Sample Interpreting Workshop Proposal

Unfortunately, workshop proposals are difficult to come by. (Maybe our hesitance to get observed as interpreters carries over into professional development?) To help with this and practice some vulnerability, I’ve decided to share my workshop proposal for the OCRID 2014 conference. It’s not perfect, and some elements of the workshop shifted between creation and implementation. But on the whole, I think it’s a decent overview of what a workshop proposal looks like – even if it is a work in progress. Special thanks to OCRID for allowing me to present, and to all the participants who contributed to a rich conversation.


Making Research Count: Your Travel Guide to the Republic of Researchistan

Presented by Austin Kocher, The Ohio State University

Program Description

The term “research” – like travel to foreign country – provokes mixed reactions among sign language interpreters: beguiling to some, terrifying to others. Yet as sign language interpreting continues to grows as a practice profession and more working interpreters earn graduate level degrees, we cannot ignore the increasingly important role of academic research. But how can we make research count? Workshop participants with receive hands-on training in the art of reading and evaluating interpreting research, applying research to daily practice, incorporating research into workshops and presentations, and improving academic ASL skills. This workshop is organized like a travel guide, with actual travel stories and photographs along the way. We will learn how to pack our intellectual suitcase for the journey, visit the must-see sights in the current state of interpreting research, learn how to talk with the curious academic locals, and navigate back to safety when we get lost.

Benefit to Practitioners

The content of this workshop is applicable to all working interpreters, interpreter trainers, and interpreters interested in creating a professional workshop. Participants will gain confidence discussing academic research and develop skills to make research relevant in the field. Working interpreters will improve their ability to evaluate research, and apply it to their daily practice. Interpreter trainers will become more familiar with research outlets and learn to incorporate it into interpreter training program. Interpreters interested in creating a workshop will be able to utilize up-to-date professional knowledge as a foundation for workshop development. As a result, workshop participants will become better consumers of information, and better able to create new knowledge for the benefit of the interpreting profession.

Workshop learning objectives.

  • Objective 1: Participants will recognize key organizations, researchers, and academic disciplines that are currently producing research related to interpreting.
  • Objective 2: Participants will be able to identify and retrieve current interpreting research, including academic articles, books, and reports.
  • Objective 3: Participants will be able to read, summarize, and evaluate research materials.
  • Objective 4: Participants will be able to incorporate research into daily practice, professional development activities, and contribute to future research.
  • Objective 5: Participants will improve their receptive and expressive academic ASL skills.


  • To accomplish Objective 1, the presenter will use didactic instruction and group discussion to provide an overview to the current state of interpreting research with specific examples from across the U.S. and around the world. (20 minutes*)
  • To accomplish Objective 2, the presenter will demonstrate how to retrieve research-related publications using online databases and web searches, including how to gain legal access to research materials through public libraries. (20 minutes*)
  • To accomplish Objective 3 the presenter will provide introductory instruction to the research process and writing practices, using personal examples from the presenter’s own work. The presenter will then distribute one academic publication to participants. Participants will work individually and in groups to identify the key parts of the publication, summarize the results, and evaluate the conclusions. (60 minutes*)
  • To accomplish Objective 4, the presenter will use examples his own research to demonstrate how to incorporate new research into existing knowledge frameworks, reference research publications, and ask new questions. Workshop participants will be differentiated by professional experience and interest into two groups: the first group(s) will apply research to daily practice, and the second group(s) will incorporate research into workshop development or interpreter training. Both groups will be asked to reflect on how new research raises new questions about interpreting. (60 minutes*)
  • To accomplish Objective 5, the presenter will use ASL as the language of instruction, and participants are invited (but not required) to use ASL during workshop discussion. Specific research-related signs will be discussed as applicable. (This objective will run concurrent with objectives 1-4.)
  • *An additional 20 minutes is allotted for a workshop introduction, closing comments, and flex time.

Biographical Sketch

Austin Kocher is a Ph.D. student at the Ohio State University in the Department of Geography. He graduated with an interpreting degree from Columbus State Community College in 2006, and earned an MA in geography in 2009. Austin’s recent projects include organizing a Deaf Geographies working group among international scholars to improve the quantity and quality of scholarship on Deaf culture and the interpreting profession in academic research. He blogs regularly at

Language Considerations

The presenter will review the following language plan at the beginning of the workshop. Given the importance of being able to discuss research in both ASL and English, the workshop will use both judiciously and systematically. The presenter will use ASL throughout the workshop. Workshop participants are invited to use this workshop as an opportunity develop their academic signing skills, but are also encouraged to balance this with their ability to attain the learning objectives of the workshop. Where necessary, participants will be grouped by modality preference.

