Research Methods in Language Learning & Teaching - EDU00033M

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  • Department: Education
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Zoe Handley
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2018-19

Module aims

To introduce students to the main methods used to research language learning and teaching

Module learning outcomes

Module aims

This modules aims to:

  • Introduce students to the main methods used to research language learning and teaching. 
  • Explore the relationship between research questions, methods, data analysis and subsequent claims.

Module learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete the module should be able to:

  • Exhibit knowledge and understanding of a wide range of methods for carrying out research in language learning and teaching
  • Critically consume research reports in terms of the suitability of their methods and the implications the methods have on the substantive claims made.

Module content

Course outline


Week 1:          Introduction:  Research questions, literature and basic concepts

Week 2:          Observation

Week 3:          Questionnaires

Week 4:          Interviews and focus groups

Week 5:      Self-report & introspection

Week 6:          Language learner data elicitation

Week 7:          Qualitative data analysis

Week 8:          Computer workshop: Introduction to quantitative data analysis

Week 9:          Quantitative data analysis: Correlations

Week 10:       Quantitative data analysis: Causes and Experimental Design


Week 2:          Basic concepts and observation

Week 4:          Questionnaires and interviews

Week 6:          Self report, introspection, and language learner data elicitation

Week 8:          Qualitative data analysis

Week 10:       Quantitative data analysis

Lecture details - (week by week)

Week 1 - Introduction

This session will introduce the module by considering the nature of research and the research cycle.  Key issues which will be discussed include the types of research questions which might be asked in language education, the role of evidence in research, and the relationship between research questions and the choice of research methods. Other key concepts which will be introduced include hypothesis testing, sampling and ethics.

Week 2 - Observations

The session will consider how classroom observations can be carried out, including some evaluation of the different varieties of observation (structured, participant).  The type of data generated by observations will be evaluated. Special consideration will be given to the sorts of things that may be of interest in a language classroom.

Week 3 - Questionnaires

This session will provide a basic overview of when questionnaires are appropriate and how to use them as part of a language-related survey or research study. The session will cover the strengths and limitations of data gathered from questionnaires and consider the design, administration, and analysis of questionnaires. The session will also provide an introduction to how to report the work done on a questionnaire-based study.

Week 4 - Interviews & focus groups

The design, role and processes of interviews and focus groups will be discussed and evaluated, including, for example, issues relating to researcher/researched relationships and transcription conventions.  The focus will be on the use of interviews for finding out about people’s attitudes and approaches to language learning and teaching.

Week 5 - Self-report and introspection: Online, off-line & diary keeping

This session will consider the design and role of think-aloud techniques and other methods of self-report and reflection (often used to probe learners’ thoughts while they are carrying out a language learning task).  The use of learner and teacher diaries in research will also be discussed in this session.

Week 6 - Language learner data elicitation

This session will present a range of techniques for eliciting language learner data, including ‘grammaticality judgement’ tests, multiple choice and fill-in-the-gap tests, translation and recall comprehension tasks, narratives (based on films, cartoons or pictures), conversations and elicited imitation.    The techniques will be evaluated in terms of the kind of data they give us and the claims that can be made from such data. We will discuss.

Week 7 - Qualitative data analysis

Qualitative methods usually generate quite large amounts of data, typically, but not always in the form of text. In recent years a range of approaches have been developed for analysing such data, alongside computer software which is designed to aid sorting, marking and searching text, images and sound. We will consider techniques and see some software in action.

Week 8 - Computer workshop: Introduction to quantitative data analysis

This session will introduce some basic descriptive statistics often used in language research. Students will then be required to manipulate and present data using Excel and SPSS, and carry out some basic calculations and analyses.

Week 9 - Quantitative data analysis: Correlations

In this session the notion of correlation will be presented. The advantages and pitfalls of using correlation in the study of teaching and learning will be discussed.  Simple statistics for exploring correlation will be explained, along with the importance of considering the nature of language learner data before statistical tests are used (e.g. is it normally distributed, what kind of numbers are being used?).

Week 10 - Quantitative data analysis: Causes and Experimental Design

In this session, the concepts of controlling variables and randomisation in language education research will be introduced.  This will use examples of both classroom-based and laboratory experimental studies which have used pre and post testing and control groups.  Studies along these lines tend to use certain statistical procedures for exploring differences (e.g. t tests and their non-parametric equivalents) and these will be presented to enable students to consume reports using these techniques.


Task Length % of module mark
University - closed examination
Research Methods in Language Learning & Teaching
2 hours 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
University - closed examination
Research Methods in Language Learning & Teaching
2 hours 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback in a range of ways throughout this module. This will include oral feedback in class, responses to posts on the VLE discussion board and written comments on work. You will have the chance to obtain feedback on your writing during the module, and you will have a short one-to-one meeting with a module tutor to discuss assessments.

You will be provided physical written feedback on assignment report sheets as well as them being readily available on the VLE. Feedback in the department will take 4 to 6 weeks.


Indicative reading

Brown, J. D., & Rodgers, T. (2003). Doing second language research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Chaudron, C. (1988). Second language classrooms: Research on teaching and learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2000). Research methods in education (5th ed.). London: Routledge Falmer.
Mackey, A., & Gass, S. (2005). Second language research: Methodology and design. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Wray, A., Trott, K., & Bloomer, A. (1998). Projects in linguistics: A practical guide to researching language. London: Arnold.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.