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Staff Profile

Dr Clare Cunningham

Associate Professor

Staff profile image of Clare Cunningham

I have been involved in learning and teaching in linguistics since my undergraduate degree in French and Linguistics, where I spent a year abroad in Strasbourg. After some time in the travel industry, working as a Reservations and Operations Manager, and using my languages to problem solve and troubleshoot for our escorted group holidays, I trained on the CELTA programme and became an English language teacher, privately as well as for York Associates, before then teaching General English and EAP at York St John, Edinburgh and Durham universities.

I completed my MA in English Language Teaching at York St John University in 2009 and began lecturing in Linguistics at York St John during the 2009-2010 academic year. My PhD in Language Education from the University of York was completed in 2017, and was focused on teachers' discourses about multilingualism in English schools.


I teach all of the students in Languages and Linguistics as I am the module director for the core first year module, Introduction to Language and Linguistics. I teach on a range of other undergraduate modules at all levels, focusing on multilingualism, language varieties and language attitudes. I teach on the following undergraduate programmes:

  • Introduction to Language and Linguistics
  • Multilingualism
  • Linguistic Diversity in the Classroom
  • Attitudes to Language
  • Reflections in Linguistics
  • Dissertation supervision
  • I also teach on the following postgraduate modules:
  • Research Methods in Linguistics
  • Dissertation supervision

I am the Postgraduate Research Programmes lead and the Postgraduate Research Tutor for most postgraduate students in Language and Linguistics. I supervise students on our MRes, MA by Research, PhD, EdD and the Doctorate in Applied Linguistics.


My principal research interests coalesce into two key ongoing strands.

Attitudes, Beliefs and Knowledge about Multilingualism in schools

My doctoral research developed on MA research about the experiences of children who speak languages beyond English in UK schools (Saying more than you realise about ‘EAL’: discourses of educators about children who speak languages beyond English. Available at URL:

I am now currently involved in an international collaborative cross country project to investigate teachers' attitudes to linguistic diversity. This project is currently involving working on two co-authored papers (one for a Special Issue in Linguistics and Education) and three conference papers in 2022.


Two projects are ongoing under this strand. The first is part of the cross-school Ecological Justice in the Curriculum project with a paper underway around student discourses about agency/ disagency with regards to ecological justice.

Another project is concerned with understanding the way primary aged children can use written narratives to explore feelings and their ideas about nature and the environment.



  1. Cunningham, C., Foxcroft, C. and Sauntson, H. (2022). The Divergent Discourses of Activists and Politicians in the Climate Change Debate: An Ecolinguistic Corpus Analysis. Language and Ecology.
  2. Cunningham, C. (2022). ‘It’s exciting and rewarding!’: Structured mini writing retreats as a tool for undergraduate researchers. Journal of Further and Higher Education. DOI: 10.1080/0309877X.2022.2085031.
  3. Flockton, G. and Cunningham, C. (2021). Teacher educators’ perspectives on preparing student teachers to work with pupils who speak languages beyond English. Journal of Education for Teaching, 47 (2). Available at URL:
  4. Hall, C. J. and Cunningham, C. (2020) Educators’ beliefs about English and languages beyond English: from ideology to ontology and back again. Linguistics and Education, 57. Available at URL:
  5. Cunningham, C. (2019). ‘When ‘home languages’ become ‘holiday languages’: teachers’ discourses about maintenance and attrition of languages beyond English.’ Language, Culture and Curriculum, 33 (3): pp.213-227, DOI: 1080/07908318.2019.1619751.
  6. Cunningham, C. (2019). ‘”The Inappropriateness of Language”: discourses of power and control over languages beyond English in primary schools.’ Language and Education, 33(4): pp. 285-301. DOI:
  7. Cunningham, C. (2019). ‘Terminological tussles: taking issue with 'EAL' and 'languages other than English.’ Power and Education, 11 (1): pp. 121-128.
  8. Cunningham, C. (2014). ‘’Keep talking’: using music during small group discussions in EAP.’ ELT Journal, 68 (2): pp. 179-191.
  9. Wardman, C. (2012). ‘Pulling the threads together: current theories and current practice affecting UK primary school children who have English as an Additional Language’. British Council ELT Research Papers, 12-04, available at URL:
  10. Wardman, C. (2012). ‘Interactions between EAL pupils, specialist teachers and TAs during withdrawal from the mainstream in UK primary schools’. Education 3-13, 41(6): pp. 647-663. Available at URL:
  11. Wardman, C. (2010). “Making the News: a motivating writing skills project for ESL students”. The Internet TESL Journal, XVI (1).
  12. Wardman, C. (2009). “Authentic Materials in English Language Teaching: are they as important as we think?” Folio, 13 (2), pp. 14-17.

