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Yongcan Liu


Reader in Applied Linguistics and Languages Education

E-mail Address


+44 (0)1223 767638


  • PhD in Language and Education (University of Cambridge)
  • MPhil Research in Second Language Education (University of Cambridge)
  • MA Linguistics and Applied Linguistics (Guangdong University of Foreign Studies)
  • BA English Linguistics and Translation Studies (Guangdong University of Foreign Studies)

Professional Bodies/Associations

  • Member of British Academy Language Advisory Group
  • Academic Advisory Board: The Learning Passport Initiative (Cambridge/Unicef/Microsoft)
  • Chair of Language Policy Forum 2020, Language Policy SIG, British Association of Applied Linguistics
  • Co-director of the interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement
  • EAL Assessment Advisory Group: the Bell Foundation
  • Series Editor: Routledge Chinese Language Pedagogy; Editorial Board: Language and Education, Language Learning Journal, Thinking Skills and Creativity, Beijing International Review of Education

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Yongcan's scholarship challenges the monolingual bias in language acquisition and education by documenting bi/multilingual children's experiences of maintaining home languages, learning additional languages, and developing literacy skills across the curriculum to improve achievement. His research also aims to feed into interventions to improve policy and practice, drawing on 'linguistic capital' at home, school and in the community.

A prominent theme concurs with his long-standing interest in examining the linguistic and social experience of EAL students in schooling and mapping the knowledge base of teaching in linguistically diverse contexts. He has worked on a series of linked projects on EAL children's language development, social integration and educational achievement funded by the Bell Foundation. He is co-author of the award-winning 'EAL Assessment Framework for Schools' and co-winner of a British Council ELTons Award in 2018 for this work. Version 2.0 of the Framework featuring a Digital Tracker and a suite of Support Strategies has been made an open-access toolkit widely used in UK schools and EMI international schools.

A related theme in this area is to understand the contributions of community/heritage language to the development of plurilingual individuals and multilingual societies. Yongcan is founder of Cambridge Research in Community Language Education Network (CRiCLE-Net) and co-director of the interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement where he leads the Language, Heritage, Migration cluster. He is co-investigator of a large interdisciplinary AHRC project on multilingualism and language policy (MEITS), and has served as literacy lead in the Academic Advisory Board of 'The Learning Passport', a Cambridge-Unicef-Microsoft initiative for refugee/displaced children. 

On theoretical scholarship, Yongcan has a keen interest in advancing the social turn in second language education. His works mainly focus on offering empirical examples showing how Community of Practice can be used to theorise the situated and distributed nature of language teacher learning/cognition. More recently, his interest in the social origin of learning has been extended to Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory of Mind which has an analytical interest in cognitive regulation, mediated development and (computerised) dynamic assessment. 

Yongcan trained in linguistics in China and completed his MPhil and PhD at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. He has taught English/Chinese as a foreign language and linguistics/applied linguistics in China, the UK and the United Arab Emirates. His previous awards and fellowships include the Chevening Award, Dorothy Hodgkin Scholar and Commonwealth Visiting Fellowship.  

Academic Area/Links

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Research Topics and Interests

Linguistic diversity in schools and communities

  • Language policy, medium of instruction and learning outcomes in multilingual contexts
  • Bilingual EAL children's language development, social integration and educational achievement
  • Community/heritage/minority language acquisition and education across the life span

Sociocultural theory of learning

  • Vygotsky's sociocultural theory and its application in second language acquisition and education
  • (Computerised) dynamic assessment for second language development
  • Sociocultural perspective on corrective feedback in SLA

Language teacher knowledge and cognition 

  • The knowledge base of teaching in linguistically diverse contexts
  • Teacher assessment literacy and professional development
  • Development and validation of inventories for measuring teacher knowledge in specialised domains
  • Distributed cognition and (digital) communities of practice for teacher learning 

Current Projects

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Course Involvement

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Selected Publications

Leung, C., Evans, M., & Liu. Y. (2021). English as an additional language assessment framework: Filling a void in policy and provision in school education in England. Language Assessment Quarterly.