Workshop Information

The requested time for the workshop is three hours. The workshop is designed to be appropriate for all levels of interpreters who do not have a research background. A projector is required, but the presenter will provide the laptop and connectors. It is requested that voicing into English will be conducted in a way that balances the objectives of the workshop and the needs of the participants. Copy-signing during audience discussion will be helpful.


This workshop uses recent research in two ways. First, the workshop itself draws upon the following recent research in the field of interpreting.

  • Gile, Daniel. (2001) Getting Started in Interpreting Research: Methodological Reflections, Personal Accounts and Advice for Beginners. John Benjamins Publishing.
  • Napier, Jemina; McKee, Rachel Locker, and Goswell, Della (eds.) (2006) Sign Language Interpreting: Theory and Practice in Australia and New Zealand. Federation Press.
  • Nicodemus, Brenda and Swabey, Laurie, eds. (2011) Advances in Interpreting Research: Inquiry in Action. John Benjamins Publishing.
  • Marschark, Marc; Peterson, Rico; and Winston, Elizabeth (eds). (2005) Sign Language Interpreting and Interpreter Education: Directions for Research and Practice (Perspectives on Deafness). Oxford University Press.

Second, the workshop will use the following recent resources (or similar resources) as hands-on material for discussion.

  • Cokely, Dennis. “Shifting positionality: A critical examination of the turning point in the relationship of interpreters and the deaf community.” Interpreting and Interpreter Education (2005): 1.
  • Dean, Robyn K., and Robert Q. Pollard. “Application of demand-control theory to sign language interpreting: Implications for stress and interpreter training.”Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 6.1 (2001): 1-14.
  • Debevc, Matjaž, Primož Kosec, and Andreas Holzinger. “Improving multimodal web accessibility for deaf people: sign language interpreter module.” Multimedia Tools and Applications 54.1 (2011): 181-199.
  • Fischer, Steven L., Matthew M. Marshall, and Kathryn Woodcock. “Musculoskeletal disorders in sign language interpreters: A systematic review and conceptual model of musculoskeletal disorder development.” Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment and Rehabilitation 42.2 (2012): 173-184.
  • Palmer, Jeffrey Levi, Wanette Reynolds, and Rebecca Minor. “”You Want What on Your PIZZA!?”: Videophone and Video-Relay Service as Potential Influences on the Lexical Standardization of American Sign Language.” Sign Language Studies 12.3 (2012): 371-397.

OCRID Conference is Next Weekend!

The Ohio (OCRID) state conference for sign language interpreters is just next weekend – May 16-18. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I love being involved in the planning process, and I’m grateful for the entire OCRID team. Good people, them. (See the program overview below.)

I’m excited about three major things.

First, I am looking forward to seeing this year’s batch of student research posters on the first night of the conference. I organized this session last year hoping that my belief in the power of ITP students would pan out. The students did not disappoint. But second acts can be difficult. Fortunately, we have five excellent participants who are ready to share their original thoughts and make a very smart contribution early on in their careers. Kudos to them.

Second, I’m getting some nervous energy about presenting my own three-hour workshop called “Making Research Count”. I’ve resisted doing a three-hour session in the past because I’m more comfortable with research-style presentations which last between 15 and 45 minutes. Plus, even when I do properly teach, my classes are up to 80 minutes, less than half the time. Teaching a workshop is a different beast. But now that I’ve had a little over a year to work on it, I think I’ve boiled it down to the right mix of theory, practice, hand-on work, and discussion. After the conference, I’ll put pieces of the workshop on the blog for your feedback. Oh yeah, and I’ll be signing it, too.

