Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies: research into a sustainable approach to education of Deaf children and young adults in the Global South

Lead Research Organisation: University of Central Lancashire
Department Name: Int Inst for Sign Lang and Deaf Studies

Abstract

The exclusion of deaf children and young adults from access to school systems in the developing world results in individuals and communities being denied quality education; this not only leads to unemployment, underemployment, low income, and a high risk of poverty, but also represents a needless waste of human talent and potential. To target this problem, this project extends work conducted under a pilot project addressing issues of literacy education with young deaf people in the Global South. Creating, implementing and evaluating our innovative intervention based on the peer teaching of English literacy through sign language-based tutoring, everyday real life texts such as job application forms, and the use of a bespoke online resource, enabled us to generate a sustainable, cost-effective and learner-directed way to foster literacy learning amongst deaf individuals. To reach further target groups and conduct more in-depth research, the present project extends our work to new groups of learners in India, Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda and Nepal, both in primary schools (ca 60 children in India, Ghana, and Uganda) and with young adult learners (ca 100 learners in interventions, plus ca 60 young adults in scoping workshops in Nepal and Rwanda).

In the targeted countries, marginalisation begins in schools, since many have no resources for teaching through sign language, even though this is the only fully accessible language to a deaf child. This project intends to examine how we can change some of the dynamics that contribute to this, by involving deaf individuals in the design of new teaching approaches, and by using children and young people's everyday experiences and existing literacy practices as the basis for their learning. Participants in such a programme will not only develop English literacy, but "multiliteracies", i.e. skills in sign languages, technology, written English, gesture, mouthing, and other forms of multimodal communication. Developing a multilingual toolkit is an essential element of multiliteracies. Being 'literate' in the modern world involves a complex set of practices and competencies and engagement with various modes (e.g. face-to-face, digital, remote), increasing one's abilities to act independently. Our emphases on active learning, contextualised assessments and building portfolios to document progress will increase the benefit to deaf learners in terms of their on-going educational and employment capacity.

Apart from the actual teaching and interventions, the research also investigates factors in existing systems of educational provisions for deaf learners and how these may systematically undermine and isolate deaf communities and their sign languages. Our analyses will identify the local dynamics of cultural contexts that our programmes and future initiatives need to address and evaluate in order to be sustainable. One challenge we encountered in the pilot was the lack of trained deaf peer tutors. There is a need for investment in local capacity building and for the creation of opportunities and pathways for deaf people to obtain formal qualifications. Therefore, at least four deaf project staff will enrol on an MA programme in Applied Linguistics/TESOL at our partner institution in India. We will develop training in literacy teaching and in research methods for all deaf project staff.

We will also develop and adapt appropriate assessment tools and metrics to confirm what learning has taken place and how, with both children and young adults. This includes adapting the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) for young deaf adult learners and the 'Language Ladder' for deaf children so that we use locally-valid test criteria. To document progress in more detail and in relation to authentic, real life literacy demands we need to create our own metrics, which we will do by using portfolio based assessments that are learner-centred and closely linked to the local curricula.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries of the research are primarily young deaf people in India, Uganda, Ghana, Nepal and Rwanda, who are subject to systemic disadvantage in each context and are in need of experience and knowledge in a mixture of literacy skills, including in English, digital literacies, local sign languages, and multimodal communication. Policy makers and educators will also benefit from the study, as it will help them to more effectively harness the abilities of this group and facilitate better educational access for them, improving these governments' capacity to achieve their aims of educational inclusion for all and meet the requirements of the UNCRPD.
The impact of our project will constitute firstly an increase in actors' agency in their contexts, especially those from signing communities, through a range of capacity building activities, and secondly the forging of influential South-South collaborations. These partnerships shall be based on instrumental improvements like exploiting learner-driven technology, communication through sign language and learner-centric assessment for literacy pedagogy; they will also involve dedicated work on conceptual policy-related impacts by an international team of academics.
These two types of benefit, instrumental and conceptual, require engagement with both the target learner groups and the academics, officials and educators who have influence over policy in each of the contexts. UCLan has already begun engaging with the target learner groups in India, Ghana and Uganda through the pilot, and more recently has worked to increase the Indian deaf community's research skills and capacity, through a 10-day workshop on deaf-led research with 22 deaf participants in June 2016, including most of the project staff from the pilot. Preparation meetings, which have helped the team to target our beneficiaries and develop the strategic routes toward reaching them, were held with deaf organisations and other stakeholders and prospective partners in September 2016 (see Pathways to Impact).
A working group on analysing educational systems of language and literacy provision, focussing on the dynamics of exclusion and barriers to innovation both contextually and generally, will report twice during the project and contribute to the final reporting. To ensure involvement of our learner groups in the conceptual impacts as well, we will run a series of multi-stakeholder participatory workshops (following the framework known as 'collaboratories'). These collaboratories are workshops for up to 60 cross-sectoral project participants that embed systematic engagement into the study by making use of creative facilitation methods to move from vision to action. Their outcomes are reported through multimedia case studies, encompassing video (e.g. short documentaries and interviews), plain English text, and visual stills (e.g. posters and slides). We will produce at least six systematically curated multimedia case studies, based on experiences from the pilot project which had used video-based research documentation effectively.
The increased agency and capacity building is intended to exceed mere incidental learning acquired in project work, and seeks to make concrete provision for suitable individuals from our target beneficiary groups to embark on an academic career, by enabling at least four research assistants to enrol in Amity University's MA programme in Applied Linguistics/TESOL.
We will also develop upskilling activities for all deaf staff a six-month part-time training and development programme. This programme will be further developed into a curriculum for a one-year certificate course to be submitted to the Rehabilitation Council of India for accreditation, thereby enabling deaf sign language users to gain professional accreditation as "Language and literacy trainers" in India.
 
