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Teaching English as a Second Language Masters Thesis Collection

Theses/dissertations from 2020 2020.

Teaching in hagwons in South Korea: a novice English teacher’s autoethnography , Brittany Courser

Theses/Dissertations from 2019 2019

“Racism doesn’t exist anymore, so why are we talking about this?”: An action research proposal of culturally responsive teaching for critical literacy in democratic education , Natalie Marie Giles

Stylistic imitation as an English-teaching technique : pre-service teachers’ responses to training and practice , Min Yi Liang

Telling stories and contextualizing lived experiences in the Cuban heritage language and culture: an autoethnography about transculturation , Tatiana Senechal

“This is the oppressor’s language, yet I need it to talk to you”: a critical examination of translanguaging in Russian speakers at the university level , Nora Vralsted

Theses/Dissertations from 2018 2018

Multimodal Approaches to Literacy and Teaching English as a Foreign Language at the University Level , Ghader Alahmadi

Educating Saudi Women through Communicative Language Teaching: A Bi-literacy Narrative and An Autoethnography of a Saudi English Teacher , Eiman Alamri

The value of journaling on multimodal materials: a literacy narrative and autoethnography of an experienced Saudi high school English teacher , Ibrahim Alamri

Strategic Contemplation as One Saudi Mother’s Way Of Reflecting on Her Children’s Learning Only English in the United States: An Autoethnography and Multiple Case Study of Multilingual Writers at the College Level , Razan Alansari

“If you wanted me to speak your language then you should have stayed in your country”: a critical ethnography of linguistic identity and resiliency in the life of an Afghan refugee , Logan M. Amstadter

Comparing literate and oral cultures with a view to improving understanding of students from oral traditions: an autoethnographic approach , Carol Lee Anderson

Practical recommendations for composition instructors based on a review of the literature surrounding ESL and identity , Patrick Cornwall

One size does not fit all: exploring online-language-learning challenges and benefits for advanced English Language Learners , Renee Kenney

Understanding the potential effects of trauma on refugees’ language learning processes , Charis E. Ketcham

Let's enjoy teaching life: an autoethnography of a novice ESL teacher's two years of teaching English in a private girls' secondary school in Japan , Danielle Nozaka

Developing an ESP curriculum on tourism and agribusiness for a rural school in Nicaragua: a retrospective diary , Stan Pichinevskiy

A Literacy Narrative of a Female Saudi English Teacher and A Qualitative Case Study: 12 Multilingual Writers Identify Challenges and Benefits of Daily Writing in a College Composition Class , Ghassoon Rezzig

Proposed: Technical Communicators Collaborating with Educators to Develop a Better EFL Curriculum for Ecuadorian Universities , Daniel Jack Williamson

Theses/Dissertations from 2017 2017





An Autoethnography of a Novice ESL Teacher: Plato’s Cave and English Language Teaching in Japan , Kevin Lemberger



Theses/Dissertations from 2016 2016

"I am from Epifania and Tomas": an autoethnography and bi-literacy narrative of a Mexican American orchard workers' daughter , Brenda Lorena Aguilar

Technology use in young English language learners: a survey of Saudi parents studying in the United States , Hamza Aljunaidalsayed

Bilingualism of Arab children in the U.S.: a survey of parents and teachers , Omnia Alofii

College-level ELLs in two English composition courses: the transition from ESL to the mainstream , Andrew J. Copley

Increasing multimedia literacy in composition for multilingual writers: a case study of art analysis , Sony Nicole De Paula

Multilingual writers' unintentional plagiarism: action research in college composition , Jacqueline D. Gullon

Games for vocabulary enrichment: teaching multilingual writers at the college level , Jennifer Hawkins

Identifying as author: exploring the pedagogical basis for assisting diverse students to discover their identities through creatively defined literacy narratives , Amber D. Pullen

Saltine box full of dreams: one Mexican immigrant woman's journey to academic success , Adriana C. Sanchez

Theses/Dissertations from 2015 2015

Teaching the biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder: fostering a media literacy approach for multilingual writers , Kelly G. Hansen

Implementing a modified intercultural competency curriculum in an integrated English 101 classroom , Kathryn C. Hedberg

"Don't wake me, my desk is far too comfortable": an autoethnography of a novice ESL teacher's first year of teaching in Japan , Delaney Holland

ESL ABE, VESL, and bell hooks' Democratic education: a case study of four experienced ESL instructors , Michael E. Johnson

Theses/Dissertations from 2014 2014

Using Media to Teach Grammar in Context and UNESCO Values: A Case Study of Two English Teachers and Students from Saudi Arabia , Sultan Albalawi

A Double Case Study of Latino College Presidents: What Younger Generations Can Learn From Them , Sara Aymerich Leiva


Academic Reading and Writing at the College Level: Action Research in a Classroom of a homogeneous Group of Male Students from Saudi Arabia , Margaret Mount

Reflections on Teaching and Host Mothering Chinese Secondary Students: A Novice ESL Teacher’s Diary Study and Autoethnography , Diane Thames

Theses/Dissertations from 2013 2013

Peer editing in composition for multilingual writers at the college level , Benjamin J. Bertrand

Educating Ana: a retrospective diary study of pre-literate refugee students , Renee Black

Social pressure to speak English and the effect of English language learning for ESL composition students in higher education , Trevor Duston

Poetry in translation to teach ESL composition at the college level , Peter M. Lacey

Using media to teach a biography of Lincoln and Douglass: a case study of teaching ESL listening & viewing in college composition , Pui Hong Leung

Learning how to learn: teaching preliterate and nonliterate learners of English , Jennifer L. Semb

Non-cognitive factors in second language acquisition and language variety: a single case study of a Saudi male English for academic purposes student in the United States , Nicholas Stephens

Teaching English in the Philippines: a diary study of a novice ESL teacher , Jeffrey Lee Svoboda


Theses/Dissertations from 2012 2012

Video games and interactive technology in the ESL classroom , Melody Anderson

English as a second language learners and spelling performance in university multilingual writers , Nada Yousef Asiri

The communal diary, "... " (Naljeogi), transformative education, and writing through migrations: a Korean novice ESL teacher's diary and autoethnography , S. (Sangho) Lee

The benefits of intercultural interactions: a position paper on the effects of study abroad and intercultural competence on pre-service and active teachers of ESL , Bergen Lorraine McCurdy

The development and analysis of the Global Citizen Award as a component of Asia University America Program at Eastern Washington University , Matthew Ged Miner

The benefits of art analysis in English 101: multilingual and American writers respond to artwork of their choice , Jennifer M. Ochs

A novice ESL teacher's experience of language learning in France: an autoethnographic study of anomie and the "Vulnerable Self" , Christopher Ryan

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Doctor of Philosophy in Teaching English as a Second Language (PhD)

Canadian immigration updates.

Applicants to Master’s and Doctoral degrees are not affected by the recently announced cap on study permits. Review more details

Go to programs search

Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) examines the social, linguistic, educational, cognitive, cultural and political processes affecting the teaching, learning, assessment, and use of English as an additional language locally and globally. TESL graduate students gain experience and understanding in such areas as: current issues in TESL theory and practice; second language acquisition, second language reading and writing, language socialization, language and identity, second language assessment, discourse analysis, critical applied linguistics, and research methods.

For specific program requirements, please refer to the departmental program website

What makes the program unique?

The program faculty have expertise in TESL methods, applied linguistics, second language acquisition and socialization, content-based language education, pedagogical and functional grammar, second language writing, issues of language and identity, language in education, multilingual literacies, language policy, and English in immigrant and international communities. The program also jointly sponsors the UBC/Ritsumeikan Joint Academic Exchange Program.

Quick Facts

Program enquiries, admission information & requirements, 1) check eligibility, minimum academic requirements.

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:

  • Canada or the United States
  • International countries other than the United States

Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.

English Language Test

Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.

Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based

Overall score requirement : 92

IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Overall score requirement : 7.0

Other Test Scores

Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:

The GRE is not required.

Prior degree, course and other requirements

Prior degree requirements.

Master’s degree with high standing in a relevant educational discipline

Document Requirements

  • Master’s degree with high standing in a relevant educational discipline.
  • Sample of work demonstrating an ability to undertake research and scholarly writing (max. 30 pages).
  • CV or resume outlining work experience and academic history.
  • Well-written 500 word (maximum) Statement of Intent to describe your proposed doctoral research. Be sure to indicate how your previous education, professional experience, and research have prepared you to undertake your proposed research, and note which people in the department have expertise in your intended area of study.
  • The support of three referees including an assessment by at least two university instructors, preferably one of whom is the supervisor of the masters thesis. 
  • Scanned copies all official transcripts (including a key to transcript grades and symbols) and degree certificates from all post-secondary institutions attended outside UBC.

