Centre for Language Education

Close-up of a dictionary entry for the word 'Impact'

Curriculum change

Dr Martin Wedell’s work on curriculum change has made an important theoretical and professional contribution to the field of language education. It provides a framework for understanding the whole context within which TESOL occurs. Such an understanding is a necessary precursor to identifying the key interrelationships between the parts of and partners in any change context that are likely to influence the implementation of a particular TESOL change  initiative. An awareness of these relationships provides a necessary starting point for the task of implementing educational change more effectively.

The professional impact of this work is evident in its uptake by the British Council, particularly in the development of a handbook to provide guidance for the large numbers of local and institutional level change leaders tasked with implementing national/provincial change initiatives within their local areas. The work has also generated global interest as reflected in a series of plenary/keynote invitations.

Teacher education

In many contexts, university-based pre-service language teacher education curricula consist of a series of separate, disconnected, modules offered by different staff from different university departments; Dr Wedell’s work reflects the need to view the content and teaching of such curricula more holistically. To date, work has focused on developing an ‘integrated curriculum’ for the language proficiency development strand of the curriculum. 

With colleagues in Chile, he has planned the practice and process of using topics and themes arising from other strands of the curriculum (learning, education and methodology), together with trainees’ prior life experience, as the main content/stimuli for trainees’ language development modules. The first programme incorporating such an ‘integrated curriculum’ began at two universities in 2011. Two further universities will start similar programmes in 2014.

Dr Judith Hanks’ pioneering work on Exploratory Practice has made significant theoretical and professional contributions to the field of language teacher education. Her work provides a framework for understanding how the integration of research and pedagogy may be achieved in a wide range of contexts in TESOL.

To date, work has focused on developing a set of principles for ‘fully integrated practitioner research’ in language learning and teaching, and Dr Hanks’ contribution has focused particularly on the notions of puzzled inquiry, inclusivity and collegiality in classroom language learning research.

As a result of Dr Hanks' work, Exploratory Practice is now being integrated into the practices of EAP practitioners in language centres in the Universities of Glasgow, Leeds, and Sheffield Hallam, and is being developed in others. The work has generated global interest, as reflected in invitations to give plenary and/or keynote addresses at conferences in Brazil, Japan, Portugal and Turkey, as well as a series of events in the UK (at IATEFL, and at University Language Centres around the UK).

Dr Hanks gave a plenary address on Exploratory Practice at Kyoto University, Japan in May 2013.

In initial teacher education for primary teachers, Dr Jean Conteh’s work on English as an additional language has made a major contribution to raising the profile and importance of this aspect of teacher knowledge in mainstream schools in England, where the numbers of bilingual pupils, and the languages they speak, have risen rapidly in recent years, and currently stand at about 16%. She has been asked to speak at national and international conferences, and to contribute to policy discussions and developments.

Role of research in language teachers' lives

Professor Simon Borg’s programme of research has made a significant theoretical and methodological contribution to the field in relation to the study of the role of research in language teachers’ lives. Theoretically, the work has, through a series of international projects, developed a framework for understanding the degree of research engagement that teachers’ exhibit; teachers’ conceptions of research and their perceptions of their institutional context are key elements in this framework.

This work has also highlighted tensions between institutional drives, often with a political agenda, to make teacher more research active, and teachers’ understanding of, and ability to respond to, such drives. Methodologically, this work is also important as it has involved the development of research designs and instruments that are being adopted by researchers elsewhere.

As a result of key research outputs in the leading journals Applied Linguistics, Language Teaching, and TESOL Quarterly, Professor Borg is recognized as the leading figure in the study of language teacher research engagement, a position that will be strengthened by the publication early in 2013 of the monograph Teacher research and language teaching: a critical analysis (CUP). There is also a strong professional dimension to this work as it has clear implications for the design and delivery of initiatives aimed at supporting the development of teacher researchers.

Professor Borg’s work in providing research methods training for university teachers of English in Pakistan is an example of the practical application of his research.

English as an additional language

Dr Jean Conteh’s research work in complementary and mainstream school settings, as well as her work in initial teacher education and continuing professional development over the years, has contributed to the theoretical and practical knowledge of teachers to meet the needs of learners on English as an additional language (EAL) in mainstream schools. In 2009-2010, she received funding from the Department for Education, in collaboration with the National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC), to develop and trial modules for initial teacher education, and for ITE providers in EAL.

Since 2010, Dr Conteh has continued the research strand of the work through internal funding and her ongoing, classroom-based research work with bilingual teachers, funded via a community organisation by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. This has led directly to the development of the part-time MA program in EAL and Education, launched in September 2013 with 14 students, all experienced practitioners in the emerging field of EAL.

Adult ESOL

Professor Mike Baynham and Dr James Simpson have led a sequence of research projects which has been influential both in setting the agenda for research into the learning and teaching of English for adult migrants in the UK, a hitherto largely unresearched area, and in establishing Leeds as a leading centre for research in this emergent area in the UK. The research has attracted a significant cohort of ESOL practitioners to doctoral study.

At national policy level, the team’s publications are repeatedly referred to in the Companion guide to the application of the Professional Standards for Teachers of English (Literacy and ESOL) and are used as core training materials in Level 5 ESOL training. Our work is also shaping current local government policy on English language provision for adult migrants in Leeds and beyond. Dr Simpson leads the ESOL-Research discussion group. This provides a unique critical national and international focus on ESOL research, policy, practice and activism, and played a central role in the organization of the Action for ESOL campaign. With nearly a thousand subscribers, it continues to be the key online forum for discussion of ESOL issues.

The reach of our research extends beyond England to other countries with similar migration profiles. Our research has been widely disseminated in the main TESOL professional journals and newsletters, also in the US, Canada and Australia. For instance, the Effective Teaching and Learning ESOL report is listed as a resource in the ESOL Scotland Curriculum Framework, and has so far been downloaded 555 times.