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Using keyword signing for more inclusive teaching in Indonesian classrooms

Research by The Open University has introduced keyword signing into classrooms in Indonesia, enabling children with special educational needs to participate successfully in lessons.

Key impacts include:

Creating a keyword signing system which has become one of the top five most commonly used communication approaches in Indonesia.

Supporting the successful implementation of Signalong Indonesia methodology in inclusive schools in a number of Indonesian provinces.

Transforming the learning experience of Indonesian pupils with special educational needs.

What this research has done

Delivering inclusive education is a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, but children with special educational needs often have communication difficulties which mean they struggle to learn alongside their peers in inclusive classrooms.

The Indonesian government supports this UN educational goal and has committed to educating children with special educational needs in mainstream ‘inclusive’ primary and secondary schools.

With the support of the Indonesian government, the OU and the State University of Surabaya in Indonesia successfully put into practice the large-scale use of alternative communication methods in inclusive classrooms in Indonesia, transforming the learning experience for children with special educational needs. Due to this close collaboration, Signalong Indonesia is now one of the top five most commonly used educational communication approaches in Indonesia, for children with special educational needs.

Our research shows how keyword signing can be effective in a whole-school approach, and also what factors need to be taken into account for it to be successfully introduced. Teachers have testified that using Signalong Indonesia in their classroom has transformed how they communicate with children with special needs and how they teach difficult concepts to children with communication difficulties and has promoted the active engagement of students in the classroom.

Professor Kieron Sheehy
The Open University

Working in conjunction with the State University of Surabaya in Indonesia, the research team developed an Indonesian keyword signing system inspired by the UK’s Signalong system.

Signalong UK uses hand signs, body language, and facial expression in conjunction with speech to highlight key words and concepts. The system was developed to support people with learning and communication difficulties.

The researchers adapted the UK version by incorporating Indonesian signs, developing Indonesian symbols, teaching materials and approaches. They initially trained 40 teachers from 33 of Indonesia 34 provinces to use Signalong and supported two ‘ambassador’ schools to become centres of training and best practice in developing Signalong Indonesia.

The success of the programme led the Indonesian government to support training events for teachers across Indonesia, where teachers trained in Signalong Indonesia supported the training of other teachers. Most recently the team has been developing Sign Supported Big Books. These story books have been used in approximately 300 kindergarens

Research publications

Find out more