Other Requirements

Awards; fellowships; scholarships; and distinctions.

Relevant professional and academic experience including conference presentations, professional workshops, and publications.

At least two years of successful teaching experience or equivalent.

Applicants who received a degree from a North American university are not required to submit their English test scores. Similarly, applicants who completed their degree outside North America from an institution in which English was the primary language of instruction of the entire university (not just a program) are not required to provide English test scores as part of their application.

Please note that we can only accept your English test scores if the test has been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of the application. An official test score report ordered from the testing agency has to be sent to UBC. Acceptable English language proficiency tests for applicants to UBC Grad School are:

TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language, minimum score 580 (paper-based) or 237 (computer based), or new minimum TOEFL score of 92 (with a minimum of 22 for each component).

MELAB – Michigan English Language Assessment Battery. Minimum overall score 85.

IELTS – International English Language Testing System – Academic. Minimum overall band score 7, with no component less than 6.5.

2) Meet Deadlines

3) prepare application, transcripts.

All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.

Letters of Reference

A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.

Statement of Interest

Many programs require a statement of interest , sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.


Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their thesis supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding thesis supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Teaching English as a Second Language (PhD)

There is no need to find a supervisor prior to applying for the program. If you are successful in the application process, you will be assigned a pro-tem supervisor whose research is closest to your area of interest. However, if you are interested in working with a particular faculty member, you can indicate it in your statement of interest or in the application form.

Citizenship Verification

Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.

4) Apply Online

All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.

Research Information

Research highlights.

TESL methods; Applied linguistics; Critical applied linguistics; Discourse analysis; Intercultural communication; Second language acquisition and socialization; Content-based language education; Pedagogical and functional grammar; Second language writing; Issues of language and identity; Language in education; Multilingual literacies; Language policy; English in immigrant and international communities.

Research Focus

Program components.

The program consists of 18 to 24 credits of course work (including the LLED 601 Doctoral Seminar), comprehensive exam followed by an oral examination, a dissertation proposal, and a doctoral dissertation.

Geographic Restrictions

The TESL/TEFL program accepts well-qualified students from around the globe into a richly international and multicultural academic community.

Tuition & Financial Support

Financial support.

Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.

Program Funding Packages

All full-time students who begin a UBC-Vancouver PhD program in September 2024 will be provided with a funding package of $24,000 for each of the first four years of their PhD. The funding package may consist of any combination of internal or external awards, teaching-related work, research assistantships, and graduate academic assistantships.

Average Funding

  • 3 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 3 students was $6,036.
  • 5 students received Research Assistantships. Average RA funding based on 5 students was $10,150.
  • 1 student received Academic Assistantships valued at $7,664.
  • 5 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 5 students was $26,278.

Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)

All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA)

Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their supervision. The duties constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is considered a form of fellowship for a period of graduate study and is therefore not covered by a collective agreement. Stipends vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union .

Graduate Academic Assistantships (GAA)

Academic Assistantships are employment opportunities to perform work that is relevant to the university or to an individual faculty member, but not to support the student’s graduate research and thesis. Wages are considered regular earnings and when paid monthly, include vacation pay.

Financial aid (need-based funding)

Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans .

All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.

Foreign government scholarships

Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.

Working while studying

The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.

International students enrolled as full-time students with a valid study permit can work on campus for unlimited hours and work off-campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

A good starting point to explore student jobs is the UBC Work Learn program or a Co-Op placement .

Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals

Students with taxable income in Canada may be able to claim federal or provincial tax credits.

Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.

Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.

Cost Calculator

Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.

Career Outcomes

Career options.

Integrating research and practice, the graduate programs in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) offer professional development to teachers of ESL and prepare researchers and leaders in applied linguistics.

Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats

These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Teaching English as a Second Language (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.


Completion rates & times.

  • Research Supervisors

This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.

  • Ahmed, Anwar (Languages and literature)
  • Duff, Patricia (applied linguistics and sociolinguistics, multilingualism and work, sociocultural and sociopolitical aspects of languages in education, Adolescent issues, adult education issues, English and French as second languages, international perspecives)
  • Early, Margaret (Adolescent issues, English as a second Language, language education, literacy, teacher research)
  • Gunderson, Lee Paul (Languages and literature; reading-research; immigrant-achievement; home literacy environment)
  • Kubota, Ryuko (Specialized studies in education; critical applied linguistics; culture and language; Language Rights and Policies; language education; language ideologies; multicultural education; race and language teaching)
  • Li, Guofang (longitudinal studies of immigrant children)
  • Norton, Bonny (education, ESL, international perspectives, literacy, teacher research)
  • Talmy, Steven (ESL, TESOL, LOTE and sign language curriculum, pedagogy and didactics; teacher education)
  • Wernicke, Meike (Specialized studies in education; Intercultural Education; Language Planning and Policy; Multi-/Plurilingualism; Second Language Education (French); teacher education)
  • Zappa, Sandra (academic discourse socialization of (international) English language learners in higher education, examining the literacy socialization trajectories and the role their individual networks of practice (INoPs, a concept I coined) in becoming aware of the host culture values and expectations; projects examining the intercultural competence development of foreign language teachers studying abroad; foreign language-learning through peer exchange programs; academic English coaching for university-level English language learners; collaboration between language and subject specialists; and student perceptions of academic English language development in CBI courses.)

Doctoral Citations

Sample thesis submissions.

  • Transcultural identity and Bangla heritage language teaching
  • Pandemic transformations and settler discourse stabilities in Canadian English-language teacher identity
  • An investigation into the nature of first language dissociation, and its causes in Japanese-English late plurilinguals

Related Programs

Same specialization.

  • Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language (MA)
  • Master of Education in Teaching English as a Second Language (MEd)

Same Academic Unit

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Language and Literacy Education (PhD)
  • Master of Arts in Literacy Education (MA)
  • Master of Arts in Modern Languages Education (MA)
  • Master of Education in Literacy Education (MEd)
  • Master of Education in Modern Languages Education (MEd)

Further Information


Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) examines the social, linguistic, educational, cognitive, cultural and political processes affecting the teaching, learning, assessment, and use of English as an additional language locally and globally. The program faculty have expertise in TESL methods, applied linguistics, second language acquisition and socialization, content-based language education, pedagogical and functional grammar, second language writing, issues of language and identity, language in education, multilingual literacies, language policy, and English in immigrant and international communities

UBC Calendar

Program website, faculty overview, academic unit, program identifier, classification, social media channels, supervisor search.

Departments/Programs may update graduate degree program details through the Faculty & Staff portal. To update contact details for application inquiries, please use this form .

research proposal on teaching english as a second language

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Department of

Department of Education

Research in english as an additional language (r.e.a.l), publications.

REAL consists of a group of researchers united by a common interest in understanding specific linguistic and educational challenges faced by children who are being educated in a language (i.e., English) that is not their home language.

There is a real urgency to better understand the specific issues faced by EAL children in the UK since the number of EAL children in English primary schools is growing each year.  For example, in 2012 nearly 18% of primary school children had a home language that was not English.  Not only is this a significant proportion of children, but it is also growing each year.  Surprisingly, despite the fact that there is a relatively large proportion of EAL children within English schools, not much systematic research has been focused on trying to better understand their language and cognitive/educational development. To that end, our group is currently working on projects investigating different factors believed to influence their language and literacy skills.

This website primarily aims to give you more detailed information about who we are and the kind of projects that we are involved with. We are keen to establish a more collaborative relationship with other researchers (including students) and teachers and practitioners with an interest in the linguistic and literacy development of children with EAL. We do not want to carry out our research in an  ‘ivory tower’ that is of little relevance and use to the teachers and practitioners actually working with children with EAL. Rather, we want to work towards establishing and developing a research agenda that ensures that the research we do together will have a real impact and value to both those professionals who work with children with EAL and also importantly, to the children themselves. We hope you find this website both informative and interesting.  Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any comments or queries.