Xie, Y. & Liu. Y. (2021). Who do you hang out with? How Chinese students' social networks relate to perceived oral proficiency gains during study abroad experiences. Study Abroad Research in Second Language Acquisition and International Education, 6(1), 59-90. DOI: 

Shao, J. & Liu, Y. (2020). Written corrective feedback, learner-internal cognitive processes, and the acquisition of regular past tense by Chinese L2 learners of English. Applied Linguistics Review. DOI: 10.1515/applirev-2019-0131.

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.

Guo, J., & Liu, Y. (2020). Navigating the complex landscape of cross-epistemic climates: The development of Chinese language teachers' beliefs about knowledge and learning in the UK. Teacher Development, 24(4), 483-501. DOI: 10.1080/13664530.2020.1794951

Choi, K., & Liu, Y. (2020). The challenges and strategies for ELF teaching and teacher development. The ELT Journal, 74(4), 442-452. DOI: 10.1093/elt/ccaa036

Chen, C. & Liu, Y. (2020). The role of vocabulary breath and depth in IELTS academic reading tests. Reading in a Foreign Language, 31(1), 1-27.

Davidson, R., & Liu, Y. (2020). Reaching the world outside: Cultural representation and perceptions of global citizenship in Japanese elementary school English textbooks. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 33(1), 32-49. DOI: 10.1080/07908318.2018.1560460

Wang, T., & Liu, Y. (2020). Dynamic L3 selves: A longitudinal study of five university L3 learners’ motivational trajectories in China. The Language Learning Journal, 48(2), 201-212. DOI:10.1080/09571736.2017.1375549

Liu, Y. (2019). Situated teacher learning as externalising and mobilising teachers' tacit knowledge through talk in a language teacher professional community. Research Papers in Education, 34(3), 330-351. DOI:10.1080/02671522.2018.1452956

Leung, C., Evans, M., Jones, N., & Liu, Y. (2019). EAL Assessment Framework for Schools (primary and seconary) (2nd ed.). Cambridge: the Bell Foundation.

Fisher, L., Evans, M., Forbes, K., Gayton, A., Liu, Y. (2019). Participative multilingual identity construction in the languages classroom: A multi-theoretical conceptualisation. International Journal of Multilingualism. DOI: 10.1080/14790718.2018.1524896

Evans, M., Fisher, L, Forbes, K., Liu, Y. (2019). The form and functions of newcomer EAL students’ 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

Leung, C., Davidson, C., East, M., Evans, M. Green, T., Liu, Y., Hamp-Lyons, L., & Purpura, J. (2018). Using assessment to promote learning: Clarifying constructs, theories and practices. In J. Davies & J. Norris (eds.), Useful assessment and evaluation in language education. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Evans, M., & Liu, Y. (2018). The unfamiliar and the indeterminate: Language, identity and social integration in the school experience of newly-arrived migrant children in England. Journal of Language, Identity and Education, 17(3), 152-167. DOI: 10.1080/15348458.2018.1433043

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

Duff, P., Liu, Y., & Li, D. (2017). Chinese heritage language learning: Negotiating identities, ideologies and institutionalisation. In O. Kagan, M. Carreira & C. Chik (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Heritage Language Education (pp. 409-422). London, New York: Routledge.

Leung, C., Evans, M., Jones, N., & Liu, Y. (2017). EAL Assessment Framework for Schools (primary and seconary) (1st ed.). Cambridge: the Bell Foundation.

Chang, S., & Liu, Y. (2016). From problem-orientedness to goal-orientedness: Re-conceptualizing communication strategies as forms of intra-mental and inter-mental mediation. System: An International Journal of Educational Technology and Applied Linguistics, 61, 43-54.

Liu, Y., & Evans, M. (2016). Multilingualism as legitimate shared repertoires in school communities of practice: Students' and teachers' discursive construction of languages in two schools in England. Cambridge Journal of Education, 46(4), 553-568.

Liu, Y. (2016). The emotional geographies of language teaching. Teacher Development, 20(4), 482-497. DOI:10.1080/13664530.2016.1161660

Liu, Y. (2013). The social organisation of talk-in-interaction at work in a language teacher professional community. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 2(3), 195-207.

Liu, Y. & Xu, Y. (2013). The trajectory of learning in a teacher community of practice. Research Papers in Education, 28(2), 176-195.