Edited books

  1. Cunningham, C. and Hall, C. J. Eds (2021). Vulnerabilities, Challenges and Risks in Applied Linguistics. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Book chapters

  1. Cunningham, C. (2020). ‘Beliefs about ‘good English’ in schools.’ In Hall, C. J. and R. Wicaksono (Eds). Ontologies of English. Cambridge: CUP.
  2. Wardman, C. (2013). ‘EAL provision in England: combining theory and practice or not?’ in Pattison, T. (ed) IATEFL 2012: Glasgow Conference Selections. Canterbury: IATEFL.
  3. Wardman, C., Bell, J. & Sharp, E. (2012). ‘Valuing Home Languages’ in Mallows, D. (Ed.) Innovations in English Language Teaching to Migrants and Refugees. London: British Council.
  4. Wardman, C. (2011). ‘Children with EAL: Comparing withdrawal sessions with teachers and teaching assistants’ in Pattison, T. (ed) IATEFL 2010: Harrogate Conference Selections. Canterbury: IATEFL.


  1. Cunningham, C. (2017). Saying more than you realise about ‘EAL’: discourses of educators about children who speak languages beyond English. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of York. Available at URL:

Conferences and talks

Invited talks and lectures

1. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (October 2021)
The ideological and ontological beliefs of EAL educators (with Prof Chris Hall)

2. University of Ulster, Belfast, Linguistics Research Seminar series (May 2021)
Students’ (dis)agentic and (dis)empowered discourses about ecological justice

3. York St John University NQT webinar series (May 2019)
NQT webinar on EAL

4. Unity in Diversity Symposium, das Mercator-Institut für Sprachförderung und Deutsch als Zweitsprache, Universität zu Köln (September 2018)

Plenary: Teachers’ attitudes to children who speak ‘languages beyond English’ in northern England

5. York St John University, English Language and Linguistics Colloquium Series lecture (April 2018)
’The inappropriateness of language’: allocating and avoiding blame in our increasingly multilingual schools

6. York St John University Postgraduate Forum in Applied Linguistics (January 2016)
Attitudes towards emergent multilingual children in the mainstream: an analysis of teachers’ discourse

7. Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain: Department of English Philology (May 2014)
Analysing attitudes towards bilingual strategies in a super-diverse educational context

8. York St John University, English Language and Linguistics Colloquium Series lecture (December 2012)
Justifying why it’s OK to ‘supervise’ children talking in their home language: the teachers’ point of view

9. University of Leeds, Language Education Research group (November 2012)
Teaching bi- and pluri-lingual children in UK primary schools: teachers' perceptions of the experience focusing on the value placed on home languages

10. Higher Education Academy Seminar: Changing English in internationalising universities, York St John University (September 2012)
Academic Literacies and internationalisation (with Dr Catherine Samiei and Charlie Martineau)

11. University of Edinburgh, Centre of English Language Teaching: English Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics programme (September 2011)
Bilingualism and the role of school-family relationships

Conference talks and poster presentations

1. Women in Academia Support Network conference, online (April 2022)
The perceived value of structured writing retreats for women undergraduate students

2. AAAL, Pittsburgh, USA (March 2022)
Teacher Talk about Parents and Multilingualism in England

3. YSJ Ecological Justice Research Group symposium (November 2021)
What might the linguistic, narrative and semiotic devices used in children’s eco-narratives tell us about their views on the climate emergency?

4. AILA Congress 2020 (postponed to 2021 and online), Groningen University (August 2021)
“It sounds awful because it sounds like you don’t value their home language”: English and French teachers’ contradictory attitudes and practices (with Prof Andrea Young and Dr Latisha Mary) as part of symposium Perspectives on Language(s) in Education: A Comparative Overview

5. Talk about Teaching for Social Justice Conference, York St John University (July 2021)
Introduction to Phase 1 findings: Focus on AGENCY (with Dr Judith Parks) as part of a panel session: Ecological Justice and the YSJ Curriculum

6. Language Education for Social Justice conference, University of Jyväskylä (June 2021, postponed from June 2020)
Mainstream UK teachers’ discourses about what ‘good English’ means to them.

7. HOLM 2019 Symposium, York St John University, York (September 2019)
Finding pockets of excellence and seams of translingual practice in English mainstream schools (with Dr Sabine Little)

8. 12th International Symposium on Bilingualism, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada (June 2019)
Stories of teachers’ struggles in a divided nation: attitudes about multilingualism in the mainstream UK education system

9. Talk about Teaching Conference, York St John University (June 2018)
Writing retreats for undergraduate students

10. Exploring Language Education: Global and Local Perspectives, Stockholm University (June 2018)
Poster: Primary school teachers' perspectives on responsibility for minority language maintenance: Who is to blame for language attrition and shift?

11. 18th World Congress of the International Association of Applied Linguistics, Rio, Brazil (July 2017)
’She came into the school with no language’: UK primary teachers’ discourse regarding perceptions of languages in supporting bilingual children, their languages, and families

12. 11th International Symposium on Bilingualism, University of Limerick (June 2017)
Terminological tussles: Languages other than English

13. Reflections on Research conference, York St John University (September 2016)
Attitudes to Multilingualism in Primary Schools

14. International Conference on Bilingualism, University of Malta (March 2015)
In what ways do teachers talk of the capacity of teachers, parents and children in supporting bilingual children and their home languages in UK mainstream primary schools?

