This project investigates deaf learners’ use of ‘multiliteracies’, including reading, writing, sign language, technology and multimodal communication, to improve the education of deaf people in developing countries. It is a three-year £436,000 study called ‘Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies: Research into a sustainable approach to the education of deaf children and young adults in the Global South’ (2017-2020).
Researchers at the iSLanDS Institute and Lancaster University (LU) are working with deaf children and young adults in India, Uganda, and Ghana, and two additional countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID), through their joint scheme Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems.
To address the longstanding problem of deaf people’s insufficient access to schools in the developing world, and their resulting lack of employment, income, life quality and fulfilment, this study expands and further entrenches the pilot’s cost-effective and learner-directed literacy teaching methods. These methods involve peer-to-peer teaching by local deaf tutors, supported by deaf research assistants (RAs) in India, Ghana and Uganda. Their work is bolstered in the UK including through our online app Sign Language to English for the Deaf (SLEND) and the adaptation of appropriate assessment methods. To identify generalisable, flexible models that can be taken up by educational providers in the developing world, the project considers the similarities and differences across educational systems in the different countries. It focuses throughout on the agency of deaf learners (including children as well as adults), deaf researchers, deaf tutors, and deaf educators who implement the interventions.
This study builds on our work from a one-year £125,000 pilot project that examined innovative ways to teach literacy to deaf learners. It was entitled ‘Literacy development with deaf communities using sign language, peer tuition, and learner-generated online content: sustainable educational innovation’ (2015-2016).
The pilot project aimed to explore new ways of teaching English to members of disadvantaged deaf communities in India, to improve the quality of educational outcomes for learner groups who do not adequately benefit from traditional interventions. Instead of traditional language teaching, this project took a learner-driven, functional and ethnographic approach, exploiting a virtual/mobile learning platform and supporting deaf peer tutors to develop their own materials and strategies, including teaching through sign language.
Learners focused on functional aspects of English, which means using it to do everyday things such as sending WhatsApp messages. The team also carried out small-scale investigative fieldwork in Ghana and Uganda, to examine transferability across cultures and pave the way for future collaborations. Led by deaf research assistants in the three countries, Peer-to-Peer Deaf Literacy revealed new practices and interventions that policy makers can use to improve education, literacy and empowerment in deaf communities.
This research was also based on two previous iSLanDS projects: Distance Education for Sign Language Users, part of the UK-India Education and Research Initiative; and Education Partnerships in Africa, funded by the British Council. Through Education Partnerships Africa, we focused on joint capacity building for deaf students, HE partners and deaf organisations to develop literacy and academic skills, improve access to the workplace and the availability of sign language interpreters, and create new job profiles in applied sign language studies.
Ahereza, N., Nyarko, M., Fan, H.R., Gillen, J. & Zeshan, U. (2016) SLEND Sign Language to English by the Deaf: literacy development with Deaf communities using sign language, peer tuition, and learner-generated online content. In U.I. Ogbonnaya & S. Simelane-Mnisi (Eds.), Proceedings of the South Africa International Conference on Educational Technologies : “Empowering the 21st century learner”, 24-26 April 2016, Manhattan Hotel, Pretoria (pp. 96–106). Pretoria, South Africa: African Academic Research Forum.
Deaf Multiliteracies: Outcomes from our first ‘collaboratory’ workshop in India (Live reports from the International Institute for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies (iSLanDS).
Denmark, C. (2013) ‘The Impact of an Interactive Learning Platform on the Learning of English as a Second Language by Young Deaf Indian Sign Language Users.’ MA by Research thesis submitted to the University of Central Lancashire.
Fan, H.R. (2016) Deaf young adults’ English literacy development in a peer-supported virtual learning environment. Paper presented at the 13th Conference of the European Society for the Study of English, Galway, Ireland, 22-26 August.
Gillen, J., Papen, U., Zeshan, U. & Panda, S. (2015) Literacy development with deaf communities in India: Designing a sustainable educational innovation. Paper presented at the 19th European Conference on Literacy, Klagenfurt, Austria, 13-16 July.
Gillen, J., Panda, S., Papen, U. & Zeshan, U. (2016) Peer to Peer Deaf Literacy: Working with young deaf people and peer tutors in India. Language and Language Teaching 5, 2(10): 1–7.
Gillen, J., Fan, H.R., Ahereza, N., Nyarko, M., Panda, S. & Zeshan. U. (2016) Exploring the place of the digital in deaf learners’ lives: Explorations from a project in India, Uganda and Ghana. Conference on Language, Literacy and Identity. Sheffield, July.
Parasara, M. & Viradiya, T. (2016) Deaf Adults’ English Literacy Development in an ISL-based Peer Education Context. 12th International Conference on South Asian Language and Linguistics (ICOSAL12), Panel on Indian Sign Language. Hyderabad, January.
Sahasrabudhe, S. (2010) Online elementary-level English literacy programme for young deaf adults using Indian Sign Language. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.
Tusting, K. (2016) Developing language repertoires through a blended ethnographically-informed approach. British Association for Applied Linguistics (Special Interest Group on literacy teaching). Lancaster, June.
Transforming deaf learners’ multiliteracies into sustainable educational approaches: Our new international project is launched (Live reports from the International Institute for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies (iSLanDS).
Zeshan, U. (2016) ‘Deaf literacy.’ Contribution to a Workshop on Co-construction of Research and Working with Stakeholders. Conference on Lessons from a Decade’s Research on Poverty: Innovation, Engagement and Impact. Pretoria, March.
Zeshan, U., Fan, H.R., Gillen, J., Panda, S., Papen, U, Tusting, K., Waller, D. & Webster, J. (2016) Summary Report on “Literacy development with deaf communities using sign language, peer tuition, and learner-generated online content: sustainable educational innovation”. Preston, University of Central Lancashire.
Zeshan, U., Bhattacharya, T., Gillen, J., Mathew, S., Papen, U., Panda, S., Randhawa, S., Tusting, K., & Waller, D. (2017) Policy Report on “Peer to Peer Deaf Literacy” (P2PDL). Preston, University of Central Lancashire.
Julia Gillen, Lancaster University
Uta Papen, Lancaster University
Karin Tusting, Lancaster University
Phil Tubman, Lancaster University
Daniel Waller, UCLan
Jenny Webster, UCLan
Rita Fan Huhua, UCLan (PhD student)
Phil Howarth, UCLan
Eilidh Rose McEwan, UCLan (PhD student)
Sibaji Panda, Rural Lifeline Trust, India
George Akanlig-Pare, University of Ghana
Anthony Mugeere, Makerere University, Uganda
Uganda National Association of the Deaf (UNAD)
Lancaster University Ghana
National Institute of Speech and Hearing
Delhi Foundation of Deaf Women (DFDW)
Rural Lifeline Trust (RLT), India
Literacy Research Centre, Lancaster University
University of Ghana
Makerere University, Uganda
Dr Shakuntala Misra National Rehabilitation University (DSMNRU), India