3 July 2015 17:14

A pioneering project to support English language teaching working with members of the deaf community in India has got underway.

Lancaster researchers, together with colleagues from the University of Central Lancashire and researchers and peer tutors from the Deaf community, are developing new forms of English literacy teaching for users of sign language.

The team will enhance deaf students’ ability to use written English, enabling them to communicate more effectively with people who don’t use sign language and to extend their possibilities of employment.

Online tools are playing a major role in the model being developed. By making full use of smartphones, an online platform, digital technologies and social networking sites, the project seeks to improve the lives of young adult deaf students who have often been left behind by formal education. 

Lancaster University researchers Dr Uta Papen, Dr Julia Gillen, Dr Karin Tusting and Phil Tubman, a learning technologist, are involved in the one-year pilot project.

They will train deaf research assistants and peer tutors in researching their uses of English literacy, collecting and examining examples of texts in English that learners engage with. They will also work with the team to prepare learning activities and lessons around these.

Dr Uta Papen said: “The project has a ‘learner centred’ approach. It is all about helping local people to develop their own materials to help deaf people, in their community.

“We aim to deliver sustainable educational innovation that will help raise literacy levels and improve the quality of life of people.

“We are all looking forward to the project and working to make a real difference – not only in the communities we will be operating in, but in other parts of the world in the future.”

The project aims to support deaf people in developing literacy using sign language, peer tuition and learner-generated online content.

Professor Ulrike Zeshan, of the International Institute for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies based at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), is leading the project along with Sibaji Panda, an academic based in India.

Research in India is being carried out in partnership with The National Institute of Speech and Hearing, in Kerala, and a network of five deaf-led NGOs.

The project also aims to create a model of teaching that can be used in other countries, including Ghana and Uganda.

A deaf researcher located at Lancaster University’s Ghana campus and a deaf researcher working with the Uganda National Association of the Deaf will examine how the project can be transferred across cultures and pave the way for future collaborations there.

The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Department for International Development, as part of the ‘Education and Development: Raising Learning Outcomes in Educational Systems’ programme.