My main research expertise is in writing, and in researching this area I draw on almost two decades of experience in teaching English language, English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and teacher training. I research student writing through a descriptive, non-deficit approach rather than the more usual deficit stance often adopted, and thus foreground the alternative linguistic and visual means frequently used by L2 English students in producing successful university assignments. I use the methodology of corpus linguistics supported by teacher and student interviews and questionnaires, and classroom observations.
My work on academic writing took, as its point of departure, issues arising from my PhD thesis (A corpus-driven study of features of Chinese students' undergraduate writing in UK universities) and includes a monograph, book chapters and journal articles on student writing at undergraduate and Masters level in the UK (see publications list).
I have recently expanded this interest in academic writing to consider writing produced by professional social workers. I am Co-Investigator on the ESRC-funded Writing in professional social work practice in a changing communicative landscape (WiSP) project with Theresa Lillis (PI) and Alison Twiner. This work has been designed to provide a detailed description and analysis of the texts and writing practices in professional social work, to develop an innovative way of researching the ‘written record’ in institutions, using different methodologies (ethnography, corpus linguistic and process approaches), and to involve stakeholders (social workers, social work agencies, service users, inspection bodies etc) to ensure that research findings will have an impact on education, training and policy initiatives.
Project Title: Writing in professional social work practice in a changing communicative landscape (WiSP).http://www.writinginsocialwork.com/
Funder: ESRC (ES/MOO803/1).
Grant awarded: £270,000
Collaborators: Theresa Lillis (PI) and Alison Twiner (researcher)
This work is designed to provide a detailed description and analysis of the texts and writing practices in professional social work, to develop an innovative way of researching the ‘written record’ in institutions, using different methodologies (ethnography, corpus linguistic and process approaches), and to involve stakeholders (social workers, social work agencies, service users, inspection bodies etc) to ensure that research findings will have an impact on education, training and policy initiatives.
Project Title: How can employability be integrated into assessment on E304?
Funder: Open University New Models of Assessment and Tuition Project
Grant awarded: £1,990
Collaborators: Ann Hewings and Kristina Hultgren
This study surveyed student views on aspects of employability, and fed into the production of the module E304, Exploring English grammar. Findings from this study plus an ongoing, follow-up study in 2017 will help English Language students to understand and articulate how their study has equipped them with relevant, up-to-date skills and knowledge.
Report: Leedham, M., Hewings, A. and Hultgren, K. 2014. ‘How can employability be integrated into assessment on E304?’ (OU internal report).
Project Title: Exploratory interview investigation of students’ experience of online study on E852 Language, literacy and learning in the contemporary world
Funder: OU Scholarship Fund
Grant awarded: £650
Collaborators: Janet Maybin and Frank Monaghan
This study investigated postgraduate students’ views towards the move to online-only teaching on the OU MA in Education. A representative sample of 13 students were interviewed in-depth about their initial and changing use of print and online materials.
Report: Leedham, M., Maybin, J. and Monaghan, F. 2013, ‘Exploratory interview investigation of students’ experience of online study on E852 Language, literacy and learning in the contemporary world’. (OU internal report).
From 2019 I would welcome applications from potential doctoral students in the areas of student writing, English for academic purposes, academic writing across different disciplines, Chinese students’ writing or social work writing.
I currently supervise two doctoral students:
Jenny McMullan: Gender in a Study of Academic Writing? An Exploration into the Writing Practices and Experiences of Sixteen Women Enrolled in Research Courses in a UK University
Dana Therova: Linguistic complexity in international foundation students' assessed writing at a UK university
Previous doctoral students
Subhi Ashour: Understanding Teachers' Engagement in Inquiry-Based Professional Development (PhD, 2016)
Mat Terrett: Investigating how academic literacies practices and values have evolved on a foundation year EAP programme in China (EdD, 2015)
David Hann: Playful language in a mixed business class of English language learners (PhD, 2014)
I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
My teaching is research-led and builds on my background as a teaching practitioner. My current teaching includes systemic functional linguistics, corpus linguistics, sociocultural theory and applications of language analysis.
I coordinate the Applied Linguistics pathway of our new MA Education degree (http://www.open.ac.uk/postgraduate/qualifications/f70) and advised on assessment during the production phase of all three MA modules: EE817 Applied linguistics and English language, EE818 Language, literacy and learning and EE819 MA Ed dissertation: applied linguistics. Drawing on my research expertise, I reworked sections of the dissertation module to make it more applicable to an Applied Linguistics student body.
I am Chair of the Level 3 undergraduate module, E304, Exploring English grammar and was responsible for chairing the writing and development of this module through production and into presentation. E304 is distinctive in that it teaches systemic functional grammar in combination with corpus linguistics as a means of investigating the effectiveness of written texts. Under my academic leadership, the module has made extensive use of interactive, AV-led material which illustrates to students how language analysis can be applied to current areas of employment such as subtitling, call centres, journalism, teaching, publishing and speech and language therapy.
I also chair a module on the MA Education (Applied Linguistics) - E852 Language, learning and literacy in the contemporary world (in final presentation). This module is innovative in its development of the sociocultural linguistic approach to language teaching and learning and is a component part of our Applied Linguistics pathway in the F01 qualification.
Previously, I taught and coordinated the PACE programme (Professional Academic Communication in English) - an OU course for postgraduate students - and also taught on the OU's Doctoral Training Programme. I have acted an internal examiner on the MRes, EdD and PhD programmes.
The Writing in professional social work practice in a changing communicative landscape (WiSP) project will inform policies and guidelines on recording and assist with the development of training materials for writing and recording. Potential beneficiaries include professional social workers, social work agencies, inspection bodies, local authority trainers and service users. The project team are working with an Advisory Panel comprising members of these groups and are currently designing materials for dissemination and training.
My engagement with OU students and the wider public includes an interview for Student Hub Live in which I discussed current and past research, an interview for OpenMinds magazine on globalisation and the English language, and an Open Learn article on using corpus linguistics to investigate pronoun use in writing.
I am an Academic Reviewer for the Arab OU's English Language modules (licensed from the OU UK); my role is to ensure quality of teaching and to advise on the recruitment of new academics.
My expertise in Applied Linguistics has resulted in invitations to examine PhDs in the UK and in Spain. From 2012-2016 I was External Examiner for Brighton University's Graduate Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I am a member of the British Association of Applied Linguists (BAAL) and from 2013-2015 was a member of the Executive Committee and responsible for the Applying Linguistics Fund.
I have a strong reviewing record across a number of journals, such as Applied Linguistics, Journal of English for Academic Purposes and System and East Asian Learner Journal (Reviews Editor and Editorial Board member, 1997-2012).