  • Murphy, V.A. (2019).  Multilingualism in Murphy, V.A. (2019).  Multilingualism in primary schools.     In S. Garton & F. Copland (Eds).  The Routledge Handbook of Teaching English to Young Learners .  Abingdon:  Taylor & Francis.
  • Hessel, A. & Murphy, V. (2018).  Understanding how time flies and what it means to be on cloud nine:  English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners’ metaphor comprehension.  Journal of Child Language , 1-27, doi:10.1017/S0305000918000399
  • Murphy, V. (2018). Socio-economic status, young language learning, and the weapon to change the world.  System, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2018.02.001
  • Murphy, V.A. (2018).  Literacy development in linguistically diverse pupils.  In D. Miller, F. Bayram, J. Rothman & L. Serratrice (Eds). Bilingual Cognition and Language: The state of the science across its subfields. Studies in Bilingualism, 54,   Amsterdam: John Benjamins
  • primary schools.     In S. Garton & F. Copland (Eds).  The Routledge Handbook of Teaching English to Young Learners .  Abingdon:  Taylor & Francis.
  • Murphy, V.A. & Evangelou, M. (Eds) (2016).  Early Childhood Education in English for Speakers of other Languages . London:  British Council
  • Murphy, V.A. & Franco, D. (2016). Phonics instruction and children with English as an additional language.   EAL Journal
  • Murphy, V.A. & Unthiah, A. (2015).  A systematic review of intervention research examining English language and literacy development in children with English as an Additional Language (EAL).  London:  Education Endowment Foundation
  • Smith, S.S. & Murphy, V.A. (2015). Measuring productive elements of multi-word phrase vocabulary knowledge among children with English as an additional or only language.  Reading and Writing ,  28(3) , 347-369.
  • Murphy, V.A., Kyriacou, M. & Menon, P. (2015).  Profiling writing challenges in children with English as an additional language (EAL). Report submitted to the Nuffield Foundation http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/writing-challenges-children-learning-eal
  • Murphy, V.A. (2014).   Second Language Learning in the Early School Years:  Trends and Contexts.   Oxford:  Oxford University PressHayashi, Y. & Murphy, V.A. (2013). On the nature of morphological awareness in Japanese-English bilingual children: A cross-linguistic perspective.  Bilingualism: Language and Cognition . 16(1), 49-67.
  • Hayashi, Y. & Murphy, V.A. (2011). An investigation of morphological awareness in Japanese learners of English.  Language Learning Journal , 39, 105-120.
  • Martinez, R. & Murphy, V.A. (2011). The effect of frequency and idiomaticity on second language reading comprehension.  TESOL Quarterly , 45, pp. 267-290
  • McKendry, M. & Murphy, V.A. (2011). A comparative study of listening comprehension measures in English as an additional language and native English-speaking primary school children.  Evaluation and Research in Education , 24, 17 – 40.
  • Zhou, X., Murphy, V.A. (2011). How English L2 learners in China perceive and interpret novel English compounds.  Asian EFL Journal , 13(1), 327-355.
  • Lo, Y.Y. & Murphy, V.A. (2010). Vocabulary knowledge and growth in Immersion and Regular Language Learning Programmes in Hong Kong.  Language and Education , 24, 215-238.
  • Murphy, V.A. & Hayes, J.A. (2010). Processing English compounds in the first and second language: The influence of the middle morpheme.  Language Learning , 60(1), 194-220


NALDIC  (National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum) Provides a host of information and resources which are specifically relevant to EAL.

TeachingEAL Provides details of a strategy, commissioned by the Training and Development Agency, for the development of the EAL workforce in schools.

Collaborative Learning A teacher network promoting inclusive education. The website offers many downloadable resources and teaching activities which are EAL pupil friendly to promote talk in the classroom.

Schools Online International website which assists schools in forming creative partnerships worldwide. The website is supported by The British Council and the DfES.

Languages without limits Links to a plethora of sources of support for teachers and parents of children who speak EAL.

Intervention/ Educational Software:

Reading Recovery Provides an outline of the Reading Recovery intervention including the aims of the programme; how to register for various Reading Recovery training and teaching positions; advice for parents with a child who struggles to read; latest research and news, and further information for schools and teachers.

Clicker5 Educational software which supports children’s sentence building, suitable for Early Years, Primary, Secondary and Post-16 pupils.

Oxford Reading Tree Talking Stories Aim to support individual reading development and reading skills through the use of ICT.

Enchanted Learning Offers downloadable activity sheets in seven languages. These are particularly good for the EAL beginner pupil.

WordGeneration Provides details of a programme developed in the USA to enhance the academic vocabulary of Grade 6-8 children (UK Year 7-9).

Relevant Literature:

  • Biemiller, A. (2005) ‘Size and sequence in vocabulary development: Implications for choosing words for primary grade instruction.’ In A. Hiebert & M. Kamil (eds.) Teaching and Learning Vocabulary: Bringing Research to Practice, Mahwah, N.J., Erlbaum, 223-242.
  • Biemiller, A. (2006) ‘Vocabulary development and instruction: A prerequisite for school learning’ in D.K. Dickinson & S.B. Neuman (eds.) Handbook of Early Literacy Research: Volume 2, New York, The Guilford Press, 41-51.
  • Biemiller, A. & Boote, C. (2006) ‘An effective method for building meaning vocabulary in primary grades.’ Journal of Educational Psychology, 98 (1), 44-62.
  • Burgoyne, K., Kelly, J., Whiteley, H. & Spooner, A. (2009) ‘The comprehension skills of children learning English as an additional language’ The British Psychological Society, 79, 735-747.
  • Cunningham, A.E. & Stanovich, K.E. (1997) ‘Early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience 10 years later.’ Developmental Psychology, 33, 934-945.
  • Cutting, L.E. & Scarborough, H.S. (2006) ‘Prediction of reading comprehension: Relative contributions of word recognition, language proficiency, and other cognitive skills can depend on how comprehension is measured’ Scientific Studies of Reading, 10 (3), 277-299.
  • Gregory, E. (1996) Making Sense of a New World: Learning to Read in a Second Language, London, Paul Chapman Publishing.
  • Hart, B. & Risley, T.R. (1995) Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children, Baltimore, Brookes.
  • Hoff, E. (2006) ‘Environmental supports for language acquisition.’ in D.K. Dickinson & S.B. Neuman (eds.) Handbook of Early Literacy Research: Volume 2, New York, The Guilford Press, 163-172.
  • Hoff, E. (2003) ‘Causes and consequences of SES-related differences in parent-to-child speech. In M.H. Bornstein & R.H. Bradley (eds.) Socioeconomic status, parenting and child development, Mahwah, NJ, Erlbaum.
  • Hoff. E. & Naigles, L. (2002) ‘How children use input in acquiring a lexicon.’ Child Development, 73, 418-433.
  • Hutchinson, J.M., Whiteley, H.E., Smith, C.D., & Connors, L. (2003) ‘The developmental progression of comprehension-related skills in children learning EAL’ Journal of Research in Reading, 26 (1), 19-32.
  • Jean, M. & Geva, E. (2009) ‘The development of vocabulary in English as a second language children and its role in predicting word recognition ability.’ Applied Psycholinguistics, 30, 153-185.
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Convenor:  Professor Victoria Murphy email: [email protected]

Research Staff:  Kathy Sylva, Sonali Nag, Sophie Turnbull, Alex Hodgkiss and Hamish Chalmers

DPhil Students: Mae Zantout, Faidra Faitaki, Samuel Tsang, Bai Li, Fiona Jelley and Aneyn O’Grady

Masters Students: Jasen Booton, Gemma Keeling

  • Open access
  • Published: 03 April 2023

The use of films in the teaching of English as a foreign language: a systematic literature review

  • Estefanía Sánchez-Auñón 1 ,
  • Pedro Antonio Férez-Mora 1 &
  • Fuensanta Monroy-Hernández 2  

Asian-Pacific Journal of Second and Foreign Language Education volume  8 , Article number:  10 ( 2023 ) Cite this article

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Especially over the last decades, the use of cinema in the English as a foreign language (EFL) class has been gaining momentum. Although this interest has resulted in a complex body of research, no review to date had aimed to systematically map out (i) the pedagogical guidelines available for English teachers to implement films in class; (ii) the perceptions of EFL teachers and learners on the educational use of films; and (iii) the impact of cinema-based EFL on students’ learning, pertinent aspects as they contribute to deactivate instructors’ reported reluctance to use films as a proper teaching material. Thus, a systematic literature review has been conducted along the three previously-mentioned research questions with the aim of highlighting in a comprehensive manner the robust pedagogical value of cinema in EFL contexts.

