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Research in Second Language Education

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‘An interdisciplinary course on applied linguistics and language education.’
Key Facts
Route Co-ordinator: Professor Yongcan Liu   Full-time enrolled 2021-22: 20
Open to: Full-time MPhil, Part-time PGCE-MEd
Part-time enrolled 2021-22: 2 
Full-time deadline: 24/02/2023
PGCE-MEd deadline: 16/05/2023 Application Written task

Overview of the course

The MPhil/MEd Research in Second Language Education (RSLE) is a one-year taught research master's course with a strong focus on research and methodology training. It is designed 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 a wide range of research methods in applied linguistics and in social sciences. The course provides 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 (e.g. Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Urdu) as well as issues relating to the teaching of English as a Second/Foreign/Additional Language across the world. The topics in the curriculum cover different phases of education (school, tertiary and lifelong) and various contexts of learning (instructed, self-directed and digital).

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 route include applied/educational linguistics, sociolinguistics, second language acquisition, sociocultural theory, bilingualism in education, and language teacher development.

Why choose us?

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.

coloured pensHow is the course organised?

The course comprises two strands of modules.

Research Methods Strand (RMS)

The modules in this strand cover various research methods used in social and educational research. These sessions are taught across thematic routes in the Faculty by the research methods team. All sessions are compulsory, but the course is arranged for full and part-time students separately to cater to different needs

Thematic Route Strand (RSLE)

This strand has four modules which are offered exclusively to RSLE students. The modules cover various topics in applied linguistics and languages education. Each module focuses on the themes of Learning, Teaching, Policy and Methodology respectively, providing overall structural coherence to the course. RSLE sessions are scheduled on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:00 to 6:30/7pm. Part-time PGCE-MEd students are required to complete half of each module and attend the sessions on Wednesdays only.

  • 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 - Methodological Context: Multiple Approaches to Researching Language, Learning and Education

Please note that students on the MPhil pathway have teaching sessions throughout the week while those on the PGCE-MEd pathway have one teaching session per week on a Wednesday afternoon (2-6:30/7pm).

Further detailed information

teachingResearch 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.


paper cut peopleWho are the course team?

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


road signWhere 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

student laptopBefore Applying

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.

Qualifications and experience

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).