Description In the first half of the project period, we have successfully applied the peer to peer multiliteracies approach to both deaf adults and deaf children in India, Ghana and Uganda. In doing so, we have learnt that the extension of the approach to children is particularly valuable with respect to assessing progress in both sign language and literacy skills. This is because deaf children, upon first entering a school environment, often have no or minimal language skills, and proceed on a trajectory of first acquiring sign language skills, and then moving to literacy skills. They also make use of this mix of modalities, including the manual alphabet, quite soon in their learning journeys. Therefore, we have found that our portfolio approach to assessment is particularly suitable because portfolios, consisting of sign language videos, photos of children's work, and other outputs, capture children's learning across all modalities.

For adult learners, we have modified the assessment in comparison to the pilot project. While still relying on the Common European Framework of Reference as the main framework, we have modified pre-tests and post-tests so that there is more progression within each test, and cut-off points of skill levels can be captured better for individual learners. For children, the Learning Ladder has been an effective testing framework, but we needed to be careful to adapt materials used for testing to the local different cultures.

With respect to customising our approach to different technological environments, our research has shown a surprising split between the countries where we are working. In India, the situation with respect to internet access has radically improved within a very short time in the past few years. Compared with the pilot project in 2015-16, working with our online learning platform is now much more straightforward because coverage, speed and cost of internet access have all improved greatly, as well as smart phone coverage and IT skills of the learners we work with. In Ghana and Uganda, on the other hand, there are greater barriers even in the capital cities with respect to all these factors. On the other hand, the use of technology in these two countries has emerged as a major motivating factor as well as important digital literacy learning for the groups of young deaf adults.

As the new ecosystems of learning are being constructed with groups of learners in the different countries, our research process has tracked the amount and types of peer interaction and peer support across the different research and teaching teams. This means that issues are often addressed and resolved without involving the team of senior researchers in the UK, and this is an important element in the ecosystem of teaching and learning. On the other hand, we also see the effects of the cascading of training from first-hand to second- and third-hand. This has created unexpected, interesting issues, for example where the projects teaching and learning methodology is changed during implementation because of pre-existing local practices in different locations. For example, in Ghana, there is a strong influence of Signed English in deaf education, and we have had to reinforce the learner-centric approach in cultures that are very teacher-centric. These are important lessons when preparing for a wider rollout of training of deaf people for peer teaching roles.
Exploitation Route So far, we have mainly been working on the capacity building aspect of our pathways to impact. We have developed a six-month curriculum for deaf Language and Literacy Trainers, in which both project team members and other deaf trainees in India will participate.

