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Karen Forbes


Associate Professor in Second Language Education

Fellow and Director of Studies in Education, Homerton College

E-mail Address


+ 44 (0) 1223 767603


  • PGCTLHE University of Cambridge
  • PhD Second Language Education, University of Cambridge
  • MEd Research in Second Language Education, University of Cambridge
  • PGCE Modern Languages, University of Cambridge
  • MA (Hons) French and Spanish, University of St Andrews

Membership of Professional Bodies/Associations

  • British Education Research Association (BERA)
  • British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL)
  • Association for Language Learning (ALL)
  • National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC)
  • Higher Education Academy 

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Karen is a Senior Lecturer in Second Language Education in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. She previously taught modern languages in secondary schools in England before completing an ESRC-funded PhD in Second Language Education at the University of Cambridge.

Karen’s current research interests include the development and transfer of language learning strategies, multilingualism and identity, and the education of students who speak English as an additional language (EAL) in UK schools. Her most recent research projects include working in the Education strand of a large AHRC-funded project on multilingualism which explores the influence of multilingual identity on foreign language learning (see the MEITS website for more information) and exploring provision of and perspectives on higher education opportunities among EAL students. Karen has published in a range of journals including the International Journal of Multilingualism, Research Papers in Education and Language and Education. She is also a member of the editorial board for the Cambridge Journal of Education

Karen teaches and supervises on a range of courses in the Education Faculty: she currently coordinates the undergraduate paper on Language, Communication and Literacies, the Masters course in Research in Second Language Education and the Research Methods course for PGCE-MEd students. Karen welcomes enquiries from prospective PhD students (see below).

Academic Area/Links

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Primary Research Interests

  • Teaching and learning of modern languages
  • Language learning strategies
  • English as an additional language in UK schools
  • Multilingualism and identity

Current and Recent Research Projects

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Course Involvement

  • Postgraduate
    • MPhil/MEd Research in Second Language Education (Acting course coordinator for 2020-21)
    • PGCE-MEd Research Methods (Course Coordinator)
    • PhD/EdD supervision
  • Undergraduate
    • Language, Communications and Literacies (Paper Coordinator)
    • Research and Investigation project supervisor 

Prospective Doctoral Applicants

Karen welcomes informal enquiries from prospective doctoral students interested in any of the primary research areas outlined above and is typically able to take on one or two new doctoral students each year. The Second Language Education group has a strong and active community of doctoral students who meet regularly to present their work and share ideas. Prospective students should ideally contact Karen with a CV and draft proposal in the autumn term (September-November) before the intended start date, with a view to submitting an application by early December. Additional information for applicants (including deadlines for funding) can be found here

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Principal and Recent Publications

Forbes, K. & Rutgers, D. (in press). Multilingual identity in education: Introduction to special issue. The Language Learning Journal. DOI: 10.1080/09571736.2021.1918850

Forbes, K., Evans, M., Fisher, L., Gayton, A., Liu, Y. & Rutgers, D. (2021). Developing a multilingual identity in the languages classroom: the influence of an identity-based pedagogical intervention. The Language Learning Journal. DOI: 10.1080/09571736.2021.1906733.

Li, J., McLellan, R. & Forbes, K. (2021). Investigating EFL teachers’ gender-stereotypical beliefs about learners: a mixed-methods study. Cambridge Journal of Education 51(1), 19-44. DOI: 10.1080/0305764X.2020.1772720

Forbes, K. (2020). Cross-linguistic transfer of writing strategies: Interactions between foreign language and first language classrooms. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Evans, M., Schneider, C., Arnot, M., Fisher, L., Forbes, K., Liu, Y. & Welply, O. (2020). Language development, social integration and academic achievement of EAL students. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Fisher, L., Evans, M., Forbes, K., Gayton, A., Liu, Y. (2020). Participative multilingual identity construction in the languages classroom: A multi-theoretical conceptualisation. International Journal of Multilingualism, 17(4), 448-466. DOI: 10.1080/14790718.2018.1524896

Forbes, K. & Fisher, L. (2020). Strategy development and cross-linguistic transfer in foreign and first language writing. Applied Linguistics Review, 11(2), 311-339. DOI:

Luo, J. & Forbes, K. (2019). ‘It’s a plus rather than a must’: Perspectives of mainstream teachers in China on the influence of advertised educational ethos in supplementary English education. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education. DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2019.1681937

Forbes, K. (2019). The role of individual differences in the development and transfer of writing strategies between foreign and first language classrooms. Research Papers in Education, 34(4), 445-464. DOI: 10.1080/02671522.2018.1452963

Forbes, K. (2019). Teaching for transfer between first and foreign language classroom contexts: Developing a framework for a strategy-based, cross-curricular approach to writing pedagogy. Writing & Pedagogy, 11(1), 101-126.

Evans, M., Fisher, L., Forbes, K., Liu, Y. (2019). The form and functions of newcomer EAL pupils' speech in English: patterns of progression and communication in semi-structured interview dialogue. Language and Education, 33(1), 18-34. DOI: 10.1080/09500782.2018.1445756

Forbes, K. (2018). "In German I have to think about it more than I do in English": The foreign language classroom as a key context for developing transferable metacognitive writing strategies. In Å. Haukås, C. Bjørke & M. Dypedahl (Eds.), Metacognition in Language Learning and Teaching. Routledge.

Forbes, K. (2018). Exploring first year undergraduate students’ conceptualisations of critical thinking skills. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(3), 433-442.

Forbes, K. and Fisher, L. (2018). The impact of expanding advanced level secondary school students' awareness and use of metacognitive learning strategies on confidence and proficiency in foreign language speaking skills. The Language Learning Journal, 46(2), 173-185. DOI: 10.1080/09571736.2015.1010448

Liu, Y., Fisher, L., Forbes, K. & Evans, M. (2017). The knowledge base of teaching in linguistically diverse contexts: 10 grounded principles of multilingual classroom pedagogy for EAL. Language and Intercultural Communication, 17(4), 378-395. DOI: 10.1080/14708477.2017.1368136   

Evans, M., Schneider, C., Arnot, M., Fisher, L., Forbes, K., Hu, M. & Liu, Y. (2016). Language development and school achievement: opportunities and challenges in the education of EAL students. Cambridge: Bell Foundation 

Arnot, M., Schneider, C., Evans, M., Liu, Y., Welply, O., Davies-Tutt, D., & with Forbes, K. and Sutton, D. (2014). School approaches to the education of EAL students: Language development, social integration and achievement. Cambridge: Bell Foundation.