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Complexity theory is becoming an established perspective in the field of ELT. To date, Complexity theory has been used to generate understandings of ELT, and has also served as a framework for empirical studies (most prominently studies of language learning and use in ELT situations). However, Complexity theory has not yet been used to directly inform actual ELT practice and it will remain of limited value to ELT practitioners unless it can generate practical insights deemed as useful by practitioners.

Through a combination of invited presentations and participant discussion, the Roundtable sought to identify how Complexity theory may enhance ELT practice. This included discussion of how Complexity theory may inform language classroom teaching, teacher development, innovation in curriculum, syllabus and materials design, and the inclusion of learners as fuller participants in language education.

An introduction to Complex Systems Theory, by Achilleas Kostoulas

& Resources
RBLA Special Issue on Complexity and Applied Linguistics

A collection of articles on how Complexity can inform ELT.

Complexity in ELT: What it is & what it isn't

Speakers included:

  • Professor Lynne Cameron (Open University)

  • Susan Dawson (University of Manchester and INTO Manchester)

  • Dr Achilleas Kostoulas (University of Manchester)

  • Dr Sarah Mercer (University of Graz, Austria)

  • Dr Juup Stelma (University of Manchester)

The Roundtable was sponsored by: 

Institute for Development Policy and Management

School of Environment, Education and Development

The University of Manchester


This website contains information about the Roundtable on Complexity Theory and English Language Teaching, which was held in Manchester University, on 15th April 2015. 

Abstracts of the talks as well as the slides used in the presentation can be found under the Presentations drop-down menu, and you can find out more about the presenters by reading their bionotes. We also plan to populate the site with resources about complexity in due course.

The Roundtable organisers would like to thank all the participants for coming to Manchester and for contributing to making the Roundtable event such a great experience! We look forward to carrying this conversation forward!


Should you wish to get in touch, we can be contacted through ComplexityandELT [at] gmail [dot] com.

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