Based on extending our research to working with young deaf children, we have started developing literacy activity materials that we are customising for use with deaf children, including instructions on using the materials with sign language translations. This Storybook authoring package has been adapted from the Joy of Multiliteracies programme in Finland. There, it was developed for working with immigrant children with little Finnish; we have adapted it in collaboration with that team to inspire storytelling in multiple modalities by deaf children. Our own project teams will be using these materials with the schools hosting groups of children in our project.

Together with the curriculum, we are also developing a bilingual language and literacy teachers' handbook. We expect that these resources will be instrumental in creating well-trained deaf professionals working in deaf education for the first time, initially in India, where our work is most advanced. We are working with the advisory committees in Uganda in Ghana to explore how to adapt these resources into the local educational systems in these countries. In doing so, the conceptual work on the educational systems undertaken in our research (research question 4) will be crucial.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education

 
Description It is our ambition to roll out training for deaf sign language users to become professionals in language and literacy teaching in deaf education. To this effect, we have created a curriculum for a six-month "Language and Literacy Trainer" programme, which is a direct result from our research, including both the pilot project and the current follow-on project. We have been working on the preparations for teaching a first such course in India, including development of the curriculum, development of a bilingual English-sign language teachers' handbook, and a separate funding proposal for this new work stream. Our curriculum is the first-ever programme in India that trians deaf people for professional teaching roles in deaf education. In India, we continue our engagement at policy level, with the eventual aim of encouraging uptake of deaf trainers into posts within deaf education. We have had discussions to this effect with the National Institute of Open Schooling, the National Skills Council, and the National Institute of Speech and Hearing Disabilities, about options for deploying and rolling out this training. Through Advisory Committees in Ghana and Uganda, we will also be able to offer to these countries to adapt the curriculum to their needs. These efforts are powerful pathways to capacity building in local deaf communities, as there is a pathway to professional qualification and employment. The second main impact activity has been to spread awareness about literacy, multiliteracies and the grassroots methodologies used in our project. From the pilot project onwards, we have been cascading our work, first from India to Ghana and Uganda, and most recently to Burundi and Nepal. We mainly do this through workshops held in the "collaboratory" format, which is a multi-stakeholder creative facilitation approach. In running these workshops, our deaf research staff and the organisations hosting the collaboratories have gained capacity In applying these methodologies.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Curriculum development for a training programme for deaf "Language and Literacy Trainers" in India
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Presentation at workshop by central Indian government and DFID India on: "Paving ways for skilling 'People with Different Abilities'", aiming at best practice for skill development and employment opportunities for Persons with Disabilities
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description GCRF Global Impact Acceleration Account
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Lancaster University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 03/2019
 