A systematic search was carried out in Web of Science, ERIC, MLA International Bibliography, Education Database, and Scopus, which were last consulted on 2 December, 2022. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied, which covered journal papers written in English, peer-reviewed, published in open-access, and focusing on the exploitation of films for the teaching of English as a foreign language. Following the search and selection stages, a coding scheme was established, and the authors conducted a thematically based qualitative analysis to answer the research questions. Reliability was tested to check the agreement rate among the researchers.

Of the 416 sources found, 44 were eligible. Twenty-five percent of the selected references consist of theoretical or practical methodological orientations for the implementation of films in the EFL class, 16% of the sources explore EFL teachers’ and students’ perceptions on the educational use of films, and the remaining 59% of the references tap into the impact of cinema-based EFL on students’ learning. The results revealed that more informed guidelines on the exploitation of this resource are needed, that both instructors and teachers have a great attitude towards this method, and that films provide EFL learners with linguistic, intercultural, and motivational benefits.


On a general note, scholars have adopted a narrow focus when exploring cinema-based English teaching since they only address some of its benefits and they have mostly concentrated on the University educational context. Specific research gaps are highlighted in relation to each research question, and avenues for further research are proposed. Finally, pedagogical implications for the educational use of cinema in the English class are provided.


Since the invention of cinema in the 1890s, films Footnote 1 have been exploited as a didactic resource in various disciplines, including the teaching of English as a foreign language (TEFL or EFL) (Li & Wang, 2015 ; Wang, 2009 ). Nonetheless, not until the 1970s did cinema become a popular pedagogical tool. At that time, the communicative approach replaced the audio-lingual method in the foreign language classroom and, consequently, EFL instructors opted for updated and more dynamic materials like film excerpts to foster interaction among learners. Later on, technological advances, the lower prices of the required equipment, and the reduced legal obstacles to accessing films made it easier for teachers to introduce cinema into their lessons, fostering an increasingly frequent implementation of this resource in the EFL class (Chetia & Bhatt, 2020 ; Parisi & Andon, 2016 ; Singh et al., 2021 ; Vyushkina, 2016 ; Yue, 2019 ). Today, films are regarded as an extremely helpful tool for learning English, to the extent that film screening is EFL students’ preferred way of enhancing their language competence (Damanik & Katemba, 2021 ; Nguyen & Stracke, 2020 ; Robert & Marpaung, 2022 ; Sinyashina, 2022 ).

The growing presence of cinema in the teaching of English as a foreign language has led a plethora of scholars to focus on its educational potential, which has been examined along three strands: the necessity of providing specific training as instructors commonly report a lack of awareness on how to use cinema in their lessons (Allan, 1985 ; Herrero & Vanderschelden, 2019 ; Sherman, 2003 ; Tomalin, 1986 ); English teachers’ and students’ outlook on the implementation of films in the classroom (Boufahja, 2019 ; Larasati et al., 2021 ; Saleh, 2022 ); and the advantages of conducting TEFL using cinema, with those advantages divided into the linguistic, the intercultural, and the motivational dimensions (Sánchez-Auñón & Férez-Mora, 2021 ).

According to multiple experts in the field, EFL students may develop their linguistic competence when working on films since they hone their listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills at the same time as they learn English grammar, vocabulary, and pragmatics (Kabooha, 2016 ; Liu, 2019 ; Vyushkina, 2016 ). The paralinguistic information displayed in films, namely the actors’ facial expressions, gestures, and postures, helps English learners to better comprehend what they hear, understand complex grammar patterns, guess the meaning of new lexical items, and even identify pragmatic rules in real-world social encounters (Alharthi, 2020 ; Barón & Celaya, 2022 ; Basol & Kartal, 2019 ; Bostanci, 2022 ; Hameed, 2016 ; Kabooha, 2016 ; Liu, 2019 ; Sherman, 2003 ; Tomalin, 1986 ; Vyushkina, 2016 ). Apart from enhancing their listening skills and their knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, and pragmatics, the films played in the classroom may be used as background material for English learners to further practice their speaking, reading, and writing abilities. By way of illustration, teachers may ask students to do roleplays, read film reviews, or write a summary of their favorite scene (Hameed, 2016 ; Li & Wang, 2015 ; Scacco, 2007 ; Seo, 2017 ).

With regard to the intercultural benefits of using cinema in the EFL classroom, it has been stated that it helps students learn about English-speaking cultures and their own societies (Asyidiq & Akmal, 2020 ; Hayati & Mohmedi, 2011 ; Tomlinson, 2019 ; Yue, 2019 ). Films often represent multiple areas of English native speakers’ lifestyle, whether habits and values, behavioral or legal systems, housing, clothing, food, history… This allows EFL students to come into contact with essential features of the foreign language which cannot be fully illustrated in coursebooks (Albiladi et al., 2018 ; Asyidiq & Akmal, 2020 ; Hayati & Mohmedi, 2011 ; Kabooha, 2016 ; Lee, 2017 , 2018 ; Tomalin, 1986 ; Vyushkina, 2016 ; Wang, 2009 ; Yaseen & Shakir, 2015 ; Yue, 2019 ). When learners explore these aspects of the target culture through films, they spot similarities and differences with their own community, which makes them more conscious of the cultural characteristics of their home country (Xue & Pan, 2012 ; Yue, 2019 ; Zoreda, 2005 ).

Furthermore, cinema has been asserted to be a highly motivating pedagogical tool for EFL students for diverse reasons: (i) films are perceived as engaging stories which learners are eager to hear rather than theoretical contents they must memorize (Iranmanesh & Darani, 2018 ); (ii) cinema-based lessons contribute to creating an enjoyable and pleasant atmosphere which stimulates students to learn (Kalra, 2017 ; Sakić, 2022 ; Seo, 2017 ); (iii) this audio-visual material provides English learners with a broad range of authentic language in a context where, otherwise, they would receive limited and adapted L2 input (Alharthi, 2020 ; Allan, 1985 ; Chetia & Bhatt, 2020 ; Hadi & Zad, 2019 ; Tsang, 2022 ; Yue, 2019 ); (iv) students can enhance their creative and critical thinking skills (Charlebois, 2008 ; Tabatabaei & Gahroei, 2011 ; Yaseen & Shakir, 2015 ); (v) they learn to deal with emotions by analyzing other people’s feelings and by expressing their own affective responses which are elicited by the film (Xue & Pan, 2012 ); and (vi), as films are pieces of reality, they tend to include non-trivial topics such as homophobia, sexism, and environmental degradation, among others, which learners might see around them or experience in their everyday lives (Allan, 1985 ; Yaseen & Shakir, 2015 ; Zoreda, 2005 ).

Despite the numerous advantages that films seem to have for TEFL, English instructors hardly exploit the potential of this modality in their lessons, commonly considering it as a mere time filler (Albiladi et al., 2018 ; Singh et al., 2021 ). This narrow understanding of cinema seems to stem from teachers’ limited knowledge and expertise in this respect (Kabooha, 2016 ; Saleh, 2022 ; Sánchez-Auñón & Férez-Mora, 2021 ). To heighten teachers’ awareness of the pedagogical possibilities of films for EFL formal instruction, this systematic literature review centers on three areas which are now formulated as research questions:

What pedagogical guidelines does available scholarship offer EFL teachers to implement films in class?

What are the perceptions of EFL teachers and learners on the educational use of films?

How does cinema-based EFL impact students’ learning?

This systematic review was carried out following the guidelines of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA, 2022 ) statement (Page et al., 2021 ), an extensive series of recommendations to conduct this kind of research presented in a checklist.

Literature search

A systematic search was performed using five databases: Web of Science, ERIC, MLA International Bibliography, Education Database, and Scopus, all of them last consulted on 2 December, 2022. These databases were selected on the grounds that they are widely recognized sources of academic production in the fields of applied linguistics and education (In’nami & Koizumi, 2010 ; Newcastle University, 2021 ; PennState University Libraries, 2021 ; Zhu & Liu, 2020 ). The search strategy used to find articles was the same for the five selected databases: (English teaching OR TEFL OR TESOL OR EFL OR ESL OR TESL) AND (cinema OR film* OR movie*), and it was limited to those sources which included these keywords in their title or abstract.

