Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

Dr James Simpson

Senior Lecturer in Language Education; Academic Group Leader, Language Education Academic Group

I am an applied linguist specialising in the teaching and learning of languages in migration contexts and in the intersection of new technology, literacy, mobility and social justice. My work involves the critical analysis of linguistic practices relating to identity, language diversity, language pedagogy, language policy and literacy. Recently I have developed interests in participatory arts-based approaches to migrant language education. Most of my research has taken place in the UK, and I have also carried out work in South Asia.

I have worked with a number of institutions and organisations on projects supporting the teaching and learning of English for adult migrants, known as ESOL - English for Speakers of Other Languages. With Melanie Cooke of King's College London I have written a book on this topic, ESOL: A Critical Guide (OUP, 2008). I am currently chair of MESH, the Migrant English Support Hub, which coordinates ESOL provision in Leeds, am on the steering group of NATECLA's ESOL Strategy for England, and am a member of Leeds University's Migration Research Network. In Applied Linguistics more generally I am the editor of the Routledge Handbook of Applied Linguistics (Routledge, 2011) and have served on the executive committee of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL). I am a frequent speaker at conferences on Applied Linguistics, TESOL, teaching with new technology, and related topics.

In my earlier career I worked as an English language teacher in Europe, the Middle East and in the FE sector in the UK. I studied for my MA in ELT at the University of Essex (1996), my PGCE at the University of Greenwich (1999), and my PhD at the University of Reading (2004). Upon its completion I joined the School of Education, University of Leeds, where I was first a Research Fellow and since 2010 a Senior Lecturer. I now lead the Language Education academic group within the School. I teach on Postgraduate and Undergraduate courses in language education, and from 2010 to 2013 coordinated the MA TESOL programme. From July to October 2016 I am Visiting Professor at the Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Research Interests

My research interests lie in the teaching and learning of English for Speakers of Other Languages in migration contexts, in language learning with new technology, and in the sociolinguistic study of urban multilingualism. I supervise a number of Doctoral students in these areas, and welcome applications. I am currently Leeds-based Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded project Translation and translanguaging: Investigating linguistic and cultural transformations in superdiverse wards in four UK cities, known as TLang. I also lead two related projects, Migration and Home (AHRC) and Migration and Settlement (LSSI).

I manage an email discussion list ESOL-Research, a forum for researchers and practitioners with an interest in teaching and learning ESOL.

In 2015 I was plenary speaker at the International Literacy Conference in Sheffield in June, and plenary speaker at the LESLLA conference in St Augustine, Florida, in November. Both events relate to my recent book, edited with Anne Whiteside (City College San Francisco): Adult language education and migration: Challenging agendas in policy and practice (Routledge, 2015). I was also plenary speaker at the 11th International Language and Development Conference, New Delhi, India, in November. Here I discussed linguistic superdiversity and translanguaging in urban areas, relating the topic to my current work with the TLang project.

Current and recent research projects

Migration and Settlement: Extending the Welcome (LSSI) (Principal Investigator)

Migration and Home Connected Communities Utopias Festival project (2016) (AHRC) (Principal Investigator)

EITA: Education and ICT for Adolescents Research, monitoring and evaluation project (2015-2016) (British Council Bangladesh) (Co-investigator).

Translation and translanguaging: Investigating linguistic and cultural transformations in superdiverse wards in four UK cities (TLang) (2014-2018) (AHRC) (Co-investigator).

MESH: Migrant English Support Hub and the Learning English in Leeds project (2013, ongoing) (Chair of management committee).

Mobigam project (2012-13) (British Academy) (Applicant and lead researcher).

HENNA (Harehills ESOL Needs Neighbourhood Audit) project (2010-2011) (Leeds City Council) (Applicant and lead researcher).  

Identity Online project (2007-2010) (British Academy) and Teacher Identity project (Applicant and lead researcher).

Placement Practices Project (2006-2007) (NRDC/ESF) (Lead researcher).

PPA project ‘Motivating Skills for Life students to persist progress and achieve’ (2006-2007) (NRDC/QIA) (Researcher).

ESOL practitioner development project (2006-2007) (NRDC/ESF) (Researcher).

ESOL Effective Practice Project (2003-2006) (NRDC/ESF) (Researcher).

NRDC-funded practitioner-led action research project, Dewsbury College (2005-2006) (NRDC) (Academic advisor).

Practitioner-led action research project, Park Lane College, Leeds (2006-2008) (Academic advisor).

Other professional activities

Editor, The Routledge Handbook of Applied Linguistics (2011).

Member of the advisory board of the journal Language Issues and the editorial board of the Routledge Handbook of Linguistic Ethnography.

Member of the Leeds Migration Research Network and the UK Linguistic Ethnography Forum. 

Member of BAAL, NATECLA , UCU.


