Research and media

Participatory ESOL research 

The Our Languages project with King’s College, London

English for Action is currently collaborating with researchers at King’s College, London on a project linking sociolinguistic research with ESOL teaching. Researchers at King’s are investigating migrants from the Sri Lankan Tamil community, looking at how multilingualism and communicative repertoires develop in Tamil homes and communities and how this is shaped by language, culture, identity and transnational mobility. The ‘Our Languages’ project has taken some of the findings and worked with them with students in two classes in Streatham and Tower Hamlets. We are trying to establish how far the experiences of other migrant groups, i.e. our ESOL students, resonate with the Sri Lankan Tamil (SLT) experience revealed in the DALS data and we are exploring practical ways of establishing a pedagogical approach that is more in tune with students’ multilingual realities and those of the local community. Finally, the researchers would like to explore the possibility of strengthening the relationship between sociolinguistic research and teaching and to investigate whether and how reflexive explorations of sociolinguistic data can enhance ESOL pedagogy.

For more information contact Melanie Cooke on


Act ESOL: A Theatre of the Oppressed Language Project, Becky Winstanley, 2016.

This report captures the creative experience of ACT ESOL — a theatre and language education project that combined Theatre of the Oppressed and participatory ESOL, developed by The Serpentine Galleries and Implicated Theatre. It describes how Theatre of the Oppressed methods can be used with ESOL to create a pedagogy of resistance with a focus on migration struggles. It an ongoing project so checks the website for updates on the next phase- EFA teachers and students will be taking part in classroom research trying our these methods in the classroom.


Participatory ESOL is about working with groups of students on the things that concern them in their daily lives. In class, the topics, language and literacy ‘emerge’ – not from a pre-written scheme of work, but from the students themselves. But working in this way can be a challenge. These five articles explore how a group of teachers experimented with an ‘emerging’ curriculum. Co-written by Melanie Cooke (EFA trustee and ESOL researcher at King's College, London) and Becky Winstanley (EFA teacher and ESOL teacher at Tower Hamlet's College) the papers report on five distinct areas of participatory ESOL: planning, topics, language, literacy and evaluation.

Please let us know what you think of the papers and share your thoughts about the ideas they explore. 

Download the articles here:

1 - Planning for Participatory ESOL

2 - Topics and Themes

3 - Language

4 - Literacy

5 - Students as Evaluators

We have published research into participatory ESOL methods since 2012.

You can read two of our research reports 'Whose Integration?' and 'The Power of Discussion', as well as our introductory chapter on Participatory ESOL in the British Council's book 'Language Issues in Migration and Integration'. 

In 2015 We contributed chapter 16 to Adult Language Education and Migration: Challenging agendas in policy and practice, ed. James Simpson and Anne Whiteside.

We are also taking part in a NIACE (National Institute of Adult Continuing Education) research project called Towards a Citizens Curriculum. You can check out our latest research blog and our case study


Responses to Cameron's announcement on ESOL funding (January 2016):

The Independent: "As an English teacher of Muslim women I know that Cameron's plans are hypocritical and demonising" (25th January 2016)

Novara Media: "Cameron's ESOL funding cuts reflect the government's attitudes to migrants" (26th January 2016)

Article called "Participatory ESOL"  by Dermot Bryers in Natecla's journal Language Issues (Winter 2015)