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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)
  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA)

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Karen is an Associate Professor 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 MEd and then a PhD in Second Language Education at the University of Cambridge.

Karen’s current research interests include school language policies, multilingual identity and the development and transfer of language learning strategies. She was part of 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 Principal Investigator on a British Academy funded project exploring language policies in linguistically diverse secondary schools in the UK. 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 including the Masters in Second Language Education course, postgraduate research methods courses and she supervises a number of doctoral students.

Academic Area/Links

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Primary Research Interests

  • Language learning strategies
  • Multilingualism and identity
  • English as an additional language learners in UK schools
  • School-level language policies

Current and Recent Research Projects

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Course Involvement

  • Postgraduate
    • Deputy Masters Programme Leader 
    • MPhil/MEd Research in Second Language Education
    • PGCE-MEd Research Methods
    • PhD/EdD supervision
  • Undergraduate
    • Research and Investigation project supervisor 

Prospective Doctoral Applicants

Karen welcomes informal enquiries from prospective doctoral students interested in topics related to her current and recent research projects (see above) and is typically able to take on one (or occasionally two) new doctoral student(s) each year. Applicants typically have a strong undergraduate degree in language(s) and/or linguistics and a strong Masters-level degree in language education, applied linguistics or similar.

The Second Language Education group has a strong and vibrant community of doctoral students who meet regularly to present their work and share ideas. Prospective students should aim to contact Karen with a CV and draft proposal in the autumn term (October-November) before the intended start date. Additional information for applicants (including deadlines for funding) can be found here. Due to the high number of applications received prospective students are strongly advised to apply in advance of the funding deadline (typically early December). Interviews for shortlisted applicants are usually held in January. 

Please note that Karen is currently unable to accept any further applications for October 2024 entry 

Visiting Scholar Enquiries

Please note that in line with Faculty policy, Karen is only able to consider enquires from potential Visiting Scholars "when there already exists a well-developed, professional working relationship between the visitor and a member of the Faculty". 

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Principal and Recent Publications

Forbes, K. & Morea, N. (2024). Mapping school-level language policies across multilingual secondary schools in England: An ecology of English, modern languages and community languages policies. British Educational Research Journal.

Forbes, K., Evans, M., Fisher, L., Gayton, A. & Rutgers, D. (2024). “I feel like I have a superpower”: a qualitative analysis of adolescents’ experiences of multilingual identity development during an identity-based pedagogical intervention. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development.

Fisher, L., Evans, M., Forbes, K., Gayton, A., Liu, Y. & Rutgers, D. (2024). Language experiences, evaluations and emotions (3Es): analysis of structural models of multilingual identity for language learners in schools in England. International Journal of Multilingualism, 21(1), 418-438. DOI: 10.1080/14790718.2022.2060235

Rutgers, D., Evans. M., Fisher, L., Forbes, K., Gayton, A. & Liu, Y. (2024) Multilingualism, multilingual identity and academic attainment: Evidence from secondary schools in England. Journal of Language, Identity and Education, 23(2), 201-227. DOI: 10.1080/15348458.2021.1986397

Wu, X. & Forbes, K. (2023). Contextualising the temporal dimension in multilingual identity construction: a longitudinal Q methodological study with Chinese LOTE-learning public high school students. System.

Forbes, K. (2022). Language learning strategies. In P. Watkins (Ed.), The Better Learning Research Review. Cambridge University Press and Assessment.

Forbes, K. (2022). We are multilingual: Identity education to promote engagement and achievement in schools. Languages, Society and Policy.

Wu, X. & Forbes, K. (2022). Multilingual identity in schools: A Q methodological study with Chinese LOTE-as-L3 learners in international and public high school contexts. Journal of Language, Identity and Education.

Forbes, K. & Rutgers, D. (2021). 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.

Forbes, K., Howard, K. & Ilie, S. (2021) Individual and institutional perspectives on barriers to progression to higher education for students with English as an additional language. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 23(2), 104-129.

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