International Partnerships: British Academy

(This draft has not been proofed Tuesday, 08 February 2011) – completed 1st draft Saturday, 05 March 2011

·         Education
·         Critical Discourse Analysis
·         Adult Literacy

Title of Project
·         Living Literacies, Teaching Literacy

Summary of Research
This collaborative project involves the University of Hull (UoH) in the UK and in Africa the University of Ghana (UG).

The research aim is to investigate the discourses that adult educators registered on postgraduate,  research based and teacher education programmes draw upon when conceptualising literacy as a pedagogic subject in order to explore how these discourses shape pedagogic practice.

There is an accepted orthodoxy amongst adult educators that effective pedagogy draws on the knowledge, practices, beliefs and expectations of learners. However, this stance does not always encompass the extent to which adult educators are a) able to critically reflect on the variance between their own notions of literacy and the theories and ideas presented to them during their course of study and b) equipped to use the qualitative methodologies that would enable them to explore their own and their learners’ literacy practices.

The project includes a broader strategy of knowledge transfer and capacity building across both Universities incorporating a focus on curriculum development, e.learning and research methodologies.

Research Project
The proposed partnership involves staff and students based at two institutions: University of Hull (UoH) in the UK and in Africa the University of Ghana (UG). It envisages a mutual exchange of research expertise and capacity building.

Our aim is to investigate the discourses that adult educators registered on postgraduate,  research based and teacher education programmes draw upon when conceptualising literacy as a pedagogic subject in order to explore how these discourses shape pedagogic practice.

Three interrelated foci will identify and locate contrasting conceptualisations of literacy

·         Reflexive analysis of the literacy practices of participating students registered on postgraduate,  research based and teacher education programmes in both UG and UoH explore and critique literacy as an ideologically defined construct  (Street 1984; Jones, Turner et al. 1999)

·         Exploration of a local literacies based on a context defined by participants in which they pay close attention to the uses and significance of literacy in a specific community (Barton and Hamilton 1998; Papen 2005)

·         Detailed observation of adult education encounters. Participants will develop their local literacies into a series of educational encounters and work with local providers in developing curriculum to embed the actual local uses of literacy into programme delivery (Barton and Papen 2005)

Research design and methodology
The initial reflexive analysis of the literacy practices of participants will take place in Ghana. Participants will be students registered across Diploma, Masters and PhD programmes.  Participants will produce personal ethnographies tracing the development of their own academic literacy based on a piece of work produced for their study. This aspect of the research draws on (Albright and Luke 2008) to provide an account of students own literacy practices.  Through a series of peer interviews, video diaries, blogs and podcasts students, recording of naturally occurring data ie seminar discussions and analysis of assignments – participants will trace the production of a specific text from inception to completion including a feedback session in which they explore with lecturers and UoH practitioners the approach to the content and process of the assignment (Lillis 2001). This module provides participants with a) data for the analysis of literacy as practice b) development of their own academic literacy c) a basis for developing writing for academic purposes of publication

This will be followed through with involving participants in a study of local literacies. Project participants are naturally drawn from workplaces and as part of the professional development and academic study will draw on these contexts to develop local literacy case studies. Drawing on ethnographic research design the approach will include participant observation, audio visual recording, interviews and focus groups and document analysis.  This may involve small scale projects conducted by individual participants into any aspect of local literacy – trading encounters, travel and transport, dealing with officialdom. The approach would be to use the domains of practice identified by Barton and Hamilton (1998) and if necessary to extend or amend these to suit to local context.  Where possible participants will work with local adult education providers to conduct this study. The emphasis is on an exploration of everyday literacy practices. The data analysis will draw some tentative conclusion about these practices and then suggest possible implications for developing curriculum.

The final phase of the project involves working directly with adult education projects. The emphasis will be the use of an observations schedule to detail what happens in an adult education encounter. Broadly addressing the question – where does adult education take place and what form does it take, and how is literacy embedded into this activity. Focussing on material used, style of delivery, assessment practices, use of text and the perceptions of teachers and student. The aim is to produce a series of case studies along the lines of those published by NRDC. This is not an exploration of good practice. It is the exploration of actual practice. Consistent for example with the approach of Kwesi (etc) how are text books actually used in classrooms.  The project will through this phase of the study develop examples of changed practices.  Participants will work with local providers to achieve curriculum change consistent with the actual uses of literacy identified in phase 2. The process and outcome of these changes for teachers and participants will then be analysed. 

