Incidental Learning

Incidental learning is what we learn through of all the informal interactions (visual, audio, or kinesthetic) we have with others in public settings. For students, incidental learning is a large part of their social and cognitive development and makes a significant impact on their interactions among their peers. However, for Deaf/HH students, although they too are constantly surrounded by this type of learning, they do not necessarily have access to it. Hearing students can also apply what they learn from this incidental learning to what they learn in the classroom, but as more and more Deaf/HH students are mainstreamed alone or with a few other of their Deaf/HH peers, they are missing out on this wealth of incidental information and scaffolding opportunities.

To make up for this deficit in learning opportunities for their Deaf/HH students, some suggested strategies are:
  • Teachers should find ways to integrate incidental learning with their structured learning, exposing deaf and hard-of-hearing students to as much of the incidental learning that hearing students are privy to as possible. A good example would be to allocate 3-5 minutes of classroom time for discussions on informal topics, such as where students like socialize, favorite books, or what happened at the dinner table last night.
  • Teachers can share information of their own as well, from current events for example, and then relate it to what they are teaching in their formal classroom settings.
  • Increasing awareness is another approach. Setting up a role play where hearing students portray a deaf student in a crowd of hearing students or vice versa will help each students understand the other’s perspective. Students, teachers and other school staff should see that making a small effort to include deaf and hard-of-hearing students in informal interactions will make all the difference.