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Another ‘first’ for PUPET: our Indonesia hub trains 18 aspiring sign language teachers.

10 November, 2017

Our Indonesia hub, PUPET, has marked another milestone, delivering its first training programme for deaf Indonesians who want to become teachers of BISINDO (Indonesian Sign Language).

The training, which was run at the end of October by iSLanDS research fellow Nick Palfreyman and hub co-ordinator Muhammad Isnaini, was attended by 18 participants from Solo, Bekasi, Sragen and Boyolali. Over three days, participants covered a range of teaching skills, including effective planning, class management, developing thematic resources, and integrating linguistic and cultural content.

IMG_3413Participants discuss sign language with co-facilitator Nick Palfreyman.

One of the key aims of the training was to raise the metalinguistic awareness of participants. ‘The experience of the iSLanDS team over many years has shown that this is vital if deaf people are to become effective sign language teachers,’ Nick said.

He continued: ‘We were really impressed with the focus and enthusiasm of the participants, and PUPET will of course keep in touch to see how their teaching activities develop over the next few months.’

IMG_3492Co-facilitator Muhammad Isnaini gives feedback to one of the participants, as they explore a learning activity together.

The programme included 18 linguistic games, which made the training hugely enjoyable – but these games can also be used to teach BISINDO, and each participant was asked to introduce one of the games. This gave them the chance to increase their confidence to use such games in their own classes in future.

Oktaviany, one of the participants, said ‘I really enjoyed this training! It was interactive and fun, and now I understand how to plan the class week by week.’

Muhammad Isnaini added: ‘We would like to thank everyone who made this training possible, especially Clark Denmark, who kindly shared examples with us from his own experience as teacher of British Sign Language over many years.’

workshop_2The 18 training participants came to Solo from four other cities.

The training programme will be developed further to include examples based on the Corpus of Indonesian Sign Language Varieties, and PUPET plans to make parts of the programme available online in BISINDO in the near future.

The training took place alongside the testing of materials as part of the iSLanDS SIGNSPACE project, and was possible thanks to funding from the European Research Council and the Leverhulme Trust.


Policy report: Peer-to-Peer Deaf Literacy pilot project

8 November, 2017

We are pleased to share the policy report from our Peer-to-Peer Deaf Literacy pilot project, which summarises recommendations for innovating the teaching of English to deaf learners in India. In this pilot, which has led on to a larger three-year project, our team designed, implemented, and evaluated English literacy instruction, with deaf peer tutors, online learning materials generated by learners, and Indian Sign Language for communication between tutors and learners.

We are grateful to all of the authors who contributed to this report, including our Indian NGO partners and experts in applied linguistics, ethnography, digital literacy and TESOL, as well as the peer tutors, research assistants and learners whose hard work was at the core of this project.

Policy Report P2PDL


Thanks to SIGN8 organisers and 297 participants for conference success at first SIGN in South America

1 November, 2017

We would like to thank the organisers and participants of SIGN8 for hosting a very successful conference in October, which attracted 297 researchers from across the globe who delivered 11 workshops, 27 talks and 74 poster presentations. As the first SIGN conference to take place in South America, this event was an exciting milestone in the series, made possible by the expertise and hard work of coordinators at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC) in Brazil.

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Dr Ronice Müller de Quadros, a member of the SIGN8 organising committee, said: “Everybody had a terrific time at the conference, and it was an especially great experience and learning opportunity for future Deaf researchers. We particularly enjoyed welcoming the deaf participants from Uruguay and Chile, and we can tell that they really took advantage of SIGN8. UFSC was thrilled to have the chance to run this unique event, as it is such an important way of boosting the careers of deaf researchers.”

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Kang-Suk Byun, a PhD student at the Max-Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and consultant for our SIGNSPACE project, gave a presentation on cross-signing. He commented: “It was brilliant to see so many deaf participants from Brazil and other countries congregating together at one university. UFSC showed a very proactive and inclusive approach to deaf people in academia. Meeting with the other deaf scholars there, who shared with me their passion for research, enhanced my enthusiasm and empowerment. It was very productive, and I think the atmosphere and culture of Brazil made it especially easy to make those connections and engage in deep one-to-one discussions.”

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Our PhD student wins Scottish International Educational Trust Funding Award

25 October, 2017

We are pleased to share that our new PhD student, Eilidh Rose McEwan, has won funding from the Scottish International Educational Trust (SIET). She began her 3-year PhD programme at iSLanDS on 1 July, working on a study entitled ‘Agency within deaf communities in capacity-building projects in the Global South’.

Eilidh is from Glasgow and has worked with the BBC, Glasgow City Heritage Trust and the Scottish Council on Deafness (SCoD). She earned an MSc in International Relations from the University of Glasgow in 2015.

Eilidh Photo

She commented: “As a deaf student with some knowledge of BSL and experience at SCoD, I was excited to apply for this PhD position at iSLanDS, due to its focus on deaf people’s linguistic rights and research on sign language linguistics and communities in various countries. By covering linguistic rights and human rights in an international context, specifically targeting the Global South, this PhD encompasses two topics about which I am particularly passionate. I am delighted to have the opportunity to conduct ground-breaking research on these issues at iSLanDS, and grateful to SIET for their generous grant of £2000 to support this important work.”

