skip to primary navigation skip to content

Yongcan Liu


Professor of 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

  • Home/Heritage/Community Languages Advisory Group (British Council and Association for Language Learning)
  • Academic Advisory Board: the Learning Passport (Cambridge/Unicef/Microsoft)
  • EAL Assessment Advisory Group: the Bell Foundation
  • Chair of Language Policy Forum 2020, Language Policy SIG, BAAL
  • Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement
  • Editorial Board: Language and Education, Language Learning Journal, Thinking Skills and Creativity, Beijing International Review of Education; Series Editor: Routledge Chinese Language Pedagogy

Back to top


Yongcan's research, from a cross-disciplinary perspective, deepens the debate about the role of language(s) in schooling, particularly for migrant children in contexts of diversity and uncertainty. He brings together three related, yet distinct, research domains (heritage language maintenance, foreign language learning, and literacy development across the curriculum) to address issues of achievement, integration and wellbeing of migrant children. 

Yongcan has a long-standing interest in examining the linguistic and social experience of EAL students in schooling. 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, and is co-author of the 'EAL Assessment Framework for Schools' which won a British Council ELTons Award in 2018. Version 2.0 of the Framework featuring a Digital Assessment Tracker 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 languages to the development of plurilingual individuals and multilingual societies. Yongcan founded Cambridge Research in Community Language Education Network (CRiCLE-Net) and co-directs 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 project on multilingualism and language policy (MEITS) funded by AHRC/OWRI, and has served as literacy lead in the Academic Advisory Board for 'Learning Passport', a Cambridge-Unicef-Microsoft initiative for refugee/displaced children. 

His theoretical works focus on offering examples showing how Community of Practice can be used to theorise the situated and distributed nature of language teacher knowledge. His interest in the social origin of learning has also extended to Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory which has an analytical interest in cognitive regulation, Zone of Proximal Development, and (computerised) dynamic assessment. 

Yongcan trained in linguistics in China and completed his MPhil and PhD in education at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. He currently serves as Director of Studies for Education and a bye-fellow at Downing College. 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 the Commonwealth Visiting Fellowship.  

Academic Area/Links

Back to top

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 language learning and complementary schooling

Sociocultural theory of learning

  • Vygotsky's sociocultural theory perspective on SLA and its application in second language education programme design
  • Development of mediation indices, inventories and scales
  • (Computerised) dynamic assessment for second language development

Teacher knowledge and cognition 

  • The knowledge base of teaching and assessment in linguistically diverse contexts
  • Development and validation of inventories measuring domain-specific teacher knowledge 
  • Distributed cognition, systems convening, and (digital) communities of practice for teacher learning 

Current Projects

Back to top

Course Involvement

Back to top

Selected Publications

Wu, X., & Liu, Y. (2021). Emergent LOTE motivation? The L3 motivational dynamics of Japanese-major university students in China. Applied Linguistics Review. DOI:10.1515/applirev-2021-0074  

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, 18(3), 296-315. DOI: 10.1080/15434303.2020.1869745

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. Language Learning Journal, 49(4), 443-451. DOI: 10.1080/09571736.2021.1906733.

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.

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

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.