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Recent Research Trends in ELT: A Look at TESOL Quarterly

This blog is part of the TESOL Research Professional Council (RPC) Blog series.

Part of the work of the TESOL Research Professional Council (RPC) is to identify research trends in teaching English as an additional language. Published research is one area where these trends can be identified, with a review of recently published full-length articles and brief research reports in TESOL Quarterly pointing to topics, contexts, and locations that have been in focus over the past few years. Since the start of 2018, 157 full-length articles and brief research reports have been published in the regular issues of TESOL Quarterly or as online versions of record (i.e., early view). Each of these articles and reports was coded for this blog post, with similar codes gathered together to uncover common trends.


Common topics in TESOL Quarterly over the past 3 years have been related to the areas of

  • writing,
  • vocabulary,
  • content and language integrated learning,
  • speaking, and
  • translanguaging

In particular, content and language integrated learning, or English-medium instruction, and translanguaging appear to be emerging trends. Representative findings related to those two topics include Kim et al.’s (2021) study that found scaffolding supports content and language learning, and Goodman and Tastanbek’s (2021) study that concluded teacher educators can benefit from specific instruction on translanguaging pedagogy.


In relation to educational contexts, most of the reviewed research in TESOL Quarterly since 2018 has taken place, respectively, in

  • postsecondary institutions,
  • K–12 schools, and
  • teacher education or development programs.

A few examples include how flipped classrooms can result in higher scores, increased enjoyment, and greater engagement in a university context (Lee & Wallace, 2018). In K–12 settings, Blair et al. (2018) identified English-medium instruction in an elementary school as having the potential to promote asset-based understandings of students.

Geographic Locations

There were about 30 countries represented in recently published articles and reports in TESOL Quarterly; the top five locations included

  • the United States,
  • China,
  • Japan,
  • South Korea, and
  • the United Kingdom.

A couple of examples representative of these locations include a study in the United States which found that nonverbal communication plays a role in conveying meaning in English as a lingua franca settings (Matsumoto, 2018), and a study at a Japanese university which determined that video-based interactions may support the development of listening skills (Saito & Akiyama, 2018).

As the field of TESOL looks toward the future, it is important to examine trends and identify where more research and scholarship needs to be done, what issues and groups remain underrepresented, and which priorities can inform future research endeavor. In upcoming blog posts, the RPC plans on looking at trends in other journals, such as TESOL Journal and various TESOL affiliate journals from around the world.


Blair, A., Haneda, M., & Nebus Bose, F. (2018). Reimagining English-medium instructional settings as sites of multilingual and multimodal meaning making. TESOL Quarterly, 52(3), 516–539.

Goodman, B., & Tastanbek, S. (2021). Making the shift from a codeswitching to a translanguaging lens in English language teacher education. TESOL Quarterly, 55(1), 29–53.

Kim, E. G., Park, S., & Baldwin, M. (2021). Toward successful implementation of introductory integrated content and language classes for EFL science and engineering students. TESOL Quarterly, 55(1), 219–247.

Lee, G., & Wallace, A. (2018). Flipped learning in the English as a foreign language classroom: Outcomes and perceptions. TESOL Quarterly, 52(1), 62–84.

Matsumoto, Y. (2018). “Because we are peers, we actually understand”: Third-party participant assistance in English as a lingua franca classroom interactions. TESOL Quarterly, 52(4), 845–876.

Saito, K., & Akiyama, Y. (2018). Effects of video-based interaction on the development of second language listening comprehension ability: A longitudinal study. TESOL Quarterly, 52(1), 163–176.

About the author

Scott Douglas

Scott Roy Douglas, PhD, is an associate professor in the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan School of Education. His focus is on English as an additional language teaching and learning. Recent research projects have explored topics such as short-term study abroad, undergraduate English for academic purposes, and communicative competence in the workplace. He is also an active member of his local TESOL affiliate as the editor of the BC TEAL Journal.

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