Each of these projects will be led by an early career faculty member from either University of Ghana or University of Hull, as part of a research programme registered at UG. This may include action research in the vase of Diploma or MA students. A detailed credit bearing proposal, will be produced by each participant including specific research questions. Supervision will be a joint enterprise conducted by both Ghanaian and Uk based team through face-to-face meetings and on-line.

The broader context with which the study is situated – against a backdrop of development, changing conceptualisations of literacy and teacher education will be undertaken by a UK based academic. Critical discourse analysis will be applied to relevant material to emerge from monitoring reports based on progress towards targets for eradication if illiteracy, teacher education curricular documents and other official documents relating to adult literacy.

Curriculum Design in Pedagogic Research Methods

The collaborative research project outlined above is integrated into a broader strategy for knowledge exchange and capacity building. Staff at University of Hull are keen to extend existing expertise in distance learning at M Level and gain experience of cross cultural literacies and pedagogy.  Project delivery embeds the mutual exchange of face-to-face workshops, video-conferences and seminars and it is envisaged that much of this work will contribute towards the development on on-line Modules in Teaching and Learning in Adult, Further or Higher Education.

It is envisaged that Ghanaian participants will be based at UoH for one semester and participate fully in UoH postgraduate activities. They will be invited to audit session on the university Diploma in Teaching English in the Lifelong Learning Sector and other post graduate and teacher education courses at the University and other partnered HE institutions. They will also be invited to offer lectures and seminars to undergraduate and postgraduate students and participate in the Centre for Educational Studies research seminars.


The principal UK and Africa partners will draw on extensive research and management experience for their roles in: facilitating fieldwork, mentoring action research, monitoring data collection and analysis, creating output, in collaboration with a research team. Their responsibilities will also include identifying and training members of staff in the UK and Ghana to ensure that the project is firmly embedded within curricular practice after the period of funding.

The delivery of the project maps well onto the lecturing and other duties required by principal partners. The UK partner can arrange flexible working arrangements to accommodate a full semester in year 1 and year 3 to facilitate sufficient management time; this funding bid includes an element of teaching remission in year 2 to allow a continuity of management. Additionally a working group of senior UoH staff, including Head of International Office, Head of Research will meet on a six monthly intervals to monitor progress of the project.

Early career PhD students drawn from the UoG will be attached to each of the research strands as appropriate to their individual career development needs, working under supervision towards their PhD qualification, gaining experience of post-doctorial research. The departments in involved in both Ghana and the UK have senior colleagues with expertise in ethnography and adult education. Mentoring by these senior colleagues will provide support in preparation of conference papers based on prior as well as current research and associated funding application, preparation of theory and research based papers on publication in journal articles.

An ICT consultant will be employed to a) assist in the design of a website to disseminate information about the project and provide a discussion forum b) advise on aspect of online curriculum delivery.

The involvement of the UoG is intended to establish a basis fo sustainable research and development expertise linked to a broader strategy of capacity building.  In 2009 a visitation panel Report has identified research involvement by UG staff as an area for development with an apparent implication for strengthening basic research training. The proposed project will offer a broad framework for international support.

Proposed research outputs
A project website will be developed that will disseminate information about research and provide a discussion forum for academics and educational practitioners. This site will remain operational after 2013 with related blogs and links to organisations such as Research and Practice in Adult Literacy

2 PhDs with submission from a Ghana based researchers by 2014

Plan of Action
Programme of activity over 3 years from January 2012 (or Sept 2011 – check funding guidance notes)

Year 1

Months 1 – 3                        January – March 2012

·         Visit to Ghana – 4 weeks principal UK partner:
·         Introductory seminar on project for staff and postgraduate students at UG
·         Planning of L7 researching literacies Module syllabus initiated

Months 4 – 6                        April – June 2012

·         Overall and detailed research project design finalised
·         Drafting of individual research project proposals, assessment strategies linked to existing programme – face-to-face supervision begins

