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Research in Second Language Education

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‘I especially appreciate the taught sessions which were curated in a way to cover very diverse topics and methods. I have known more about how educators and researchers strive in every way to understand how languages are taught and learnt, the motivations behind it, and how we can improve teaching and learning as the public good.’
Key Facts
Route Co-ordinator: Dr Yongcan Liu Full-time enrolled 2019-20: 25
Open to: MPhil, PGCE-MEd
Part-time enrolled 2019-20: 3 
Full-time deadline: 28/02/2021
PGCE-MEd deadline: 01/06/2021  
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Overview of the course

The MPhil/MEd Research in Second Language Education (RSLE) is a one-year research master's course with a strong focus on methodology training. It is intended for students who have a background in languages (including English) and seek to develop substantial knowledge and skills in researching language education. A major part of the course involves developing a good understanding of research methods in applied linguistics and social science. The course is characterised by a strong emphasis on originality and criticality, providing an excellent transition to and a valuable introductory experience for full-scale PhD research.

The thematic route adopts a broad definition of the term 'second language education'. It considers issues relating to the teaching and learning of languages in schools and communities (e.g. French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Urdu, etc.) as well as issues relating to the teaching of English as a Second/Foreign/Additional Language across the world. A special feature of the course is its broad-based training which enables students to combine linguistic and social analysis in their research. The disciplines and perspectives that are heavily drawn upon in this course include applied/educational linguistics, sociolinguistics, second language acquisition, sociocultural theory, bilingualism in education, and language teacher development.

Why choose us?

  • Offer an interdisciplinary perspective drawing on insights from psychology, technology, anthropology, sociology, linguistics and education
  • Well connected to the University's interdisciplinary research initiatives on Migration and Language Sciences.
  • Participate in the Interdisciplinary Language Sciences Programme offering opportunities to attend modules offered by other language and linguistics departments
  • Involve students in the activities organised by the Second Language Education Group (SLEG) and Cambridge Research in Community Language Education Network (CRiCLE-Net)
  • Provide one-to-one supervisions and individual support by a dedicated team with specialist expertise
  • Support an international alumni network comprising former students and visitors for networking and collaboration

What does this course offer?

We aim to combine in-depth critical understanding of the main currents of conceptual thinking in second language education with practical training in conducting L2 empirical research.

You will:

  • examine key theoretical perspectives which have influenced recent research in second language education and relate these to the wider context of social and educational research;
  • develop critical skills with respect to the literature on research in second language education, focusing mainly on instructive examples of empirical research;
  • analyse and develop effective methodologies to examine critical issues in second language teaching and learning across all phases of education;
  • investigate language and cultural issues from an international and comparative perspective.

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How is the course organised?

The MPhil/MEd programme comprises two strands of courses: Research Methods Strand (RMS) which is taught across the Faculty and Research in Second Language Education (RSLE) course which has four specialist modules:

  • Module 1 - Learning Context: Second Language Learning Theories across Disciplines
  • Module 2 - Pedagogical Context: Second Language Classroom Pedagogies across Cultures
  • Module 3 - Policy Context: International Perspectives on Language Education Policy and Multilingualism
  • Module 4 - Research Context: Multiple Approaches to Researching Language, Learning and Education

The four modules cover various topics in language education, each focusing on the theme of Learning, Teaching, Policy and Research respectively. These themes provide overall structural coherence to the course. RSLE sessions are scheduled on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:00 to 6:30pm. Part-time PGCE-MEd students are required to complete half of each module and attend the sessions on Wednesdays only.

Students on the MPhil pathway complete the course in one year and have teaching sessions throughout the week. Students on the PGCE-MEd pathway have one teaching session per week on a Wednesday afternoon (2-7pm).

Further detailed information. 

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Research Method Strand

Alongside these modules, you will benefit from 32 hours of Research Methods teaching. This is taught across all thematic Masters within the Faculty of Education, allowing you to interact with others on different courses.

It covers a broad range of social science research methods and is essential for Masters level understanding and critical engagement with the research literature in many specialist areas and in education more generally.

Through this strand you will acquire the skills necessary for designing, conducting, analysing, interpreting and reporting a research study for thesis.


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Who are the course team?

The course is staffed by a team of established faculty members who provide teaching and supervision. Other colleagues also contribute one-off lectures and tutorial support:


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Where do our students go?

We aim to foster future leaders in the field of second language education. Our graduates follow a wide range of professional options, including:

  • further doctoral study
  • international NGOs
  • UN bodies
  • government departments
  • language testing and assessment services
  • book publishers
  • schools and universities

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Before Applying

Applicants normally have a good BA or MA degree in a language, including English, and an interest in the educational aspects of applied linguistics. Some prior professional experience in second language education is desirable (for instance, in teaching, assessment and teacher training).

Please note that this is a popular course and the course is usually oversubscribed well before the deadline. Potential applicants are advised to make early application, preferably by the beginning of December.