Professor Emma Marsden



2018-to date: Professor, University of York

2011-2018: Senior Lecturer  

2004-2011: Lecturer, University of York

2004: ESRC post-doctoral research fellow (£25K) University of Southampton, Implicit learning of French grammar

2000-2004: ESRC funded PhD student, University of Southampton, Foreign language grammar teaching in secondary schools

2001-2002: Part time research assistant on ESRC “Linguistic Progression” project, University of Southampton

2000-2001: Part time research assistant on DfES “Action Research language teaching” projects, University of Southampton

1995-2000: Foreign language teacher (French, Spanish and English). Including: Head of Spanish, 11-18 school, Derby, Special Needs co-coordinator, Head of post 16 French; English teacher, Universidad Catolica, Santiago, Chile.

1998-1999: Masters in Applied Linguistics with ESRC funded studentship, University of Southampton

1994-1995: PGCE, French, Spanish & TESOL, Secondary Education, University of Manchester.

1990-1994: BA Joint Honours in French and Hispanic Studies, University of Nottingham

Departmental roles



I am interested in most aspects of second language teaching and learning, particularly three inter-connected areas: the learning and teaching of morphosyntax; how learners process the input; and the nature and roles of different types of knowledge.

I also work on several projects related to methods, design and ‘open science’ in research into second language learning and teaching.

I seek to engage with teachers, teacher educators and policy-makers to increase their awareness of and involvement in research, and to increase the relevance of my work to classroom teaching.


Project: National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy (NCELP): Understanding, improving and promoting language learning. (Collaborators: Rachel Hawkes (Co-Director), Suzanne Graham, Rowena Kasprowicz, Rene Koglebauer, David Shanks, Robert Woore). NCELP is working in partnership with university researchers, teacher educators and 18 Specialist Teachers in nine Leading Schools across the country acting as Hubs to a network of 45 schools. The initiative aims to improve language pedagogy and curriculum design, by promoting research-informed teaching practices and sharing of resources and good practice. The Centre aims to help more young people learn foreign languages. Funded by a £2.17 million grant from the Department for Education, plus grants from the ESRC IAA, HEIF, and the University of York.

Project: IRIS: The Repository of Materials and Data for Research into Second Languages. (Collaborators: Luke Plonsky, Laura Collins, Sophie Thompson, Geoff LaFlair, Alison Mackey, with networks of researchers, journal editors & professional associations). In 2012, we established a repository for materials and data used for research on language learning and teaching: IRIS. This free, searchable resource now holds over 4,200 materials used to collect data for peer reviewed publications. It facilitates collaboration and replication, enhances the transparency and scrutiny of research instruments and stimuli, and helps research methods training. Initially funded by the ESRC, IRIS is now a long term British Academy Research Project

Related to IRIS, we are carrying out several investigations into the extent and nature of open science practices in the field of applied linguistics, and the benefits and challenges of materials transparency. For example, two methodological syntheses, on self-paced reading tests and acceptability judgement tests, documented their design, use, and transparency and how these can affect the findings.

Project: OASIS: Open Accessible Summaries in Language Studies (Collaborators: Inge Alferink, Sible Andringa, Laura Collins, Carrie Jackson, Rowena Kasprowicz, Luke Plonsky, among other academics, professional associations and journal editors). The OASIS initiative has established a systematic and sustainable culture of providing open, accessible summaries of research in the language sciences and language education. The aim is to address some of the long-attested challenges of communicating research beyond academia. Editors of key journals now routinely solicit summaries from their authors, using the guidelines we developed. We work with professional associations and language educators to generate engagement with the summaries. OASIS now holds almost 300 one-page non-technical summaries, searchable at Funded by The British Academy and an Economic and Social Research Council IAA. To participate, please contact

Project: Estimating the magnitude of sensitivity of morphosyntax and the influence of the first language: A meta-analysis of L2 self-paced reading. (Collaborator: Nick Avery).  Drawing on data from self-paced reading tests across 57 studies (N = 3,052), we found a reliable sensitivity to L2 morphosyntax at advanced proficiencies (d = 0.20, 95% CIs 0.15, 0.25), with some evidence this was reliably different to native speakers. These patterns were not generally moderated by linguistic feature or sentence region. However, effects for anomaly detection differed between native speakers and L2 learners and the effects among L2 learners appeared to show a trend towards L1 influence. Finding smaller effects than in other subdomains, we provide an initial framework of reference for L2 reading time effect sizes.

