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Unit information: Second Language Learning in 2020/21

Unit name Second Language Learning
Unit code EDUCM5904
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Giampapa
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Education
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit focuses on the knowledge and understanding of how a a second language is acquired across formal and informal contexts in TESOL.

Unit activities, seminars and assessed tasks are based upon the understanding that teachers are an integral part of the second language learning process. Therefore, in this unit language teachers will explore the cognitive, affective, (socio)linguistic and sociocultural processes in language learning. Drawing on second language learning research, the unit will consider, for example: how sociocultural perspectives on language learning foreground the role of social interaction in the learning process; how a language learner's changing identity interfaces with the second language learning process in diverse contexts of learning. These will be explored through research in TESOL and Applied Linguistics, in tandem with teachers’ professional experiences.

Engagement with second language learning processes facilitates links with aspects of TESOL pedagogy (e.g., task-based learning) in formal contexts of learning; Exploration of the design and outcomes of key research also links with the Research Methods for TESOL on the MSc TESOL. A focus on interaction within a sociocultural perspective facilities links with the Analysing Language for TESOL unit.

The unit aims:

  • To build on existing experiences as learners and teachers in a variety of cultural and professional contexts and to integrate these experiences with opportunities for learning about second language learning processes.
  • To develop an awareness of how different perspectives on second language learning (for example cognitive, sociocultural and sociolinguistic) facilitate an understanding of second language acquisition processes
  • To explore the implications of the influences of such processes for classroom pedagogy as these affect second language learning.
  • To provide, and assist teachers in the development of frameworks for evaluating and using knowledge of research, language and pedagogy that are meaningful for learning and diverse teaching contexts

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, students will have developed an understanding of:

  • the theoretical frameworks in second language learning and linking these to language teaching pedagogy and the value of such frameworks in explaining second language learning
  • The cognitive, affective and linguistic processes in second language learning
  • The nature of data in second language learning research

By the end of this unit, students will have developed skills in:

  • Critically evaluating research reports in second language acquisition
  • Analysing and interpreting data from second language acquisition research
  • Identifying the implications of second language acquisition research for professional learning contexts.
  • Identifying researchable issues in second language acquisition.

Teaching details

This unit will be taught using a blended approach consisting of synchronous and asychronous activities that include: seminars, narrated powerpoint lectures, investigative activities, debates, presentations. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis

Assessment Details

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment for this unit includes: instructor feedback (oral and written) on students' work. This is done though tutorials, comments on assignments, and informally through classroom discussions and presentations. Peer and self-reflection is also used to encourage engagement with theory and practice.

Summative Assessment:

Summative assessment for the unit consists of: a 4000 word assignment focussing on key second language learning areas of research from a teaching and learning perspective. This consists of a literature review in an area of second language learning research, critiquing of the research, and demonstrating insights from the research with reference to students' professional contexts.

Reading and References

  • Dornyei, Z. 2005. The Psychology of the Language Learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Lightbown, P.L & N. Spada. 2006 (3rd Edition). How Languages are Learned. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Mitchell, R. & F.Myles. 2004 (2nd Edition) Second Language Learning Theories. London: Arnold.
  • Norton, B. 2013. Identity and Language Learning: Extending the Conversation. 2nd edition. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  • Ortega, N. 2009. Understanding Second Language Acquisition. London: Hodder Education.
  • Swain, M., Kinnear,P & L. Steinman. 2011 Sociocultural Theory in Second Language Education: An Introduction through Narratives. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.