Deaf Multiliteracies

Modern Languages & Linguistics - iSLanDS

Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems scheme,  Education and Social Research Council, Department for International Development, TESOL,  Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Indian Sign Language

The Deaf Multiliteracies project, which is a collaboration with Lancaster University, focuses on improving the education of deaf people in developing countries. The focus is on the promotion of reading, writing, sign language, technology and multimodal communication in these communities.

In 2017, the project received a £436,000 grant following a successful pilot, which examined innovative ways to teach literacy to deaf learners.

Pilot

Between June 2015 and June 2016, a pilot project was delivered in partnership with Lancaster University, the Uganda National Association of the Deaf, Lancaster University Ghana, and the National Institute for Speech and Hearing in India. It followed on from two previous projects: Distance Education for Sign Language Users (UKIERI), and Education Partnerships in Africa (British Council).The team included experts from TESOL, applied sign linguistics, deaf studies, cross-cultural literacy research, and learning technology.

The distance education project launched an English Learning Platform, an e-environment which caters to the needs of deaf students to acquire written English through sign language. 

Research assistants and peer tutors from the pilot project celebrate the end of their first two weeks of training at the National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH) in Kerala, India, with co-investigators Sibaji Panda (far right) and Uta Papen (sixth from right).

Research assistants and peer tutors from the pilot project celebrate the end of their first two weeks of training at the National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH) in Kerala, India, with co-investigators Sibaji Panda (far right) and Uta Papen (sixth from right).

Next stage

The new study, which was launched in 2017, is entitled: ‘Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies: Research into a sustainable approach to the education of deaf children and young adults in the Global South’.

It is conducted over three years with funding from the Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems scheme, a joint initiative by the  Education and Social Research Council and the Department for International Development.

Researchers are working with deaf children and young adults in India, Uganda, and Ghana, and include outreach to two additional countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The project aims 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. It is doing this by developing a curriculum for deaf language and literacy trainers in order to make a difference to educational practice.

Collaboratory workshop

Collaboratory: Collaboration laboratory. A flexible, multiple-stakeholder event aimed at producing creative ideas and solutions through active cooperation.

The first Deaf Multiliteracies collaboratory was held at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT University) in Bhubaneswar, India, in December 2017.

Workshop at KIIT University

Workshop at KIIT University

Participants included our research assistants and peer tutors, as well as deaf community organisations, local schools, our advisory group, academics, and deaf learners. They explored ways to support teaching and learning that uses Indian Sign Language (ISL) alongside reading and writing, in concert with our project’s aim of testing innovative models of education.

The collaboratory focused on identifying good bilingual teaching and learning initiatives in India that use sign language and literacy, and discussing how positive change can be created through policies that relate to bilingual education.

Ideas being generated at the collaboratory in India

Ideas being generated at the collaboratory in India

Among the six implementable project ideas generated by the collaboratory was a plan to lobby the government to employ deaf peer teachers in rural Odisha, as well as to create a deaf peer education centre in Odisha and interface with 30 districts. Participants also identified a need for making teaching and learning materials in ISL and collecting and sharing bilingual ideas from around India. Another idea was to provide NGOs with the project’s bespoke Sign Language to English by the Deaf (SLEND) learning platform.

Participants also discussed holding an annual state-level conference for deaf students and encouraging parents of deaf children to learn ISL.  

Follow the journey on the iSLanDS blog.