Project: Learning French grammar through a digital game (Collaborators: Rowena Kasprowicz, Andy Wood, Nick Sephton, Peter Cowling). We are creating a ‘serious digital game’ for school children aged 9-13 learning French. The aim is to help grammar learning by incorporating task-essential form-function mapping within a motivational game-based environment. An additional aim is to evaluate the potential of such games for large-scale, remote, data collection. We evaluated a subset of games among 113 young classroom learners using battery of outcome measures and examining accuracy and speed of responses during training. We found little difference in learning patterns under different distributions of practice (30 minutes x 2 per week versus 60 minutes x 1 per week). Analytic ability predicted outcomes. This work forms part of the activities of the Digital Creativity Hub, funded by £4 million from the EPSRC.

Project: To what extent can instruction about the grammar of the first language help the learning of a foreign language? (Lead: Kevin McManus). We investigated whether learning L2 grammar features that are expressed differently in the L1 (tense and aspect marking in French for English L1 speakers) benefitted from explicit instruction about, and practice in, the L1. We found evidence that providing explicit information about the L1 helped L2 online processing in terms of faster and more accurate reactions during sentence interpretation compared to just L2 and L1 practice alone. We also found evidence it helped L2 oral production and yielded signatures of ‘automatisation’ as learners undertook the training. Funded by a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship to Kevin McManus.

Project: Replication in the second language research. A Synthesis of Replication Effort and a Pre-Registered Multi-Site Replication (Collaborators: Kara Morgan-Short, Sophie Thompson, Jeanne Heil, David Abugaber, and multi-site collaborators).  First, we conducted a systematic review of replication research published in L2 journal articles to date and found 67 self-labeled L2 replication studies, estimating a mean rate of 1 published replication study for every 400 articles. Overlap in authorship between initial and replication studies and the availability of the initial materials both increased the likelihood of a replication supporting the initial findings. Our sample contained no direct (exact) replication attempts, and changes made to initial studies were numerous and wide ranging. To improve the amount and quality of L2 replication research, we propose 16 recommendations relating to rationale, nomenclature, design, infrastructure, and incentivization for collaboration and publication.

Second, we evaluated the feasibility and usefulness of pre-registered multi-site replication, using the Open Science Framework as the project infrastructure. The studies were conceptual and exact replications, across seven sites, of previous studies investigating the effects on L2 Spanish listening and reading comprehension of noticing particular forms (grammatical and lexical items). We generally replicated the previous findings that attending to lexical items (sol) and grammatical forms (la and -n) did not really affect comprehension, though we found some site-specific evidence that spotting the verb inflection -n did challenge comprehension. Funded by a Language Learning Small Grant.

An outcome of both these projects was the introduction of the article type ‘Registered Reports’ at Language Learning.

Project: Explicit instruction to help improve the speed and accuracy of processing morphosyntax. (Collaborators: Heather Marsden, Sophie Thompson, Xiaoran Niu, Carrie Jackson, Holger Hopp, Vivienne Rogers). We are exploring the extent to which explicit information and intentional practice can alter how learners process grammar in the input. We are currently investigating whether abstract and discourse constrained syntax (e.g. inversion and non-inversion in wh-clauses; SO case marking in L2 German; relative clauses; passive) can be affected by explicit information about the distribution of features in the input, and by training learners’ expectations and co-indexation routines.  We use both online measures (e.g. self-paced reading, eye-tracking), providing a window into millisecond reaction times, and also offline measures that have greater ecological validity (e.g. interpretation and oral production). Funded by an ESRC PhD studentship to Thompson and a University of York Priming Fund.

