Our project on the peer-to-peer teaching of deaf literacy, entitled "Literacy development with deaf communities using sign language, peer tuition, and learner-generated online content: sustainable educational innovation” is a collaboration between Lancaster University (LU) and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), funded through a joint scheme by the Education and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID). This £125,000, one-year pilot project allows academics at UCLan's International Institute for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies (iSLanDS) and LU's Literacy Research Centre (LRC) to study new ways of teaching literacy to deaf learners, alongside project partners including the Uganda National Association of the Deaf and Lancaster University Ghana. TESOL scholars from the School of Language, Literature and International Studies at UCLan are part of the team along with experts in applied sign linguistics, deaf studies, cross-cultural literacy research, and learning technology.
The Peer-to-Peer Deaf Literacy project aims to discover and explore innovative strategies for teaching English to members of disadvantaged deaf communities in India, to improve the quality of educational outcomes for learner groups who may not derive adequate benefit from traditional interventions. Instead of traditional language teaching, this project takes 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 will focus on functional aspects of English, which means using it to do everyday things such as sending texts. The project also involves 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 will reveal new practices and interventions that policy makers can use to improve education, literacy and empowerment in deaf communities. Adaptation of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) for the expression of learning outcomes will allow achievements to be expressed in terms of an internationally understood tool.
Using mixed methods from action research and ethnographic research, the project addresses the following research questions:
1. How can we develop and implement a deaf-led, community based, learner-focussed teaching programme that meets local community needs in a sustainable way?
2. How can we capture and measure, in a standardised way, the effectiveness of the combination of peer tuition, a dedicated virtual learning environment, and a staged training programme on teaching English literacy in this particular socio-cultural context?
3. How can we best understand and conceptualise the interrelated elements that characterise this approach and how they interact to facilitate effective teaching in this context? Qualitative data including classroom observations, analysis of interactions on the SLEND, and interviews inform the answers to this question. Community teachers/peer tutors will be trained in data collection and analysis, enhancing the research capacity of the deaf community.