Description Deaf Multiliteracies project partnership 
Organisation Delhi Foundation of Deaf Women
PI Contribution The partners are carrying out the project together. We have designed and delivered training for project staff from the three countries (India, Ghana, Uganda). We also provide academic expertise on deaf literacy and multiliteracies to the partners for their in-country research.
Collaborator Contribution The NGO partners are using their networks to implement field sites for the project's research. The University partners contribute their expertise on the educational systems of their countries, including special education.
Impact This project has only recently started (as of September 2017) so there aren't any outputs yet. The partnership is multi-disciplinary, with colleagues from linguistics at University of Central Lancashire and Ghana University, from ethnography and literacy studies at Lancaster University, and from disability studies at Makerere University.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Deaf Multiliteracies project partnership 
Organisation Lancaster University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The partners are carrying out the project together. We have designed and delivered training for project staff from the three countries (India, Ghana, Uganda). We also provide academic expertise on deaf literacy and multiliteracies to the partners for their in-country research.
Collaborator Contribution The NGO partners are using their networks to implement field sites for the project's research. The University partners contribute their expertise on the educational systems of their countries, including special education.
Impact This project has only recently started (as of September 2017) so there aren't any outputs yet. The partnership is multi-disciplinary, with colleagues from linguistics at University of Central Lancashire and Ghana University, from ethnography and literacy studies at Lancaster University, and from disability studies at Makerere University.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Deaf Multiliteracies project partnership 
Organisation Makerere University
Country Uganda 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The partners are carrying out the project together. We have designed and delivered training for project staff from the three countries (India, Ghana, Uganda). We also provide academic expertise on deaf literacy and multiliteracies to the partners for their in-country research.
Collaborator Contribution The NGO partners are using their networks to implement field sites for the project's research. The University partners contribute their expertise on the educational systems of their countries, including special education.
Impact This project has only recently started (as of September 2017) so there aren't any outputs yet. The partnership is multi-disciplinary, with colleagues from linguistics at University of Central Lancashire and Ghana University, from ethnography and literacy studies at Lancaster University, and from disability studies at Makerere University.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Deaf Multiliteracies project partnership 
Organisation Uganda National Association of the Deaf
Country Uganda 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The partners are carrying out the project together. We have designed and delivered training for project staff from the three countries (India, Ghana, Uganda). We also provide academic expertise on deaf literacy and multiliteracies to the partners for their in-country research.
Collaborator Contribution The NGO partners are using their networks to implement field sites for the project's research. The University partners contribute their expertise on the educational systems of their countries, including special education.
Impact This project has only recently started (as of September 2017) so there aren't any outputs yet. The partnership is multi-disciplinary, with colleagues from linguistics at University of Central Lancashire and Ghana University, from ethnography and literacy studies at Lancaster University, and from disability studies at Makerere University.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Deaf Multiliteracies project partnership 
Organisation University of Ghana
Country Ghana 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The partners are carrying out the project together. We have designed and delivered training for project staff from the three countries (India, Ghana, Uganda). We also provide academic expertise on deaf literacy and multiliteracies to the partners for their in-country research.
Collaborator Contribution The NGO partners are using their networks to implement field sites for the project's research. The University partners contribute their expertise on the educational systems of their countries, including special education.
Impact This project has only recently started (as of September 2017) so there aren't any outputs yet. The partnership is multi-disciplinary, with colleagues from linguistics at University of Central Lancashire and Ghana University, from ethnography and literacy studies at Lancaster University, and from disability studies at Makerere University.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboratory workshop on bilingual teaching and learning with sign language and literacy 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The aim of this workshop was to support teaching and learning where Indian Sign Language is used alongside reading and writing, as part of the research project which aims to test innovative models of education. The workshop will addressed the questions where we can find good bilingual teaching and learning initiatives in India that use sign language and literacy, and how such initiatives and programmes could work together to support each other? This event was not a conventional workshop but followed the recent framework of a "collaborator". Participants were working together actively to create a shortlist of ideas for positive actions, and then formed teams to work on selected project ideas. This led to several concrete work plans for future implementable ideas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://islandscentre.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/deaf-multiliteracies-outcomes-from-our-first-collabor...
 
Description First Indian collaboratory workshop in Bhubaneshwar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact 'Collaboratory' is short for 'collaboration laboratory', and means a flexible, multiple-stakeholder event aimed at producing creative ideas and solutions through active cooperation. Participants 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. Specifically, the collaboratory focussed on questions such as 'Where can we find good bilingual teaching and learning initiatives in India that use sign language and literacy? What are the policies that relate to bilingual education, and how can we use them to create positive change?' Some of the ideas that the participants generated were:
-Make teaching and learning materials in ISL. Provide our bespoke Sign Language to English by the Deaf (SLEND) platform to NGOs. Collect bilingual ideas from around India and share them.
-Lobby government to employ deaf peer teachers in rural Odisha. Create a deaf peer education centre in Odisha and interface with 30 districts.
-Create contacts and involvement between deaf associations (adults) and deaf children. Hold a state-level conference for deaf students every year. Encourage parents of deaf children to learn ISL.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://islandscentre.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/deaf-multiliteracies-outcomes-from-our-first-collabor...
 