Moreover, the following inclusion criteria were applied: journal papers written in English, peer-reviewed, and published in open access journals. It must be highlighted that, since this is the first systematic review which has been conducted on the use of cinema in the teaching of English as a foreign language, no limitations were established concerning country or time span.

After carrying out the systematic search described above, a total number of 416 sources were found (118 in Web of Science, 176 in ERIC, 14 in MLA International Bibliography, 63 in Education Database, and 45 in Scopus). Some of the articles found were duplicates. The authors checked these sources carefully so as to make sure that they complied with the inclusion criteria and that they included the different keywords of the search strategy in their title or abstract.

Then, the researchers read the selected sources, and, during the reading, some exclusion criteria were set as several papers did not provide clearly consequential data on the topic of this systematic review. Given the research questions formulated, only those sources which exclusively examine the implementation of feature films in the teaching of English as a foreign language were selected. Therefore, the authors discarded articles which revolve around different audio-visual materials like Internet videos, TV series or documentaries (Lazebna & Prykhodko, 2021 ); tap into cinema alongside other textual modalities such as literature (Mahmood et al., 2022 ), or alongside other resources like ICTs (Chaya & Inpin, 2020 ); and delve into the exploitation of cinema either in the teaching of other foreign languages or in the learning of English as an L1 (first language) (Shcherbak et al., 2022 ). As a result of this selection process, 44 journal papers out of the 416 sources which had been initially identified were included in this systematic review. The search and selection steps followed in this study are summarized in the flow diagram below (see Fig.  1 ).

figure 1

Copyright 2021 by PRISMA

Flow Diagram of the Systematic Search and Selection Process of Sources. From PRISMA: Transparent Reporting of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses, by Page et al. 2021 , Home: Key Documents ( https://www.prisma-statement.org/ /).

Coding procedure

A coding scheme was then defined to map out the characteristics of each study, including: article number, author(s) and publication year, country, database(s) in which the article is indexed, research question, and methodological quality (number of participants, educational context, research design, method, etc.). This coding scheme resulted from the codification of five articles which were chosen randomly from the sample, and after multiple rounds of revision. A subset of 10 articles were also coded by a second rater in order to test the reliability of the data obtained, which reached 100% agreement.

Additional file 1 : Table 1 includes the complete coding scheme. However, the general characteristics of the reviewed sample are provided now. The 44 references chosen cover a time span of 34 years, from 1988 to 2022, which suggests that this research field is relatively new and, therefore, still flourishing, as the first source found was published at the end of the twentieth century. Although the most productive year in terms of academic production was 2016, when seven journal papers out of the 44 sources were published, the fact that eight further sources from the selection have been published from 2019 to date seems to indicate interest in the field remains stable.

About geographical location, the study sample reveals that the existing research on the use of cinema for TEFL has spread across three continents (Asia, America, and Europe), and that it has mainly concentrated in Asia. Thirty-six out of the 44 references chosen were Asian, Iran being the most frequent country of reference. As for America, four research projects were carried out in the United States, one in Brazil, and another one in Mexico. This research field is infrequently explored in Europe, where only two of the selected sources were set, both in Eastern Europe (Slovenia and Russia).

The selected sources were classified into the three research questions. For this purpose, the authors of the present paper conducted a thematically based qualitative analysis of the rationales for implementing this audio-visual material included in the 44 target articles. More specifically, we focused on the descriptions, explanations, justifications, and pedagogical exploitations related to the use of films provided by these researchers in their studies.

Results and discussion

For the sake of organization and clarity, the results obtained are presented and discussed below for each research question. Finally, significant common findings are highlighted in a separate sub-section.

RQ.1. What pedagogical guidelines does available scholarship offer EFL teachers to implement films in class?

Eleven out of the 44 selected sources, which constitute 25% of the study sample, are related to RQ1. These references reveal that experts in the field have provided two major types of pedagogical guidelines on the exploitation of films for TEFL: general recommendations and didactic proposals.

General recommendations

Some scholars have made methodological suggestions to successfully incorporate cinema into EFL formal instruction. For their part, Li and Wang ( 2015 ) present a model for using films which is divided into four stages: preparation (teachers design cinema-based tasks and students look for information on the film to be watched); before watching (background information on the film like characters and plot, and vocabulary explanation); during watching (students watch the whole film once and focus on vocabulary. Then, they can watch selected fragments again and do some activities like script dictation); and after watching activities (tasks to hone the language skills). Apart from discussing the upsides and downsides of the film-based approach, Wang ( 2009 ) outlines practical recommendations to be taken into account when introducing this audio-visual material into the teaching of English as a foreign language. This scholar details the role of the teacher in this method, gives advice on film selection, and proposes five steps which should be followed: (1) vocabulary explanation, (2) plot prediction, (3) description of cultural background, (4) discussion of thematic issues, and (5) listening and speaking practice. Along similar lines, Parisi and Andon ( 2016 ) offer a theoretically grounded set of criteria for film selection and an explanation on multiple techniques to exploit cinema. They address the salami tactics, arguing in favor of using short film excerpts; subtitling modes; and the pre-, while-, and post-viewing stages to design film-based tasks. Additionally, they analyze potential obstacles that might arise when implementing cinema in class and explain how to overcome them. For example, they strongly advice EFL teachers to assess the appropriateness of the language portrayed in films before selecting one so that students do not feel overwhelmed by unintelligible accents, period language, or high verbal density.

Didactic proposals

Most of the pedagogical guidelines provided so far are of a practical nature. In eight of these 11 sources, researchers present cinema-based didactic proposals which serve EFL teachers as instructive examples on the educational use of films.

A minority of these scholars have followed the theoretical methodological orientations explored above. Scacco ( 2007 ) details a teaching sequence based on the film To Kill a Mockingbird which consists of four main parts: pre-viewing, while-viewing, post-viewing, and Internet follow-up tasks that target the language skills and intercultural development. As for Seo ( 2017 ), the researcher presents a teaching unit to teach English formulaic expressions which only includes the trailer and seven selected fragments from the film Chef , illustrating the salami tactics recommended by Parisi and Andon ( 2016 ). The students’ outcomes and teacher-learner interactions at the end of the instruction process indicated that this proposal had been effective and stimulating.

Nevertheless, most of the academics presenting didactic proposals have not adhered to the methodological practices suggested since they implemented a whole film and they failed to divide the film-based activities into any stages, showing other alternative manners of exploiting cinema. Zoreda ( 2005 ) provides a teaching plan to work on classic American films in the English classroom, tackling the four language skills and the intercultural dimension of cinema. Vyushkina ( 2016 ) offers a guide to teaching legal English through cinema in an ESP course, whose main objective is to help students develop their communicative professional competence. The learners’ feedback to this pedagogical intervention was reported to be highly positive. Charlebois ( 2008 ) presents a didactic unit aimed at fostering English learners’ critical consciousness regarding race and gender. The students’ writing production signaled that the activities had helped them to reflect more deeply on those issues and to enhance their language skills. In a similar vein, Fluitt-Dupuy ( 2001 ) includes a didactic unit to teach argumentative writing and highlights the learners’ favorable reactions after its implementation.

Eken ( 2003 ) and Carney and Foss ( 2008 ) go one step further because, apart from working on certain films, they deal with the technical aspects of cinema. Eken ( 2003 ) proposes a course in which students are taught film theory at the same time as they learn new vocabulary and practice their speaking, reading, and listening skills. Also, group interviews were conducted in order to assess the course, and the learners confirmed that working on films had helped them develop their critical thinking ability and their language skills. In the case of Carney and Foss ( 2008 ), they designed a project in which English students were asked to record several films. After putting it into practice and analyzing the learners’ outcome, the authors discuss the advantages and disadvantages of filmmaking in the EFL classroom. As concluded by these scholars, filmmaking tasks allow students to learn essential features of cinema and to practice the four language skills. Nevertheless, this project is time-consuming and it may lead to unequal learning due to the different roles assigned to learners (director, writer, costume designer, and set and sound designer).

