From Deaf Literacy to Deaf Multiliteracies:an ethnographic approach to learning, teaching and researching with young deaf adults in Ghana and Uganda

Gillen, J., Papen, Uta and Zeshan, Ulrike orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8438-3701 (2018) From Deaf Literacy to Deaf Multiliteracies:an ethnographic approach to learning, teaching and researching with young deaf adults in Ghana and Uganda. In: Explorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication, 20-21 September 2018, University of Edinburgh. (Unpublished)

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Aim We discuss two action research projects undertaken with young deaf adults in Ghana, Uganda and India in 2015-2018. The aim has been to develop a new eco-system of learning around language and literacy. Here we focus mostly on work in Ghana and Uganda. Following an approach developed by Street (2012) and others (Rogers 1999), researchers, tutors and students used ethnographic-style methods to explore everyday literacy practices. These “real literacies” provide the basis for teaching-learning activities led by deaf peer tutors. Methods In the first project (2015-2016), deaf research assistants worked with young deaf adults in Ghana and Uganda to understand the ethnographic contexts of English literacy among these deaf communities. Using the "clockface" tool, they collected 27 samples from Ghana and Uganda, along with interviews. Drawing on these samples and interviews, in the second project (2017-2018), deaf project staff from Ghana and Uganda were trained to create lessons using real life materials. Data collected are lessons implemented on Moodle, portfolios collected from students, and observations by research assistants. Findings The first project led to the conclusion that the focus of interventions should not be English literacy, but a set of competencies in various modes, i.e. multiliteracies (Cope and Kalantzis, 2015), including L1 India/Ghanaian /Ugandan Sign Languages, English literacies and digital literacies (Zeshan et al, 2017). Findings from the first project demonstrate that using real texts to generate pedagogic materials is motivating but also experienced as challenging by the learners and tutors. This is partly because real texts can be complex, and partly because language education is expected to be grammar-focussed. Accordingly, in the second project, we have intensified the training. We are seeking to use a greater variety of real texts, including digital texts and to combine learning activities on real life communicative practices with integrated grammar lessons. The paper will present first findings from the second project. Conclusions We have learned that it is important to work with all participants’ views including when there are productive tensions with the real literacies approach. Genuinely participatory methods of research and teaching are called for in the search for educational innovation.

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