Description First collaboratory workshop on Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies in Burundi 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Lead by a project member from Uganda, 19 Burundian participants from local deaf communities participated and received information about the Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies project, its aims and methods. The participants contributed ethnographic information about their use of literacies, and discussed their learning situation, aspirations, and possible future collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description First collaboratory workshop on Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies in Ghana 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact 40 participants brainstormed deas of finding innovative ways of teaching literacies to the Deaf in Ghana since the current modes of teaching and learning for them are not yielding good results. Stakeholders across sectors including the National Association of the Deaf, the Special Education Division of the Ghana Education Service, Heads of The Senior High /Technical School for the Deaf and the Demonstration School for the Deaf, the University of Ghana, 3SL (a Deaf Youth empowerment foundation), have agreed to serve on the Advisory Committee.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description First collaboratory workshop on Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies in Uganda 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The Collaboratory workshop was held on 31/5/2018 with the them ''Literacy development for deaf children in Uganda: challenges and the way forward''. 34 participants were introduced to the aims and methods of the Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies project. The project team collected ideas from participants on how to develop the project further, and recruited some members to serve on the Advisory Committee. The Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB) is consulting the project partner organisatio Uganda National Association of the Deaf about deploying more sign language interpreters for the deaf during national examinations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Indian Sign Language fair 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Deaf literacy learners with their peer tutor created posters for exhibition at the Indian Sign Language fair held at Indore Bilingual Academy (IDBA) in February 2019. Hearing visitors and deaf IDBA students improved their knowledge of deaf culture and community, and how deaf people learn through sign language.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Keynote presentation "Enriching children's learning and lives through multiliteracies" at "The Joy of Learning Multiliteracy" seminar for early childhood educators, Helsinki, Finland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The presentation was part of a day event in Helsinki, FInland, aimed at informing and providing Continuing Professional Development to early childhood educators about multiliteracies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.monilukutaito.com/en/blog/76/moi_seminaari-20112018-klo-13_18
 
Description Participation in national symposium on Ugandan Sign Language in Mbale District, Uganda 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact 150 participants attended the national symposium on Ugandan Sign Language in Mbale District, Uganda, as part of the international week of the deaf. The project's Research Assistant was among the panelists and highlighted the research into deaf 'multiliteracies' and the need for early sign language development amongst deaf children. The project team also participated in the International week of the Deaf which took placein conjunction with the symposium, and a project banner was on display with 2,000 people in attendance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation at the 12th Odisha Deaf Awareness Symposium-2017 & 25th Silver Jubilee Celebration of Kalahandi District Association of the Deaf, Odisha, India. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact 250 participants from all over the state of Odisha received information about research approaches to literacy and multi-literacies development with deaf sign language users. Two team members gave a presentation on "Peer to Peer Deaf Multitliteracies Project". As the presentation was given in Indian Sign Language, this was a rare opportunity for the deaf participants to receive an up-to-date briefing about research in an accessible language.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentation at the National Conference on Education, Human Rights, Advocacy and Women Empowerment for the Deaf, Rourkela, India 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact A project member presented on "Peer to Peer Deaf Literacy Pilot and Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies Project". 400 participants from all over India received information about research approaches to literacy and multi-literacies development with deaf sign language users. As the presentation was given in Indian Sign Language, this was a rare opportunity for the deaf participants to receive an up-to-date briefing about research in an accessible language.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Project launch event for "Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies" in New Delhi, India. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The project launch event included presentations and a screening of the pilot project's documentary movie "Deaf literacy from the grassroots". It was attended by 150 participants from a mix of different backgrounds, from different parts of India as well as Uganda, Ghana, and the UK. The launch event was followed by a meeting of the project's Indian Advisory Committee.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://islandscentre.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/transforming-deaf-learners-multiliteracies-into-susta...
 
Description Working with the Project Advisory Committee in Ghana 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Advisory Committee to provide guidance and make necessary inputs to the implementation of the research by the team has been constituted: it's membership includes the Executive Director of the Ghana National Association of the Deaf, a Representative from the Special Education Division of the Ghana Education Service- the sector unit responsible for Special Education within the Ghana Education Service, the Heads of the Senior High/Technical School for the Deaf and the Demonstration School for the Deaf, 3SL Foundation- a youth Deaf advocacy group, a Lawyer, a Linguist, and an Audiologist.The Committee had its first meeting in September 2018 and will be meeting regularly.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Working with the Project Advisory Committee in Uganda 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A project task group at Makerere University and Uganda National Association of the Deaf has worked to constitute the Advisory Committee for this project. Modalities were agreed for hosting the inaugural Advisory Committee meeting in March 2019. The Makerere University Co-Investigator engaged with key government officials at the Ministry of Gender and Disabilities in Kampala. They worked on a collaboration framework to share information on education policy for persons with disabilities (especially the deaf), and one government official was appointed to serve on the Advisory committee of the Deaf Multiliteracies project. The Advisory Committee will meet regularly from March 2019 onwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019