teacher since 1995. He has taught different levels and has long been a coordinator of sign language courses. For two years he worked as a LIS teacher at the SSLMIT University and he also taught deaf secondary school students at the Magarotto Institute of Padova. He has been a member of the examining committee to certify LIS teachers and has given many presentations on the subjects of communication, linguistics, deaf culture, the role and job of a teachers' coordinator.

In 2011 he was one of the founders of the movement LIS SUBITO! and was politically very active in the efforts made to obtain legal recognition for Italian Sign Language. Currently, he is involved in the training and professional development of Sign Language interpreters and is a member of ENSLT (European Network Sign Language Teachers) since 2015. He has been collaborating with Mason Perkins Deafness Fund Onlus for different workshops and to create a platform for educational use inspired by the bilingual story 'Stella'

1. What, in your opinion, are the strengths / weaknesses of the current system in your country?

Among the many points that represent the Italian system, Ive chosen to call attention to several in particular. 

The first has to do with Italian associations: the smallest, which for years now have devoted themselves to teaching, have reached a good level in terms of quality.  This is due not so much to the length of their experience as to their ability to connect the job of teaching with new discoveries arising over time thanks to scientific research.  This relationship to ongoing updates has allowed the small associations to distinguish themselves from other organisations found in Italy and to carry on successfully with their work.

The second pertains to the quality level of the teaching: it has improved greatly and, by contrast to the situation forty years ago when the grammar taught was strictly anchored to the structure of Italian, teachers today carry over the grammatical rules of Sign Language. It must be said, however, that the same difficulties still persist in evaluation during intermediate and final testing and in the content of the material to be presented.

The third point concerns the recent introduction of a fourth level of teaching Sign Language, a model still not very widespread throughout Italy yet adopted in a virtuous manner by several small associations that have clearly established length in terms of hours.  In other cases, the number of hours varies in relation to the specific requirements of the project.

If the creation of a fourth level of teaching stands as a positive innovation, the downside is that an inadequate level of skills persists among teachers, considering the fact that in order to access the fourth level of teaching, its important to have first gained substantial experience in the three earlier levels. 

A similar situation occurs when, during a course, it proves necessary to entrust the teaching of the more theoretical and linguistical aspects to a different expert teacher if the practicum teacher is not equipped with these specific skills. This is a possible weak point.

The final point has to do with materials.  In Italy, Sign Language teachers have for many years now made use of a manual for the three levels of teaching made up of one part dedicated to the teacher and the other to the student.  With respect to the parameters laid out by the CEFR, this manual covers linguistic levels A1 and B1, even though the contents only partially reflect the communicative goals referred to in the Common European Framework of Reference.  The fact of having ready-made material on hand means that many teachers faithfully follow the contents offered by the manual.

2. Can you give us an example of "best practice" in your country?

Italian teachers have begun to look upon European events and teacher-training opportunities with ever greater interest.  Among these, for example, theres the symposium organised last autumn by the ENSLT (European Network of Sign Language Teachers) in order to explore teaching techniques appropriate to the parameters found within level B1 of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).  On that occasion there was an appreciable response on the part of Italian teachers who took part in the European comparison, proving the fact that teaching in Italy upholds and continues to improve its level of quality. 

Tools for teaching are also growing thanks to increasingly advanced technologies that allow teachers to access materials with much more ease compared to the past, such as the projection of video material instead of paper print-ups, or still images from transparencies shown through an overhead projector.  These technological advances create the chance to gather and select Signed video material to be found on many online channels and to make use of an ever-richer supply of materials.

3. Can you tell us about the accreditation of Sign Language teachers in your country?

Currently, the total number of Sign Language teachers in Italy has not yet received official accreditation from the MIUR (Ministry of Instruction, Universities, and Research).  This is also due to the fact that Italy has no law recognising and regulating Italian Sign Language.  Nevertheless, several Italian universities avail themselves of the collaboration of Italian Sign Language teachers, who are chosen following an interview and the evaluation of their CV, or also because they hold a university degree pertinent to a specific area of teaching.

4. Can you tell us something about curriculum development in your country? Are curricula based on the CEFR?

Small associations, which for many years now have devoted themselves to teaching and have taken part in scientific research on Sign Language, setting themselves apart from other associations, have already committed to adapting their work to the parameters laid out by the CEFR: in this case, the efforts to adapt may be attentively verified step by step during work experience.

5. What in your opinion is the way forward for Sign Language teaching and training of Sign Language teachers in your country and/or Europe?

I believe that the situation of Sign Language teachers can improve only on two conditions: the creation of an association dedicated exclusively to Sign Language teachers, and the obligatory requirement that all teachers hold a university degree as well as teacher certification, as is required of hearing teachers who teach spoken languages. This would create true equality between hearing and deaf teachers. 


date interview: May 2017