Project: Creating and analysing an oral corpus of L2 English (Collaborators: Phillipa Bell, Laura Collins). To document linguistic development across five years of schooling, we administered a series of oral production tasks to elicit a wide range of morpho-syntactic features. We will examine the development of inflectional verb morphology, the syntax of negation, adjectivals, and interrogatives, as well as discourse features. The corpus will be morphosyntactically tagged, using bespoke ‘error’ codes, using CHAT. Funded by the SSHRC.

Research group(s)



Xiaoran Niu "Instruction for online role assignment: Teaching co-indexation in English relative clauses" (2017- )

Sophie Thompson "Can we teach the online processing of morphosyntax? Teaching morphosyntactic sensitivity to help anticipate passive/active voice" (2016- )

Emily Oxley “Word learning amongst primary school pupils with English as an Additional Language” (2015- ) (co-supervisor, with Anna Weighall, University of Leeds, on the ESRC White Rose DTC Network).

Eman Alshammari "Language teachers' perceptions of error correction: Why do they correct in the way that they do?" (2013- )


Abigail Parrish "How do schools choose which foreign languages to teach? Does freedom of choice lead to a wider choice?" (2015-17)

Elizabeth Bailey “The potential of using pupils with English as an Additional Language as linguistic resources in the primary classroom” (2014-17)

David O'Reilly "Measuring metaphoric competence: Development and validation of a test battery” (2013-17)

Rowena Kasprowicz (née Hanan) "Explicit knowledge about language amongst primary school children: Is it useful for foreign language learning, and can it be trained?" 2011-15

Alaidde Berenice Villanueva Aguillera "Reading strategies in L1 and L2 learning in Mexico" 2009-13

Haifaa Faqueih  “The effects of error correction during oral production on learning English modals amongst Saudi learners" 2008-2012

Hsin-Ying Chen “What are the components of Processing Instruction and what are their roles?” 2005-2009

Laura Taylor "The progression of first-time ESL teachers in a South Korean private preschool." 2012-2013

Liviana Ferrari “A longitudinal study of motivation amongst adult foreign language learners” 2005-2006, part time, completed 2014.

External activities


  • Director, National Centre of Language Pedagogy (NCELP)
  • Associate Editor of Language Learning, from January 2015
  • Member of the ESRC Peer Review College
  • Elected member and Secretary of the Committee for Linguistics in Education, a joint committee of the British Association of Applied Linguistics and the Linguistics Association of Great Britain. (2013- )
  • Invited member of the DfE 'Expert Subject Advisory Group: Foreign Languages':
  • Founding co-convenor of the British Association of Applied Linguistics “Language Learning and Teaching” Special Interest Group
  • Editorial Board: Language Teaching (2011-2014), Cambridge University Press
  • Editorial Board: International Review of Applied Linguistics (2011- ), Mouton-De-Gruyter
  • Editorial Board: Book series Instructed Second Language Acquisition (2010- ), Continuum
  • Editorial Board: Yearbook of the European Second Language Association, John Benjamins
  • Invited member of 'Languages Specialist Group' of HE Academy's Subject centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (2004-2007)
  • Advisory board member of the White Rose Network for the Inter-disciplinary Study of Language Learning: (2013-14)
  • Advisory board member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Network “Meaning in Language Learning” (2014-15).
  • Associate Member of Centre for Multilingualism, University of Reading
  • Advisory role on the development of new assessment criteria for school foreign language learning (Macaro & Graham) (2011)

Invited talks and conferences


Marsden, E. (2016) Explicit knowledge and practice for learning abstract syntax in a low-exposure context. Knowledge and Usage in Second Language. 29th June - July 1st, Université de Nantes, France.

Marsden, E., Morgan-Short, K., Heille, J., Oliver, C. (2016) The potential, pitfalls and process of multi-site replication: The case of investigating attention to form during comprehension in Spanish L2. Lexical Studies Research Network Conference. Cardiff University, 9-11 March.