15. British Association for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick (September 2014)
Teachers’ perspectives on the state of play for home languages in super-diverse primary school classrooms.

16. 17th World Congress of the International Association of Applied Linguistics, Brisbane, Australia (August 2014)
What factors can encourage teachers to incorporate more home language use into super-diverse school classrooms?

17. 9th International Symposium on Bilingualism, Singapore (June 2013).
How valued and utilized are the home languages of bilingual children by their teachers in UK primary education?

18. International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, Liverpool (April 2013)
Home languages in mainstream schools: widely encouraged or under supported?

19. Language in a Network of European Excellence (LINEE) Training Institute in Multilingualism, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic (June 2012)
Poster: The provision of support for children with EAL in northern English primary schools and on-going challenges to be faced.

20. University of Sheffield School of English Postgraduate Colloquium (May 2012)
In-group and out-group positioning: An analysis of how a primary school head teacher orients himself with regards to his school and wider ethnic minority communities.

21. Research Students’ Annual Conference, University of Leeds (April 2012)
Teachers’ views on provision of support for children with English as an Additional Language in UK primary schools.

22. International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, Glasgow (March 2012)
EAL provision in England: combining theory and practice or not?

23. TESOL France, Paris (November 2010)
Playing devil’s advocate with Authentic Materials in English Language Teaching.

24. International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, Harrogate (April 2010)
Children with EAL: Comparing withdrawal sessions with teachers and teaching assistants.

25. 4th YSJ University Postgraduate Research Methodologies Conference (November 2009)
A research methodology for comparing teaching approaches in withdrawal sessions for children with English as an Additional Language in UK primary schools.

26. 7th British Universities Postgraduate Research Conference: Principles and Practice for Language Learning and Materials Development, Leeds Metropolitan University (May 2009)
Authentic Materials in English Language Teaching: are they as important as we think?

Conferences and talks continued

Research seminar talks

1. Centre for Language and Social Justice Research seminar, York St John University (November 2020)
Student discourses about the climate emergency: Disempowered or agentic?

2. Languages and Identities in InterAction Research Unit seminar, York St John University (November 2016)
Exploring the discourses of primary school managers and teachers in the UK: attitudes towards multilingualism and multilingual children

3. Languages and Identities in InterAction Research Unit seminar, York St John University (December 2012)
UK primary school teachers' perceptions of the value of home languages in the school environment

4. Department of Education Research Group, University of York (November 2012)
‘Bringing the outside in’: how teachers working with bilingual children talk about home languages in the primary classroom

5. Languages and Identities in InterAction Research Unit seminar, York St John University (November 2011)
Data session: discourse analysis of interviews with primary school teachers: in-group and out-group stances

6. Department of Education Research Group, University of York (February 2011)
EAL in UK Primary schools: early days of research

Public engagement and outreach

1. TeenTech Festival (York, 2022) Let’s Talk about the Weather (Ecolinguistics and climate education session for Year 6 children)

2. Festival of Ideas, 2022 (York, June 2022) Living Lab: Insights from the Junction (with the Living Lab project team)

3. Cunningham, C. (2018). ‘Why teachers shouldn’t be afraid of other languages being spoken in the classroom.’ The Conversation UK. 21 May 2018, available at URL:

4. Cunningham, C. (2018). 'Attitudes towards multilingualism and multilingual children in primary schools.' EAL Journal blog. 5 March 2018, available at URL:

5. Festival of Ideas 2018, York, (June 2018) Dare to Dream of Truly Inclusive Language (with Helen Sauntson)

6. Yornight @ European Researchers’ Night, York St John University, York (September 2014) Does York's linguistic landscape reflect the languages spoken in the city? (with Dasha Zhurauskaya)

7. British Council Seminar Series 2012-2013: An evening seminar for EAL teachers (May 2013) Supporting home languages. Available to view at URL:

8. Wardman, C. (2012). ‘The classroom support v. withdrawal debate for children with English as an Additional Language’ Teachitworld e-newsletter, ‘Life in an English-speaking country’, 13.

Professional activities

I am the academic lead on the student led civic engagement project YEAL (York English as an Additional Language). This is an outreach project to local schools led by a student committee of York St John University Linguistics and Education undergraduates. The committee aims to increase aspiration amongst school children and to assist teachers in working with children who speak languages beyond English.

I am a founder member of the National Association for Language Development in the Community (NALDIC)'s Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Group, established in October 2012.

I developed a relationship with the British Council from 2010, being an English Language Teaching Research Partnership grant holder (c. £2.5K) and following this research paper up with a further publication and an appearance as a speaker during the 2012-2013 Teaching English seminar series, at the Evening Seminar for EAL teachers in May 2013.

I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.