Eilidh’s PhD investigates deaf agency within the context of two overarching iSLanDS projects: our Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies project, and a study called Patterns of Variation, which focuses on deaf communities in Indonesia.


Our Indonesian hub featured in Talk Show to celebrate International Week of the Deaf

11 October, 2017

We would like to thank our colleagues at Gerkatin Solo for inviting us to discuss the work of our Indonesian hub at an event in Solo on Sunday.

Their ‘Talk Show’, held to celebrate the WFD‘s International Week of the Deaf and its theme of ‘Full inclusion with sign language’, featured an interview with our research fellow, Dr Nick Palfreyman, and our Indonesian hub coordinator, Muhammad Isnaini. This event attracted an audience of about 60 deaf and hearing people, and the signed interview and discussion was interpreted from BISINDO into spoken Indonesian for the hearing attendees.

Talk Show poster

Nick said: “This kind of interpreting provision might be commonplace in the UK but it is very recent in Indonesia, and actually was not even possible just five years ago. The growth in the number of interpreters in Solo is largely down to Muhammad‘s long-term efforts. In our responses to the interview questions, we enjoyed expanding on this progress in connection with the WFD’s important theme. We were especially pleased to see deaf attendees from Yogya, which is two hours away, not least because the date of the event coincided with the 10th anniversary of my first meeting with the deaf communities in Solo and Yogya.”


He added: “We are grateful to everyone who made this event possible. It was an honour to be interviewed, and a brilliant opportunity for everyone to reflect on the changes that have taken place in Solo, driven by the hard work of its local deaf community.”




Transforming deaf learners’ multiliteracies into sustainable educational approaches: Our new international project is launched

20 September, 2017

The iSLanDS Institute and Lancaster University (LU) have won a £436,000 grant to promote reading, writing, sign language, technology and multimodal communication, improving the education of deaf people in developing countries. This follows our pilot which examined innovative ways to teach literacy to deaf learners.

Deaflit RA and PT group

Research assistants and peer tutors from the pilot project celebrate the end of their first two weeks of training at the National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH) in Kerala, India, with co-investigators Sibaji Panda (far right) and Uta Papen (sixth from right).

Our new study, 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 work with deaf children and young adults in India, Uganda, and Ghana, and include outreach to two additional countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. This 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 our online app Sign Language to English for the Deaf (SLEND) and the adaptation of appropriate assessment methods.

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The Director of iSLanDS, Professor Ulrike Zeshan OBE, explained: “I am particularly delighted that we are working with a broader range of partners in this project. For instance, in India, one partner specialises in working with deaf women, and another operates a deaf primary school in a rural setting. I believe we also have the right partners to engage with policy makers in all target countries, and will develop a curriculum for deaf Language and Literacy Trainers in order to make a difference to educational practice.”

Professor Uta Papen, the Director of Lancaster University’s Literacy Research Centre, is leading the training of tutors and RAs in the project’s learner-centred approach to curriculum development and assessment. She commented: “From my experience working on the pilot project in India, I know how important it is that literacy teaching builds on what learners know already, and what they want to use reading and writing for. It is essential that it supports their real needs, rather than being imposed through a largely irrelevant programme created elsewhere. This is the case for children as well as adults. For the deaf learners in the countries who take part in our project, it is essential that reading and writing in English is supported together with other means of communication in particular sign languages.”

To identify generalisable, flexible models that can be taken up by educational providers in the developing world, the project considers the similarities and differences across educational systems in the different countries. It focuses throughout on the agency of deaf learners, researchers, tutors, and educators who implement the interventions.

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Sibaji Panda, a deaf research consultant working for UCLan in India, concludes: “We believe in ‘deaf-led research’ as the most appropriate approach to our work. The new Indian team looks energetic and armed with experience from the pilot.”

Our UK team also includes Dr Daniel Waller, UCLan, who is particularly responsible for learner assessment, and Dr Julia Gillen, LU, who is working with Phil Tubman, an LU Learning Technologist, to support the online sharing spaces. Our 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.

Indian signers prepare to cross language boundaries at SIGNSPACE workshop

4 September, 2017

Thank you to our Indian colleagues, participants and project partners for hosting the second workshop in our SIGNSPACE project. A group of deaf participants worked intensively for two days in June to test and create training materials for the innovative online portal being developed in this exciting project.


The aim of SIGNSPACE is for signers to communicate across language boundaries, build meta-linguistic awareness, use sign languages bilingually and multilingually, and interact remotely with people who use different sign languages. On the first day of the workshop, 30 participants provided feedback to the project team about the training materials developed so far, and then on the second day a smaller sub-group assembled further materials to add to the portal.

Professor Ulrike Zeshan, principal investigator of the project, commented: “The SIGNSPACE development is a new way of bringing deaf communities from different countries together to work on issues of importance to them, and this workshop focussed on meta-linguistic competences for communication across different sign languages. I am grateful to our partners in Vadodara, Mook Badhir Mandal and Ishara Foundation, for hosting this workshop”.

This is the second in a series of workshops that the team is undertaking in several countries. The next workshop will take place this November in Hungary, organised by our partner Dolphio.