Marsden, E. (2016) Applying the implicit/explicit debate to instructed sentence processing. End of project conference for the AHRC Network for the Inter-disciplinary Study of Language Learning: ‘The implicit/explicit nature of knowledge during SLA’. 22 January, University of York.

Marsden, E. (2014) Language Learning Roundtable at the European Second Language Association’s Annual Conference. 3rd September, University of York.

Marsden, E. (2014) Getting meaning and function from morphosyntax in the input: Some of the problems, which classroom activities help, and what's learnt? Cognitive Approaches to Instructed Second Language Acquisition 24 April, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.

Marsden, E. (2014) Classroom language learning research.  In honour of the work of Professor Rosamond Mitchell, June 18th, University of Southampton.

Marsden, E. & Mackey, A. (2012) Introducing IRIS. The British Association of Applied Linguistics Language Learning and Teaching Special Interest Group, University of Oxford, 4-5 July.

Marsden, E. (2011) Invited Discussant at “Younger = better? Comparing 5, 7 and 11 year olds learning French in the classroom”, 14-15 July, 2011.  Conference for ESRC funded project RES-062-23-1545. Attended by national and international researchers and teachers.


Marsden, E. (2016) Knowledge and progression in grammar and vocabulary in primary school aged pupils. 18-19 March. Establishing a research network in primary foreign languages in England. University of Essex

Marsden, E., Kasprowicz, R., Parrish, A. (2016) Practitioner engagement with research: Perceptions, problems and priorities. University of Leeds.

Marsden, E. (2016) Explicit knowledge and practice for learning abstract syntax in a low-exposure context. Institute of Education, University College London. 7 June.


Marsden, E., Kasprowicz, R. (2016) Making grammar matter in the input. CPD to teachers, school mentors and teacher educators. School of Education, University of Portsmouth 11th May.

Marsden, E., Kasprowicz, R., Parrish, A. (2016) Practitioner engagement with research: Perceptions, problems and priorities. The Westminster Professional Language Centre, University of Westminster, 28th January.

Marsden, E. (2015) Using IRIS to do action research. Invited Webinar leader for the SEETA International Project on Teacher Research. 17 November 2015.

Marsden, E. (2015) Teaching grammar through the input.  Teacher Educator and Trainers (ITET) annual conference. Association for Language Learning. St Mary’s University. Twickenham 8th July 2015. Attended by 50 teacher trainers.

Marsden, E. & Hanan R. (2015) Using input to teach grammar.  Teacher CPD. Harrogate Grammar School. 3rd June 2015.

Marsden, E. & Hanan R. (2015) Map the Meaning. Making grammar matter for progression KS2-4. The Association for Language Learning, South Yorkshire Branch, Feb 26th, 2015.

Marsden, E. & Hanan R. (2015) Map the meaning: Form-function mapping for making grammar matter. CPD workshop for teachers and teacher educators. University of York. 10 February. 

Marsden, E. (2014) Classroom based SLA research. The Inaugural Meeting of the White Rose Network for Inter-disciplinary study of Language Learning. 13 February, University of Sheffield.

Marsden, E. & Hanan, R. (2014) Making grammar matter in the input: The 'Processing Instruction' approach. Annual Conference Network for Languages London. 28th June. University of Westminster. 

Marsden, E. (2014) Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching: 4th Annual Conference of UK Higher Education teachers of MFLs, May 16th, University of Leeds.

Marsden, E. (2013). IRIS: A new online resource for doing research into second language learning and teaching. The 8th Annual E-learning Symposium, Language, Linguistics and Area Studies, University of Southampton, UK.

Marsden, E. (2013). IRIS: A resource for teacher researchers. Language World 2013, Nottingham Conference Centre, UK.

Marsden, E. (2012). Introducing IRIS: A resource for teacher research. ALL Special Interest Group for Initial Teacher Education and Training, Teaching Agency, Manchester, UK.

Marsden, E. (2003) Teaching grammar from the input: Making grammar matter. Workshop for teachers in Hampshire County Council.


Contact details

Department of Education
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 323335