Cornerstone: Transforming Lives & Practice

Funded by: The University of Manchester, ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, Covid-19 Rapid Response Call May 2020

Transforming lives, transforming practice: how technology shapes teaching, learning and well-being for vulnerable adults in a time of pandemic

[ August 2020- June 2021 ]

The University of Manchester: Gary Motteram, Richard Fay and Susan Dawson

Caritas Refugee Education Project: Andres Mora

Relevant Publications:

Dawson, S., Mora, A., Motteram, G., Fay, R., & Leoni, F. (forthcoming). Learning from volunteer experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. In TESOL TEIS Newsletter (special issue on volunteer teacher development).

Motteram, G., Al-Masri, N., Hamouda, H., & Omarali, S. (2020). Exploring mobile support for English language teachers in a context of conflict: Syrian refugee teachers in Jordan. In G. Fassetta, N. Al-Masri, & A. Phipps (Eds.), Multilingual online academic collaborations as resistance: Crossing impassable borders (pp. 56-70). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Aims and Objectives: Concern over the impact of Covid-19 in increasing the barriers refugee and asylum seekers face is growing (Saltmarsh, 2020). Accessing English language provision is vital for refugees’ integration, employability and well-being (Doyle & O’Toole, 2013), and the evolving Covid-19 context demands innovative approaches to providing accessible and relevant language classes. The project focuses initially on a local Manchester charity, the Caritas Refugee Education Project, who we have been working with over the last year, whose transformative agenda is to increase the potential and quality of life of its clients (Caritas, n.d.). Through a longitudinal case study approach, we will explore how the sudden move online demanded in the lockdown stage of the pandemic facilitates and/or constrains the transformative agenda of the charity as it moves forward throughout the next academic year. This project aims to document the innovative educational practices which emerge and are subsequently embedded in practice throughout the pandemic, strengthen Caritas’ use of teaching and learning technologies to maintain and extend its transformative agenda, and support Caritas’ ambition to become a beacon for creative and relevant online ESOL teaching and training in the region and beyond. The findings and the co-produced material outputs will be used to form the basis of training provided to other UK ESOL providers and to the broader field of Education in Emergencies. In order to achieve these aims, we will:

  1. Evidence the challenges and opportunities arising from the current context in relation to Caritas’ transformative aims.
  2. Document the role of technologies (e.g. mobile phones, Zoom, online learning platforms) in shaping Caritas’ emerging teaching, learning and well-being practices.
  3. Co-develop technological, pedagogic and other strategies to address the challenges and opportunities documented in objective one.
  4. Co-develop training materials and workshops to disseminate the good practice developed through objectives two and three.

Links to research undertaken: This project builds on and extends work being undertaken in MIE on the use of social media apps (e.g. WhatsApp) for teacher development in challenging contexts (BC ELTRA award, 2019, ESRC IAA grant, 2017) (Motteram & Dawson, 2019; Motteram, Dawson & Al-Masri, 2020). It also builds on ongoing conceptual work on educational ecologies and shaping influences (Fay & Stelma, 2016), and ecologies of well-being (AHRC large grant AH/L006936/1, AHRC GCRF AH/P009786/1) (Andrews, Fay & White, 2018).

Expected Outputs 

  • A public-facing (multilingual) blog providing a space for educators and student voices to be articulated; disseminated via Twitter, FB and LinkedIn
  • A stakeholder report for Caritas including recommendations for future practice. 
  • Academic paper: ‘Transforming lives, transforming practices’ (for Pedagogy, Culture and Society).
  • Co-produced online learning materials and examples of practice. 
  • Training events for other TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) practitioners and organisations in the North West. These will be conducted by Caritas staff supported by UoM colleagues. It is anticipated that these will occur in Semester 2.

Expected Outcomes

  • Increased evidence base of Caritas’ work to support their funding applications.
  • Increased links between Caritas, the Manchester Institute of Education and the Manchester University of Sanctuary, thus developing the university’s outreach and knowledge transfer. 
  • Increased Caritas volunteer base as a result of technological reach.

Expected Impact

  • Developed Caritas’ role as a regional leader in providing training in ‘online language education for asylum seekers and refugees’; measured by uptake of Caritas training by similar organisations during the grant period and for the following two years. 
  • Developed Caritas’ ability to scale up its educational services in order to reach the increasingly dispersed refugee population in the north-west; measured by the number of online classes being offered, the number and geographical distribution of students, and the increase in volunteers during the grant period and for the following two years.
  • Observed improvement of the skills of teachers’ and volunteers’ online educational practices; measured through observations of classes and teacher self-report.
  • Increased quality and range of online course materials and teaching practices; evaluated by client feedback on materials and practices; measured by the increase in quality online materials 
  • Increased number of clients accessing university and employment.
  • Strengthened links between Caritas and the broader TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) community in the UK; measured through attendance at training events.                      
  • Increased well-being of clients; evaluated through client feedback procedures
  • Increased public profile for Caritas; measured through retweets, FB followers and blog subscribers.

We see this as a long term link, with continued development of connections into our courses and research activity and would maintain data collection on the above impacts after this current project finishes.

Follow-on projects and collaborations: 

  • Strengthen links between the university and Caritas by applying for a Fellowship, or ESRC Case PhD, or KTP. 
  • Explore collaborations with partners (e.g. Manchester Camerata) involved in parallel projects exploring practitioner-based action for well-being.  


Andrews, J., Fay, R., & White, R. (2018). What shapes everyday translanguaging? Insights from a global mental health research project in Northern Uganda. In G. Mazzaferro (Ed.), Translanguaging in everyday practice (pp.257-273). London: Springer.

Caritas (n.d.). Who we are. What we do. Online at:

Doyle, L., & O’Toole, G. (2013). A lot to learn: refugees, asylum seekers and post-16 learning. London. Retrieved from:

Fay, R., & Stelma, J. (2016). Criticality, intentionality and intercultural action. In M. Dasli & A. Diaz (Eds.), The critical turn in language and intercultural communication pedagogy: theory, research and practice. (pp.120-146). London: Routledge.

Motteram, G., & Dawson, S. (2019). Resilience and language teacher development in challenging contexts: supporting teachers through social media. London. Retrieved from:

Motteram, G., Dawson, S., & Al-Masri, N. (2020) WhatsApp supported language teacher development: A case study in the Zataari refugee camp. Education and Information Technologies. Online at:

Saltmarsh, M. (2020). Charity sector scrambles to shield refugees as UK COVID-19 crisis deepens. UNHCR Online: [accessed 3/8/20]