The fact that these scholars have generally ignored the methodological practices recommended when designing their film-based didactic proposals may suggest either that they are unaware of these recommendations, as EFL instructors have been reported to be in existing research (Allan, 1985 ; Herrero & Vanderschelden, 2019 ; Kabooha, 2016 ; Saleh, 2022 ; Sánchez-Auñón & Férez-Mora, 2021 ; Sherman, 2003 ; Tomalin, 1986 ); or that they consider other techniques to exploit cinema more suitable, which remains so far unknown. As can be observed in (Additional file 1 : Table 1), the general recommendations reviewed have not been put into practice, and only Eken’s ( 2003 ) course has been empirically tested. For the most part, these researchers have implemented the didactic proposal presented and have briefly described the students’ performance and reactions during the intervention (articles 10, 11, 14, 34, 39). Footnote 2 These results stress the need, firstly, to validate empirically all the available pedagogical guidelines on the use of films for TEFL, including both general recommendations and didactic proposals, to determine their effectiveness; and, secondly, to promote an informed and more homogeneous implementation of cinema in the EFL class in order to ensure an adequate educational use of films.

RQ.2. What are the perceptions of EFL teachers and learners on the educational use of films?

Sixteen percent of the selected references, i.e., seven journal papers, investigate teachers’ and students’ views on the inclusion of films in the teaching of English as a foreign language.

Teacher perception

Aksu-Ataç and Günay-Köprülü ( 2018 ) check prospective English teachers’ thoughts on the utility of cinema when it comes to honing language skills, on the film genres they consider most suitable to exploit in lesson plans, and on subtitling modes. In brief, the results reveal that the participants acknowledged the potential of this audio-visual resource as a teaching material.

Learner perception

Most of these articles delve into students’ opinion, who, like teachers, show great acceptance of this method. Albiladi et al. ( 2018 ) scrutinize English learners’ views on the benefits and challenges of the cinema-based approach. They highlighted exposure to authentic language, the improvement of language skills, vocabulary learning, and intercultural awareness as the main advantages, whereas the only challenge they mentioned was the difficulty involved in understanding film scripts. In Tuncay ( 2014 ), English learners stress the usefulness of films regarding the practice of the four language skills, translation, critical thinking, grammar, intercultural consciousness, and the depiction of authentic language. Likewise, in Argynbayev et al. ( 2014 ), EFL students affirmed that working on films had helped them to learn implicit features of the foreign culture and to identify negative language transfer in their writing assignments. In accordance with these learners, the EFL students participating in Chetia and Bhatt’s ( 2020 ) research asserted that they had enjoyed the cinema-based approach and they confirmed that it had allowed them to enhance their English language skills, particularly, their listening ability. Remarkably, they even supported the incorporation of cinema into the school curriculum.

Teacher and learner perception

Two of the sources examined in RQ2 tap into the opinion of both EFL instructors and learners as regards the use of cinema for instructional purposes. Kabooha ( 2016 ) and Kalra ( 2017 ) report that both agents of the teaching–learning process have positive views on the exploitation of films for TEFL, and they gather similar data on teacher perception which have profound practical implications. The EFL teachers who participated in the two investigations underlined film selection as a deal breaker when introducing cinema into the English class as it was a rather tough task for them. Moreover, in Kalra’s ( 2017 ) study, some of the instructors seemed unsure about their opinion on this topic, and, despite recognizing some of its educational benefits, were unwilling to start including cinema in their lessons because they lacked methodological and technical know-how in this area. These findings further emphasize the necessity to offer and spread empirically grounded pedagogical guidelines on the use of films for TEFL discussed in the previous sub-section.

Overall, the study sample shows that EFL instructors and students have a favorable opinion on the educational use of films. These English teachers are aware of some of the pedagogical possibilities of cinema and largely willing to make a more frequent implementation of this material, which supports Singh et al.’ ( 2021 ) and Yue’s ( 2019 ) claims. Regarding these learners, they are so satisfied with the film-based approach that some of them have urged the formal inclusion of cinema in education, corroborating other scholars’ findings on the popularity of this resource among the youth (Robert & Marpaung, 2022 ; Sinyashina, 2022 ).

However, the results indicate that research attention has been mainly directed towards learners, and future studies on teachers’ and/or students’ thoughts on this topic should tackle the problematic aspects we now mention. These academics hardly describe the film-based interventions they carried out to gather the data (Argynbayev et al., 2014 ; Chetia & Bhatt, 2020 ; Kabooha, 2016 ; Kalra, 2017 ; Tuncay, 2014 ), and, since they only administered post-tests, they failed to measure the effect those interventions had on the participants’ opinions. In fact, in some of these sources (Aksu-Ataç & Günay-Köprülü, 2018 ; Albiladi et al., 2018 ), the results are based on teachers’ and students’ intuitive perception on the use of films for TEFL as no cinema-based teaching plans were implemented and no pre- and post-tests were conducted.

RQ.3. How does cinema-based EFL impact students’ learning?

The greatest amount of research on the potential of cinema for TEFL, more concretely, 59% of the sources chosen, target the third research question. In this respect, scholars have explored either theoretically or empirically the diverse effects film-based instruction may have on English students’ learning processes.

Theoretical research

Three references are theoretical papers in which academics discuss the linguistic and intercultural advantages of films for TEFL. Gallagher ( 1988 ) predicts the revolutionary introduction of films into the EFL classroom and supports its use, in particular, for the teaching of writing. Kitai ( 2011 ) highlights the usefulness of this resource to challenge social stereotypes. As argued by the scholar, asking EFL learners to identify negative representations of certain communities throughout films and to reflect on them will help them to acquire a more accurate cultural understanding. More comprehensively, Xue and Pan ( 2012 ) explain how this audiovisual material can be used to tackle students’ intercultural communication competence. According to these authors, since cinema allows English learners to practice their language skills at the same time as showing them cultural aspects, they can learn how to properly interact and immerse themselves in any foreign community.

Empirical studies

Twenty-three sources are empirical investigations through which researchers have tested and documented the theoretically-claimed advantages of cinema for English learners. Ashcroft et al. ( 2018 ) and Hadi and Zad ( 2019 ) measure the effect of film viewing on English students’ lexical acquisition, and the results they obtained show that this method facilitates incidental vocabulary learning. Alharthi ( 2020 ) concentrates on students’ incidental vocabulary learning too, but this researcher includes other variables like receptive and productive lexical acquisition and the retention of particular word classes. The participants scored higher on receptive vocabulary learning and the word class they retained the most was nouns. Plentiful academics have analyzed differences in students’ outcomes in relation to subtitling modes. Yaseen and Shakir ( 2015 ) and Bostanci ( 2022 ) prove students’ vocabulary improvement as a result of film viewing and reveal that subtitled screening has a particularly positive effect in this respect. Soltani and Soori ( 2015 ) compare the effectiveness of pedagogically adapted and authentic films with different subtitles when learning English vocabulary, showing that authentic films with English subtitles are preferred. Similarly, Mardani and Najmabadi ( 2016 ) explore the impact of three kinds of subtitled films on EFL students’ lexical acquisition: bimodal (English audio and text), standard (English audio and Persian text), and reversed (Persian audio and English text), and they also examine the gender variable. Reversed subtitles had a greater positive effect on the participants’ lexical learning, however, there were no statistically significant gender differences.

Other researchers have centered on the learning of a single lexical content. Iranmanesh and Darani ( 2018 ) and Tabatabaei and Gahroei ( 2011 ) examine the influence of the film-based approach in idiom acquisition. Besides the students’ performance, the former test gender differences and the latter explore English learners’ and teachers’ perceptions on the use of cinema to aid idiom learning. These studies have demonstrated that working on films helps EFL students memorize idiomatic expressions, and that instructors and learners have a positive attitude towards this teaching strategy. Moreover, Jurkovic ( 2016 ) presents a textual analysis of two film scripts to ascertain if cinema can be exploited to teach, particularly, maritime vocabulary. It is shown that The Far Side of the World and The Perfect Storm are useful didactic resources in this respect since both films are full of maritime lexicon.

As Jurkovic ( 2016 ) does, Basol and Kartal ( 2019 ) test the potential effectiveness of cinema when dealing with English pragmatics. They conduct a frequency analysis of four film scripts to check whether or not British and American films can be used to teach micro-level discourse markers (DMs). The researchers assert that this material allows EFL instructors to teach DMs both implicitly and explicitly since the films they analyzed reflect their use in English native speech.

Another benefit which has been extensively tested is the improvement of English language skills. Hayati and Mohmedi ( 2011 ) confirm the beneficial impact of subtitled films on EFL learners’ listening comprehension. Qiu ( 2017 ) supports Hayati and Mohmedi’s results because, in this study, the experimental group outperformed the control group, for which no film was screened. Besides, Qiu ( 2017 ) explores how the film-based approach influences the participants’ motivation and anxiety when doing listening tasks. Nevertheless, no significant differences were reported between the groups regarding these two additional variables.

