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Language, literacy and learning

This module is for people interested in exploring English language, literacy learning and teaching in today’s world with its increasing linguistic and cultural diversity and rapid technological development. The module uses key current ideas and debates, together with audio-visual examples of practice from different language contexts, to explore new and more effective ways of helping students to learn language/English, to learn through language/English and to learn about language/English. It is designed for people teaching English, either as a first, additional or foreign language, for those teaching through English and also for those who are more generally interested in the role of language in education. 

Vocational relevance

While designed to appeal to a broad range of educationalists interested or involved in the role of language and literacy, the module will be of particular interest to anyone teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), English as an additional language (EAL), English as a foreign language (EFL) or any other aspect of English language teaching (ELT). If you are involved in English language education, a postgraduate degree in applied linguistics and language education is an excellent qualification for enhancing your career potential.


EE818 is a compulsory module in our:

EE818 is an optional module in our:


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

This module will provide you with the understanding and opportunities to investigate a wide range of English teaching/learning contexts from across the world.

It will enable you to:

  • gain an understanding of the complex relationship between English language, literacy and learning by becoming familiar with key theoretical debates within this field
  • examine the changing nature of language and literacy and written, spoken, multimodal and digital resources for learning
  • learn about key issues in relation to English language and learning: access and participation, identity and engagement, multilingualism and globalisation, power and diversity
  • acquire skills to analyse English language and learning contexts of relevance to you, drawing particularly on functional linguistic, sociocultural and ethnographic perspectives
  • evaluate research methodologies for carrying out a supported investigation in an area of interest
  • use the theoretical and analytical skills developed during the module to examine how learning contexts can be critiqued and transformed.

All the materials are online, apart from the set book. The module is structured in four parts. In each part of the module the online Study Guide will take you through a series of interactive activities using video examples of formal and informal learning from different cultural contexts, audio interviews with researchers, journal articles, podcasts, web research and the set book to guide and support your learning. The module includes 20 hours of online tuition and you will have regular opportunities to take part in your tutor group forum and to participate in other online teaching events.

You will learn

By studying this module you will develop:

  • knowledge and understanding of key concepts, themes and debates in applied linguistics and their application to practice in a range of contexts
  • cognitive skills in defining, utilising and critically analysing current themes, concepts and issues in applied linguistics.
  • key skills in critically and independently reflecting on your own practice, using concepts and theories learned on the module, and producing written texts in an appropriate academic genre
  • practical and professional skills in working independently and collaboratively in a range of modes to address tasks, problems and design solutions.


Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. You and your tutor will primarily communicate with each other through email and tutorials. Tutorials are offered via online meeting rooms and support is also facilitated asynchronously in tutor group forums.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Future availability

Language, literacy and learning starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2021. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2023.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    We’ve designed this Stage 2 module to follow the Stage 1 module Applied linguistics and English language (EE817). You must have passed this or another Stage 1 module from the Masters in Education (F70).

    You should be prepared for study at postgraduate level and have the minimum of a bachelors degree (in any subject) from a UK University or an equivalent professional qualification. We warmly welcome applications from students who have an undergraduate degree level qualification from universities outside the UK and which is deemed equivalent to a UK higher education degree.

    You will be encouraged to relate the content of the modules to your own experiences therefore you will need access to a teaching/learning context of some kind. You may teach at primary, secondary or tertiary level; you may teach English to speakers of other languages; perhaps you are a parent or childcarer; or are involved in mentoring or training at work. All of these could provide suitable settings to apply your learning.

    You need to be able to spend approximately 12-15 hours per week on studying for this module.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    We’ve developed some optional activities to help you prepare for Language, literacy and learning (EE818), depending on your previous learning. 

    If you have come to study this module through credit transfer or from another MA Education pathway, the following activities will be useful to complete before starting the module.

    If you studied Applied linguistics and English language (EE817), then you may wish to skim Activities 1 and 2 as a refresher, or you may wish to move straight to Activity 3.

    Activity 1
    Succeeding in Postgraduate Study – If you're brand new to masters study, then this free Badged Open Course will get you started on study skills, time management and more.

    Activity 2
    Language in the Real World – This free OpenLearn course explains and illustrates why knowledge about how language works (i.e. ‘linguistics’) is helpful – some might say essential – for different aspects of our everyday lives. 

    Optional reading list

    If you haven't studied Applied linguistics and English language (EE817) the recommended reading below is provided to whet your appetite and is purely optional.

    • North, S. English (2015) A Linguistic Toolkit, Milton Keynes, The Open University. (If you’ve studied our undergraduate module U214, you’ll already have this book)
    • Burns, A., Davies, W., Dörnyei, Z., Durrant, P., House, J., Hudson, R., Hunston, S., Kirkpatrick, A., Knight, D., and Richards, J.C. (2009) What is Applied Linguistics? Cambridge University Press Reading Room. View What is Applied Linguistics 
    • Introduction section of: Simpson, J. (2011) The Routledge Handbook of Applied Linguistics, Abingdon, Routledge.
    • Cook, G. (2009) ‘The “Design Features” of Language’, Milton Keynes, The Open University. pp. 276–284, 287–288 from: Pinker, S. (1994) The Language Instinct: The new science of language and mind, London, Penguin Books.
    • Steven Pinker on Language Pragmatics (2016) Floating University video, added by Big Think [Online]. Available at (Accessed 8 June 2016).
    • Hymes, D. (1971 [1972]) ‘On communicative Competence’, in Pride, J.B. and J. Holmes (eds.) Sociolinguistics: Selected Readings, Harmondsworth, Penguin, pp. 269–93.

    Activity 3
    Understanding Language and Learning – This free OpenLearn course explores how the relationship between language and learning is approached in three ways: learning a language, learning about language and learning through language.

    Optional reading list

    If you’ve already completed Applied linguistics and English language (EE817) the following readings provide a good introduction to the core theory of the module.

    • Zuengler, J. & Miller, E.R. (2006). Cognitive and sociocultural perspectives: Two parallel SLA worlds? Tesol quarterly 40 (1), 35-58, 2006
    • Halliday, M.A.K. (2004) ‘Three aspects of children’s language development: learning language, learning through language, learning about language’, in Webster, J. (ed.) Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday, Vol. 4, The Language of Early Childhood, London, Continuum.
    • Hall, Joan Kelly. Teaching and Researching : Language and Culture, Routledge, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central,

    If you have access to the OU Library, you can view Teaching and Researching online, or you may like to buy a hard copy.


    Start End England fee Register
    02 Oct 2021 Oct 2022 -

    Registration now closed

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2023.

    Future availability

    Language, literacy and learning starts once a year – in October.

    This page describes the module that will start in October 2021. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2023.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    Ways to pay for this module

    We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

    That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

    Study materials

    What's included

    With the exception of the set book, which must be purchased, all study materials are provided on the module website. This includes the module study guide and activities, audio/video material and a range of tools to support your study, including real-time conferencing and online forums.

    There is the option for students to download and install a corpus linguistic programme (AntConc), but this is not a requirement to pass the module. This is supplied by a third-party website and will not be supported by the OU.

    Computing requirements

    You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

    It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    Materials to buy

    Set books

    • Hall, J.K. Teaching and Researching: Language and Culture (2nd edn) Routledge £32.99 - ISBN 9781408205068 Print on demand - allow 3 weeks for receipt following order

    If you have a disability

    Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader (and where applicable: musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future. 

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.