20 November 2017
A power cut enabled deaf learning tutors in India to switch into a different mode and focus on energy demand.

Professor Uta Papen is working on a project on ‘Deaf Multiliteracies’ in Binka, a remote village in Orissa, India. 

She works with trainee tutors to use resources at hand to develop sustainable approaches in local education. 

Today (November 15) they were particularly challenged when the electricity went off. 

Professor Papen encouraged the trainee tutors to turn local materials and events into learning opportunities.

They used sign language to find out what the young people knew about batteries and energy while others made notes including where the gaps in knowledge were.

The trainee tutors will develop this into a unit of study on energy that involves reading and writing in English. 

The ‘multiliteracies’ concept involves recognition of how these multiple forms of communication interact, and the ‘real literacies’ idea has been developed by Professor Papen and colleagues in earlier projects. 

This project, entitled ‘Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies: Research into a sustainable approach to the education of deaf children and young adults in the Global South’, will help deaf children and young adults in India, Uganda, and Ghana, and include outreach to two additional countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

It is led by Professor Ulrike Zeshan, of the International Institute for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies at UCLan, Preston and also involves Julia Gillen, who works in the Lancaster University Literacy Research Centre and Department of Linguistics and English Language.

The 3-year project  is funded by the Education 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 have involved 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 an online app Sign Language to English for the Deaf (SLEND) and the adaptation of appropriate assessment methods.

Professor Papen, the Director of Lancaster University's Literacy Research Centre, is leading the training of tutors and researchers in the project’s learner-centred approach to curriculum development and assessment.

It focuses throughout on the agency of deaf learners, researchers, tutors, and educators who implement the interventions.

Project partners include the Delhi Foundation of Deaf Women and the Rural Lifeline Trust in India, the University of Ghana, Makerere University in Uganda, and the Uganda National Association of the Deaf.