Also, experts in the field have scrutinized the effect of cinema on EFL learners’ speaking ability. Ayand and Shafiee ( 2016 ) show that watching subtitled films helps English students improve their oral fluency and accuracy. As demonstrated by Liaghat and Afghary ( 2015 ), when films are exploited in the English classroom, learners start using more conversational strategies, which, in turn, results in a more fluent speech. Concerning Kim ( 2018 ), the researcher investigates the influence of two types of film screening on the students’ oral expression. The control group worked on film fragments with the sound on whereas the experimental group used silent film clips, proving that the latter are more beneficial. Essentially, as silent film viewing stimulated the learners to speak and to be creative, they produced livelier and more natural utterances, as they emphasized.

Some research attention has been directed towards writing too. Asyidiq and Akmal ( 2020 ) use animation short films to teach EFL learners how to write narrative texts, and the data gathered reveal that the intervention had a positive influence on their writing ability. As affirmed by the students, this method helped them to understand the structure of narrative texts, capitalization, and punctuation marks, and film plots had been inspiring. For her part, Hameed ( 2016 ) checks the impact cinema has on the participants’ listening, speaking, and writing skills, demonstrating that films allow students to improve their overall English language proficiency. Torabian and Tajadini’s ( 2017 ) paper revolves around reading. They prove that watching animated films helps English learners enhance their reading comprehension, and that students have a positive perception on this approach.

Furthermore, three of these investigations address the intercultural advantages of cinema for TEFL. The two studies conducted by Lee on this issue (2017, 2018) demonstrate that the film-based approach allows EFL learners to broaden their cultural knowledge on specific themes such as Christmas in the United States or Indian customs. Nonetheless, in tune with Kitai ( 2011 ), the scholar underlines the importance of the instructor’s guidance when using cinema to teach culture in order to avoid misconceptions. This is because, as she observed during the interventions, some films might provide exaggerated representations of cultural aspects for cinema purposes—to make the scenes funnier or more captivating. Yue ( 2019 ) tests interculturality together with the language skills and conducts a qualitative study to check the impact of the film Mulan on learners’ intercultural communication competence, providing empirical support for Xue and Pan’s ( 2012 ) theoretical discussion.

The enhancement of critical thinking skills has been documented as well. Liu ( 2019 ) shows that the cinema-based approach helps EFL students to develop their critical literacy since watching I Am Legend and Blade Runner encouraged the participants to think about technology and the future, crucial social matters that are portrayed in the two films.

The 26 references analyzed in this sub-section, whether from theoretical or empirical stances, report that cinema is a highly advantageous tool when learning English as a foreign language. Concretely, all these data show that cinema impacts EFL students’ learning holistically because, as exposed above, working on films allows them to enhance various aspects of their language competence (the four language skills, their English vocabulary and pragmatics, and their intercultural knowledge), while, at the same time, honing their critical thinking skills appealingly. Hence, the study sample verifies, in turn, the linguistic, intercultural, and motivational dimensions of cinema other researchers have established (Sánchez-Auñón & Férez-Mora, 2021 ).

Although the pedagogical impact of cinema-based EFL has received most of the critical attention in this field, there are still some matters that merit further consideration. A major area of concern is the lack of detail as regards the film-based teaching sequences that were implemented in the selected empirical studies. Similarly to what happens for the references examined in RQ2, most of the above-mentioned empirical investigations provide little information on the teaching sequence used for obtaining data (articles 3, 5, 6, 9, 16, 17, 23, 30, 32, 35, 42, 43). The interventions reported are so fleetingly referred to that it is impossible to obtain a clear picture of what happened in class and of how cinema was exploited. This becomes even more evident in a set of studies in which the only cinema-based activity acknowledged as part of the intervention is watching the whole film (articles 7, 18, 36, 37). Such lack of information together with the too general condition of the activities proposed (in the case of mere film screenings) subtracts validity from the data since the reported gains might be due to other factors. Besides, as indicated in Additional file 1 : Table 1, in some cases, the sample of participants was limited to one sex (Ayand & Shafiee, 2016 ; Hadi & Zad, 2019 ; Tabatabaei & Gahroei, 2011 ). Accordingly, larger samples of participants representing all sexes are needed so that results can be more reliable.

Common findings

In view of the data obtained, available research on this topic seems to have adopted a microscopic stance. As previously discussed, the use of cinema has multiple effects on EFL students’ learning which can be divided into linguistic, intercultural, and motivational benefits (Alharthi, 2020 ; Charlebois, 2008 ; Hameed, 2016 ; Li & Wang, 2015 ; Sáchez-Auñón & Férez-Mora, 2021 ; Tabatabaei & Gahroei, 2011 ). Nevertheless, academics have mostly tackled these benefits in isolation when examining the potential of films for TEFL. The benefit of the film-based approach which has been explored the most in this field is the improvement of the four language skills (articles 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34, 37, 38, 39, 41, 43, and 44), followed by vocabulary learning (articles 2, 3, 5, 9, 13, 16, 19, 20, 27, 30, 34, 35, 36, and 42), development of intercultural consciousness (articles 2, 4, 24, 25, 26, 27, 31, 33, 38, 39, 41, 43, and 44), critical thinking ability (articles 11, 29, 38, and 39), and depiction of authentic language (articles 2, 31, and 38). Grammar (articles 34 and 38) and pragmatic (articles 8 and 34) learning as well as motivation (articles 22 and 31) have been studied to a lesser extent, and some benefits have not even been examined yet from any of the three perspectives—understanding of emotions and portrayal of non-trivial topics.

In fact, several researchers have focused on one of these advantages despite having addressed more during their film-based interventions. This might have altered the results obtained (Bostanci, 2022 ; Hameed, 2016 ; Kalra, 2017 ; Kim, 2018 ; Lee, 2017 ; Yaseen & Shakir, 2015 ). As an instance, after implementing film-based tasks that target vocabulary acquisition and the four language skills, Bostanci only tests their effects on the students’ lexical learning (2022). Thus, it would be extremely enlightening to delve into the whole spectrum of advantages at once, covering, in such a way, the three dimensions of the benefits which films can bring to TEFL, and examining the benefits which have not been addressed to date. In such a way, further key elements on how best to articulate film-based EFL lesson plans could emerge, and a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of films on EFL students’ learning could be defined.

Moreover, the study sample reveals that scholars have centered on university settings. Therefore, more research on the use of films for TEFL should be conducted at high school, a clearly under-researched setting, and at other educational levels which have been left aside, like primary school. This is of utmost importance since, for one thing, cinema might require distinct pedagogical exploitations depending on the maturity of students and, besides, the educational setting in which films are implemented might be an influential factor for EFL instructors’ and learners’ views on this method.

This systematic literature review was aimed at exploring the pedagogical potential of films for this discipline by addressing three research questions. The analysis of the study sample has indicated that EFL teachers have been provided with diverse theoretical and practical guidelines on the implementation of cinema (RQ1), that both EFL instructors and learners have positive perceptions on the educational use of films (RQ2), and that working on cinema impacts EFL students’ learning positively and holistically (RQ3). Furthermore, the results obtained corroborate English teachers’ commonly reported concerns on the full exploitation of films owing to their limited understanding of this matter. In light of EFL instructors’ and students’ favorable opinions and the multifaceted positive impact of this resource on the students’ learning processes, a more comprehensive introduction of cinema into EFL formal instruction should be promoted. One way of doing this might be complementing and reinforcing the pedagogical guidelines on the use of films teachers are offered. Since it has been shown that neither researchers nor teachers have reached clear agreements concerning the proper implementation of cinema in the EFL classroom due to the dearth of empirical evidence, an important line of development in this field involves the empirical validation of these pedagogical guidelines.

Other research gaps have been identified, which need to be addressed in order to continue shedding light on the value of cinema for TEFL. No doubt, there is a need for further research on teacher perception, which includes pre-tests to check the factors which encourage (or discourage) them when it comes to using films in EFL teaching–learning processes. Using alternative instruments such as focal groups when examining teacher and learner opinion would be revealing too. As for the impact of film-based EFL instruction on students’ learning, introducing quantitative or mixed-approach research designs is a logical line of expansion in the field, as is using other instruments like surveys or focal groups to gather these data. All this might help to better interpret the reported benefits of film-based EFL lessons as more fine-grained trends might be defined.