Months 7 – 9                        July – September 2012

·         Visit to UK of Ghanaian based researchers (one semester)
·         Initial collection of some data with UoH Diploma students
·         Literature reviews  – with access to resources not available in home institutions – through on line facility
·         Drafting of abstracts to The Canadian Association for the Study of Discourse and Writing  – refereed journal (Sept) & conference (May) and European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (Aug)
·         Workshop on research methods – data collection, transcription issues and use of online web resource for data analysis

Months 10 – 12                   October – December 2012

·         Visit to UK of principal Ghanaian partner (three weeks)
·         Finalise mixed mode research methods module
·         Review and supervise research projects

Year 2

Months 13 – 15                   January – March 2013

·         First stage of fieldwork in Ghana – piloting research methods and instruments
·         Recruitment of orientation of UK based research assistant
·         Piloting of research module (face-to-face and on-line)

Months 16 – 18                   April – June 2013

·         Visit to Ghana of principal UK partner
·         Review and focus on publication plans
·         Main period of fieldwork in Ghana begins
·         Project website design finalised
·         Additional sources of funding for studentships identified

Months 19 – 21                   July – September 2013

·         Attendance at the Canadian Association for the Study of Discourse and Writing  depending on abstract being accepted
·         Attendance at the Research and Practice in Adult Literacy (or similar literacies focussed conference)

Months 22 – 24                   October – December 2013

·         Attendance at the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction
·         Main period of field work in Ghana complete

Year 3

Months 25 – 27                   January – March 2014

·         Visit to Ghana of UK based researcher to lead evaluation and further development of research methods module
·         Cross institutional seminar on linking literacies, teaching and learning

Months 28 – 30                   April – June 2014

·         Drafting proposal for editing book on project areas
·         Abstracts based on project & conference presentations submitted to relevant journals

Months 31 – 33                   July – September 2014

·         Organise conference at UG

Months 34 – 36                   October – December 2014

·         Conference at UG
·         Book proposal completed and submitted
·         Papers revised and submitted subject to acceptance of abstracts

Plans for Publication / Dissemination

  • Submission of papers to high-profile conferences: Canadian Association for the Study of Discourse and Writing   and European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction

·         Submission by individuals and groups within the project to at least papers to journals such as Journal of Vocational Education, Journal for the Education of Teachers, Studies in the Education of Adults, Literacy

In addition to these subscriptions the following are planned:

·         Project conference at UG with participation across West Africa
·         Further bids to be identified organisation to support international studentships

Start date               January 2012
End date                December 2013

Other participants

Added value of collaboration

Ethical approval obtained:   no non standard issues arising

  • details of costing deleted

Deadline for entry onto British Academy e-gap
February 7th          Notes forming basis of 1st draft published to blog and Ghanaian partners invited to comment
February 14th        First draft of proposal sent to UoG and PC for initial critical review
February 24th        Research Conversation: second draft of proposal complete incorporating UoG  PC contributions and passed to Professors B&C at University of Hull for initial review
February 28th        third draft sent to external readers for critical review and endorsement – Professor David Baker (if he agrees) or Professor Ann Hodgson at IoE or Alexander Kendal at Wolverhampton.
March 7th               Proposal redrafted in the light of feedback
March 14th             Final version sent to all involved for adjustment and comment

Albright, J. and A. Luke (2008). Pierre Bourdieu and literacy education, Routledge, Taylor & Francis: London.
Barton, D. and M. Hamilton (1998). Local Literacies: Reading and Writing in One Community. London, Routledge.
Barton, D. and U. Papen (2005). Linking literacy and numeracy programmes in developing countries and the UK. London, National Research and Development Centre.
Jones, C., J. Turner, et al. (1999). Students writing in the university cultural and epistemological issues. Studies in written language and literacy v.8. Amsterdam ; Philadelphia, Pa., John Benjamins.
Lillis, T. M. (2001). Student writing access, regulation, desire. Literacies. London, Routledge.
Papen, U. (2005). Adult literacy as social practice : more than skills. London, Routledge.
Street, B. V. (1984). Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.


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