I am the module convenor, EDUC 3030 Language Learning Technology and Materials. I teach on the following modules: EDUC 5256M Technology Enhanced Language Learning, EDUC 5060M Research Methods for TESOL, EDUC 5927 Assessing Language Learning, EDUC 3007 Globalisation and Language Education.

I am a personal tutor for taught postgraduates on MA programmes in the school and undergraduates on the BA English, Language and Education programme. 

PhD Supervision

I welcome applications from potential doctoral students working in language education in migration contexts, particularly adult ESOL.

Key Publications


  • Adult Migrant Language Education: Challenging Agendas in Policy and Practice, ed. by Simpson J and Whiteside A (London: Routledge, 2016)

  • Simpson J, The Routledge Handbook of Applied Linguistics (Taylor & Francis US, 2011)

  • Cooke M, Simpson J, ESOL: A Critical Guide, Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Journal articles

  • Simpson J, ‘Identity alignment on an ESOL class blog’, International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 23.2 (2013), 183-201
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1473-4192.2012.00325.x, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/83598/

  • Simpson J, Whiteside A, ‘Politics, policy and practice: ESOL in the UK and the USA’, King’s College London Working Papers in Urban Language & Literacies, 87 (2012), 1-22

  • Simpson J, ‘Telling Tales: Discursive space and narratives in ESOL classrooms’, Linguistics and Education, 22.1 (2011), 10-22
    DOI: 10.1016/j.linged.2010.11.005

  • Baynham M, Simpson J, ‘Onwards and Upwards: Space, Placement, and Liminality in Adult ESOL Classes’, TESOL QUARTERLY, 44.3 (2010), 420-440
    DOI: 10.5054/tq.2010.226852

  • Baynham MJ, Simpson J, ‘Onwards and Upwards: space, placement and liminality in adult ESOL classes’, TESOL Quarterly, ed. by Roberts C and Burns A, 44.3 (2010), 420-440
    DOI: 10.5054/tq.2010.226852

  • Simpson J, Cooke M, ‘Movement and loss: progression in tertiary education for migrant students’, Language and Education, 24.1 (2010), 57-73
    DOI: 10.1080/09500780903194051

  • Woulds S, Simpson J, ‘Dead on the page no more! The case for authentic, locally appropriate ESOL materials’, Language Issues, 21.1 (2010), 4-20

  • Simpson J, ‘A Critical Stance in Language Education: A Reply to Alan Waters’, Applied Linguistics, 30.3 (2009), 428-434
    DOI: 10.1093/applin/amp030

  • Cooke M, Simpson J, ‘Challenging agendas in ESOL: Skills, employability and social cohesion’, Language Issues, 20.1 (2009), 19-30

  • Simpson J, White G, ‘Teaching and learning listening in ESOL classes: “The rock we build the house on’, Language Issues, 19.2 (2008), 4-19

  • Roberts C, Baynham M, Cooke M, Simpson J, ‘Adult ESOL in the UK: Policy and research’, Prospect, 22.3 (2007), 18-31

  • Simpson J, ‘Differing expectations in the assessment of the speaking skills of ESOL learners’, Linguistics and Education, 17.1 (2006), 40-55
    DOI: 10.1016/j.linged.2006.08.007

  • Simpson J, ‘Learning electronic literacy skills in an online language learning community’, Computer Assisted Language Learning, 18.4 (2005), 327-345
    DOI: 10.1080/09588220500335463

  • Simpson J, ‘Conversational floors in synchronous text-based CMC discourse’, DISCOURSE STUD, 7.3 (2005), 337-361
    DOI: 10.1177/1461445605052190


  • Simpson J, ‘English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL): Language education and migration’, in The Routledge Handbook of English Language Teaching, ed. by Hall G, Routledge Handbooks in Applied Linguistics (Routledge, 2016)
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/87088/

  • Simpson J, Whiteside A, ‘Adult language education and migration: Challenging agendas in policy and practice’ ([n.pub.], 2015), 1-272
    DOI: 10.4324/9781315718361, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/84784/

  • Simpson J, ‘English language learning for adult migrants in superdiverse Britain’, in Adult Language Education and Migration: Challenging Agendas in Policy and Practice ([n.pub.], 2015), 200-213

  • Simpson J, Walker A, ‘New technologies for English language learning and teaching’, in The Routledge Companion to English Studies, ed. by Leung C and Street BV (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2014), 477-489
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/102602/

  • Simpson J, Gresswell R, ‘ESOL learners online: New media as a site of identity negotiation’, in More Powerful Literacies, ed. by Crowther J, Hamilton M and Tett L (Natl Inst of Adult Continuing, 2012), 193-208

  • Cooke M, Simpson J, ‘Discourses about linguistic diversity’, in The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism, ed. by Martin-Jones M, Blackledge A and Creese A, Routledge Handbooks in Applied Linguistics (London: Routledge, 2012), 116-130

Media Contact Areas

The teaching and learning of English for adult migrants to the UK (English for Speakers of Other Languages - ESOL)

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