Dr Elizabeth Chilton

Dr Elizabeth Chilton

School of Education
Lecturer in Language, Literacies and Education

Contact details

School of Education
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

Elizabeth is a lecturer in the Department of Education and Social Justice in the School of Education. She is Programme Director for the MEd Bilingualism in Education and teaches on the MSc TESOL Education programme. Before joining the School of Education she worked as a research fellow on a number of projects in the Institute of Applied Social Studies at the University of Birmingham. These included the Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Mental Health, and as a member of the research team on the National Evaluation of the Children’s Fund. Prior to working at Birmingham she was a senior lecturer in post-compulsory education at the University of Wolverhampton.


  • PhD (Education) 
  • PG Certificate in Research in Education
  • MEd (Education)
  • PGCE (Further, Adult and Higher Education)
  • BA (Hons) American Studies


Elizabeth has spent much of her early career working in post-compulsory education. Her interest in language, literacy practices and sociolinguistics is rooted in her experience of teaching adult literacy in adult, community and further education (FE) settings, and her experience of managing learning support provision in two FE colleges. This interest has developed over time as a result of her involvement in higher education through teaching on the English/literacy post-compulsory teacher education programme at the University of Wolverhampton, her research in the Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Mental Health at the University of Birmingham, and her PhD research.

Her PhD is a critical linguistic ethnography of practitioners’ interpretations of family literacy programmes in the West Midlands. She uses a linguistic ethnographic analysis to show how practitioners’ narratives of learning and socialisation reproduce grand narratives of parenting and motherhood. She shows how this is a reflexive process with meta-narratives circulating and structuring the local interactions of practitioners. Whilst completing her PhD Elizabeth was awarded two scholarships:  a Universitas 21 PhD scholarship to visit the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia, Canada; and the Educational Review Research Degree Progress Scholarship.

Elizabeth is interested in the complex relationship that exists between language and social context, whether in schools, communities or institutional settings; a relationship that spans local and trans-local contexts. She is concerned with how social identities and relations are constructed through text, talk and other semiotic resources. She is particularly interested in how the social world is mediated through interaction with written and electronic texts.


Elizabeth teaches at post-graduate level.

Doctoral research


Research interests include:

  • Literacy practices – including home and school literacy practices; everyday and workplace literacies; multilingual literacy practices; digital literacy practices; academic literacies; literacy practices and accountability
  • Post-compulsory education – including adult literacy, family literacy and teacher education
  • Interrelationship between ideologies, social interactions and texts (print and electronic) in multilingual and monolingual contexts
  • Linguistic ethnography
  • ‘Small story’ narratives
  • Discourse analysis
  • Reflexive positioning of the researcher

Recent research

The changing language and literacy landscapes of Brazilian universities: English in policy development and in practice

Other activities

Elizabeth convenes the research seminar series for the MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism at the University of Birmingham.

She is a peer reviewer for US based journal, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, and is a member of the British Association for Applied Linguistics and the Linguistic Ethnography Forum.

Elizabeth has presented at a number of peer-reviewed international conferences. Also, she has been an invited speaker at the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Elizabeth received first prize for her poster presentation (Exploring the positionings of researcher and participants: moving between local and global understandings of interactional data) at the British Association for Applied Linguistics International Conference in 2010. Another of Elizabeth’s posters (with Maureen Smojkis)  - ‘Vicarious learning through digital stories: listening to the authentic voice of mental health service users’ – gained first prize at the Fourth International Blended Learning Conference in 2009.