When conducting these studies, it is important researchers describe in more detail the classroom intervention they conduct and exploit cinema beyond film screenings. Scholars should also tap into the benefits of the film-based approach which have not been examined yet (understanding of emotions and portrayal of non-trivial topics) and focus on underexplored educational contexts (high school and primary school). In geographical terms, research should be carried out in American and European instructional contexts, where the role of films in the EFL class has been barely examined, and in Africa and Oceania, where no references to this end are available to date.

Despite providing significant findings on this topic, there are some limitations that should be taken into account for future systematic reviews on the use of cinema for TEFL. This study was carried out in five databases, and only journal papers written in English and published in open access journals were considered for the selection. Therefore, future research could analyze a larger number of databases, or other databases which have not been examined yet in this respect, and include in the study sample other types of documents such as books or dissertations written in different languages and/or dealing with different foreign languages. Moreover, articles that delved into the implementation of films together with other audio-visual materials, methodologies, or textual modalities were excluded, and, therefore, could be studied in future systematic reviews. Finally, further research directions that might be adopted in the field of cinema-based TEFL include: examining the students’ parents’ views on the use of cinema in the EFL class, defining tighter film selection criteria, coming up with pools of materials in which activities for films are classified by age or content, designing assessment tools to check EFL learners’ progress after implementing the film-based approach, or exploring differences in students’ rate of agreement concerning the effectiveness of various textual modalities (musical, literary, and cinematic texts) when it comes to enhancing their language competence.

Availability of data and materials

The dataset supporting the conclusions of this article is included within the article (and its additional file).

Throughout this paper, the terms cinema and film(s) are used interchangeably, meaning an artistic production which “consists of moving pictures that have been recorded […] and tells a story or shows a real situation” (HarperCollins Publishers Limited, 2022 , Definition 1).

In order to synthesize the paper’s content, in some cases, articles are identified with their coding number (Additional file 1 : Table 1).


Teaching of English as a foreign language

  • English as a foreign language

First language

Didactic unit

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Sánchez-Auñón, E., Férez-Mora, P.A. & Monroy-Hernández, F. The use of films in the teaching of English as a foreign language: a systematic literature review. Asian. J. Second. Foreign. Lang. Educ. 8 , 10 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40862-022-00183-0

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Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology

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The University of Edinburgh

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Greener assessment: transitioning to online marking

Ling Angela Xia , Yao Wu

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research proposal on teaching english as a second language

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  1. Action research proposal

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  1. Teaching English as a Foreign Language: Proposals for the Language Classroom

    The aim of the contributions herein is to focus on the pragmatic dimension of language teaching and learning and put forward concrete proposals for the teaching of English to speakers of...

  2. PDF A Research on Second Language Acquisition and College English Teaching

    1. A Research on Second Language Acquisition Theories 1.1 Language Input Hypothesis Here, input means the language information learners receive from the language environment. According to the second language acquisition theory proposed by Krashen, understandable language input is the key to language acquisition.

  3. PDF An action research on developing English speaking skills through ...

    This research is considered important because most students have a chance to practice English in only English speaking classes, yet class sizes are usually big, and periods are usually few (Sun, 2009). The AOESG is a co-curricular activity; thus, it is thought to enable the participants that cannot get many opportunities in the classroom

  4. PDF Journal of International Education Research

    ABSTRACT The purpose of the present study is to investigate effective English language learning strategies (LLSs) employed by successful language learners. The participants in this study were 20 student interpreters enrolled in the graduate school of interpretation and translation in Korea.

  5. PDF Proposal for Teaching English As a Second Language Through ...

    tool for stating a proposal that fosters learning phonetics in its whole spectrum, from the theoretical and ontological basis to the practical approach. 2.1 Phonetics Some authors have published on this topic, like Elizabeth McComas (McComas 2008), who work in the phonetics of Spanish as a second language at a segmental level.

  6. Teaching English as a Second Language Masters Thesis Collection

    An action research proposal of culturally responsive teaching for critical literacy in democratic education, ... Multimodal Approaches to Literacy and Teaching English as a Foreign Language at the University Level, ... English as a second language learners and spelling performance in university multilingual writers, ...

  7. (PDF) Research Proposal: Investigating the Effectiveness of

    Research Proposal and Literature Review Investigating the Effectiveness of Pronunciation Instruction for Improved Intelligibility in English Language Teaching (ELT) Annette Maguire University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) For a number of decades, pronunciation was relegated to the sidelines of English language pedagogy and research.

  8. Teaching English as a Second Language

    RESUMO: Second language acquisition studies have claimed that feedback, in the form of recasts, has a positive impact on learners' L2 development. This study aims to examine the effectiveness of two corrective feedback forms, recasts and... more. Download. by Heliana De Mello and +1. 3. Teaching English as a Second Language , Cognitive ...

  9. Cultivating a new ecosystem in English language teaching: A focus on

    The Shanghai Centre for Research in English Language Education, Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai, China ... In addressing the widening research-practice gap in the field of second language (L2) education, an increasing emphasis has been placed on a bidirectional and mutually beneficial relationship between L2 researchers ...

  10. PDF Second Language Acquisition and Language Teaching

    After discussing the ties between language teaching and second language acquisition research, the present paper reviews the role that second language acquisition research has played on two ... advocated in the early eighties, in which focus on the code was excluded, and then the more recent research-based proposals of integrating some degree of ...

  11. Teaching English as a Second Language

    Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) examines the social, linguistic, educational, cognitive, cultural and political processes affecting the teaching, learning, assessment, and use of English as an additional language locally and globally.

  12. English as a Second Language (ESL) Learning: Setting the Right

    The fact that English is spoken as an international language is the benefit of using English and also the more than one billion people who use English as a second or additional language...

  13. Research in English as an Additional Language (R.E.A.L)

    CGHE Annual Conference 2024. Research / Research Themes, Groups & Centres / Language, Cognition and Development / Research in English as an Additional Language (R.E.A.L) REAL consists of a group of researchers united by a common interest in understanding specific linguistic and educational challenges faced by children who are being educated in ...

  14. The use of films in the teaching of English as a foreign language: a

    Although this interest has resulted in a complex body of research, no review to date had aimed to systematically map out (i) the pedagogical guidelines available for English teachers to implement films in class; (ii) the perceptions of EFL teachers and learners on the educational use of films; and (iii) the impact of cinema-based EFL on students...

  15. PDF Research proposal

    English language teaching, with particular emphasis on English as a second language (or as is the term used in South Africa's [SA] Department of Basic Education's [DBE] curriculum policy documents, English as a first additional language [EFAL]). A central concern in my own teaching is trying to find ways of making the teaching/

  16. Proposal for PhD in English as an International Language

    Texts and Contexts in Second Language Learning. Reading, Massachusetts at all: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. Sesek, U. (2008). English for teacher of EFL- toward a holistic description. English for Specific Purposes, 26, 411-425. Wiriyachitra, A. (2002). English language teaching and learning in Thailand in this decade.

  17. PDF A Review of the Literature on English as a Second Language (ESL ...

    1. English language - Study and teaching - Foreign speakers - Bibliography. 2. English language - Study and teaching as a second language - Bibliography. I. Archibald, John. II. University of Calgary. Language Research Centre. III. Alberta. Alberta Education. PE1128.A2 A333 2008 428.24

  18. English as a second language in higher education

    Students and faculty who use English as a second language have advantages and challenges in higher education. This collection of resources looks at how to support international students and multilingual staff as well as how language-teaching methods can be applied to areas such as sustainability. It includes English for academic purposes, teaching, writing, assessment, student support, medical ...

  19. Teaching English As A Second Language In Research Proposal

    6. WORDS. 1675. Cite. View Full Essay. Teaching English as a Second Language in Middle School The teaching of ESL (English as a second language as countered to as a language that is foreign) has usually been a specialized activity that is experienced by, if not preserved for, individuals that are conventionally mentioned to as native speakers ...


    Reaserch proposal on 'CHALLENGES FACED BY THE TAMANG LEARNERS LEARNING ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAE' kirat nakara kirat nakara In Nepal, the people of various social and linguistic backgrounds are settled in a mix way, sharing the same public service system including schools.

  21. (PDF) The Influence of Mother-Tongue Interference on English as A

    ... The mother tongue influence results from using our mother tongue when speaking second language. It effects person's mental process since they may think in mother tongue while speaking...