Workshop description: The term “research” – like travel to a foreign country – provokes mixed reactions among sign language interpreters: beguiling to some, terrifying to others. Yet as sign language interpreting grows as a practice profession and more working interpreters earn graduate level degrees, we cannot ignore the increasing importance of academic research. But how can we make research count? Workshop participants will be introduced to core research concepts and current thinking in interpreting research, followed by hands-on training in the art of reading and evaluating interpreting research, applying research to daily practice, incorporating research into workshops and presentations, and improving academic ASL skills. We will learn how to pack our intellectual suitcase for the journey, visit the must-see sights in the current state of interpreting research, learn how to talk with the academic locals, and navigate back to safety. (.3 CEUs)

Third, I’m eager to see us support the Mahoney family during the Saturday evening fundraiser for Audacity to Exist. It’s terrific that Shalene Germani made the event happen. I’m interested in seeing how the audience conversation goes. It’s open to the public, so I hope we see community members of all stripes present for the trailer and the discussion.

I hope to see some of you there.

OCRID new conference schedule

Participants Needed for OCRID Student Poster Session

The 2014 OCRID conference will feature another student poster session. The thing is, we need student presenters to make it happen. Check out the invitation below, pass it along to ITP or ASL students you know, and contact me through the website if you have any questions at all. See you all at the conference! Download Student Poster Session PDF

poster session 2014

What do sign language interpreters need to accomplish?

What do interpreters need to collectively accomplish? (Which is really a way of saying, what do *I* hope to accomplish?)

  1. A History of our Profession: It is popular today for interpreters to claim legitimacy by remembering the good old days, or to give homage to a few senior names in the field. But this is not what I mean. We need to understand the historical circumstances within which interpreting emerged as an increasingly professional practice. This is not a history of individuals, but a history of the knowledge of interpreting. During this 50th anniversary year of the founding of RID, we have an opportunity to do this. But we also risk re-telling our history only through individualistic accounts at the expense of a more holistic analysis of the cultural and political circumstances of our profession.
  2. A Critique of Ourselves: There is too much criticism and too little critique. Criticism is about pointing out faults and trying to correct mistakes through righting wrongs. Critique is the practice of recognizing the conditions of ones own existence, and determining what direction we might move in to create a different future. The moment for critique is always now.
  3. A Class Analysis of Interpreting: Despite the fiery accusations that hearing interpreters take advantage of the Deaf community, we have largely overlooked the fact that interpreters are largely marginal laborers in the post-industrial service economy, have no substantial political representation, and lack (like more and more workers) the basic protections of job security, wage security, and health care. The identity politics of the Deaf-Hearing divide is important, for sure. But it should not keep us from talking about class.
  4. Better Literature: Yes, intellectual production is important, especially if interpreters are getting paid as traditional intellectuals. The current literature on ASL interpreting is (mostly, not entirely) overly-schematic, borrow concepts simplistically and uncritically from other fields, and do little to develop a coherent theoretical and practical framework for understanding interpreting. If the new generation of interpreters stay committed, they might be able to effect some change in this area.
  5. A Good Answer to Why Interpreting Matters: Why should I be an interpreter? Initial answers may include: learn to sign with a friend, make a living doing something I love, help the Deaf community. All of which are totally acceptable answers, in my opinion. But does interpreting have any social value beyond this? Are there concrete benefits of interpreting to the Deaf community, to the hearing community, to businesses, to schools, to the world? And how might we represent those benefits? We need to play the long game.
  6. Concrete Wins: We need interpreters to work together to effect small but concrete changes that benefit the field and the client base. And those wins need to be advertised to the interpreting community at large, and released to the media. We need to believe (and we need others to believe) that interpreting isn’t just some loosey-goosey social club of people who know a little ASL. We need to have the vision to set clear goals and the power to realize those goals.

Those are my goals. What would you add? Take away? Modify?

Poster Session for Interpreters

At the OCRID (Ohio Chapter of RID) conference earlier this year, the organizers were generous enough to let me organize a student poster session. I was very proud of the applicants we accepted. Everyone had something original to contribute. A variety of research methods were used and the poster designs were splendid.

What’s a poster session, you ask? A poster session is an event where participants present their original contributions to a field using a visual display. Kind of like a middle school science fair, but without the random puffs of smoke and 12 year olds trying to catch escaping hamsters. Poster sessions are common at academic conferences, but not unheard of at trade shows and other professional gatherings. Attendees have the freedom to browse the posters and mingle with the presenters. It’s a great way for newer interpreters to get lower-stakes presentation experience, and it’s a great way for more experienced interpreters to meet the up-and-comers.

I am excited about promoting a similar poster session at the 2014 OCIRD conference. I hope to see poster sessions used more widely at interpreting conferences in the future.