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Dr. Breffni O'Rourke

Associate Professor Applied Linguistics (C.L.C.S.)

Breffni O'Rourke is Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics and Manager of Language Learning Technologies and Resources. He is vice-president of UniCollaboration, the cross-disciplinary organisation for telecollaboration and virtual exchange in higher education and a former committee member of the Irish Association for Applied Linguistics (IRAAL). Dr O'Rourke's research focuses on the use of online technologies for language and intercultural learning, including eTandem and blended models. In particular, he investigates peer interaction in online language learning contexts, using innovative discourse analysis and eye-tracking methodologies. Other current preoccupations include the construct of discussion engagement; student tools and practices around vocabulary collection and learning; and the use of eye-trackers to investigate communicative alignment between online chat partners. His publications include Synchronous communication technologies in language and intercultural learning and teaching in higher education, a special issue co-edited with Ursula Stickler (2017); New directions in telecollaborative research and practice: Selected papers from the second conference on telecollaboration in higher education, co-edited with Sake Jager and Malgorzata Kurek (, 2016); and Language Learner Autonomy: Policy, Curriculum, Classroom, co-edited with Lorna Carson (Peter Lang, 2016).

Dr O'Rourke teaches modules at undergraduate and postgraduate level on discourse analysis; technology, language, and communication; and pedagogical grammar. He holds a Ph.D. and M.Phil. from Trinity College Dublin, and an M.A. and B.A from NUI Galway.

  2ND LANGUAGE   Autonomy in Language Learning   classroom second language learning/acquisition   Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL)   Foreign language pedagogy   Foreign Languages Education   Language Acquisition (first & second)   Language Acquisition and Development   Language education   Language pedagogy   modality and language   online chat   Second language acquisition, socio-cultural and psychological aspects   SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNERS   synchronous computer-mediated communication   Technology and communication   Technology and language   WRITTEN LANGUAGE
Details Date
Editor-in-chief, Language Learning in Higher Education 2017-
Board Member / Publications Officer, UniCollaboration: the Association for Telecollaboration and Virtual Exchange in Higher Education 2016-
Co-chair, editorial board, Working Papers in Telecollaboration and Virtual Exchange (online pee-reviewed journal to be hosted in Trinity, under development) 2016-
Scientific committee member, Bellaterra Journal of Teaching & Learning Language & Literature 2014
Executive Committee, Irish Association for Applied Linguistics 2002-2005
Language Skill Reading Skill Writing Skill Speaking
English Fluent Fluent Fluent
French Fluent Fluent Fluent
German Fluent Fluent Fluent
Irish Basic Basic Basic
Spanish Medium Medium Medium
Details Date From Date To
UniCollaboration: Board Member / Publications Officer 2016
Irish Association for Applied Linguistics: Executive Committee 2002 2005
Irish Association of Applied Linguistics 1995
European Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning (EuroCALL) 2000
European Confederation of University Language Centres (CERCLES) 2000
The language of situated joint activity: Social virtual reality and language learning in virtual exchange in, editor(s)Senkbeil, K. and Ahlers, T. , Virtual Reality in den Geisteswissenschaften: Konzepte, Methoden und interkulturelle Anwendungen, Frankfurt, Peter Lang, 2024, [Martin, Gillian; O'Rourke, Breffni; Werner, Sina ], Book Chapter, ACCEPTED
Hult, Francis M.; O'Rourke, Breffni, Innovation and creativity in virtual spaces: CALL and the future of education - colloquium at AAAL 2023, 20 March 2023, In:Euocall 2022, 2023, Portland, Oregon, Meetings /Conferences Organised, PUBLISHED
Senkbeil, Karsten; Martin, Gillian; O'Rourke, Breffni, SpEakWise VR: Exploring the use of Social Virtual Reality in telecollaborative language learning, Euocall 2022, Reykjavik / online, 16-19 August 2022, 2022, Oral Presentation, PUBLISHED  URL
Language Learning and Technology: Special issue on New Developments in Virtual Exchange in Foreign Language Education, 23, 3, (2019), O'Dowd, Robert and Breffni O'Rourke, [eds.], Journal, PUBLISHED  URL
Michel, Marije, and O'Rourke, Breffni, What drives alignment during text chat with a peer vs. a tutor? Insights from cued interviews and eye-tracking, System, 83, 2019, p50 - 63, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
O'Dowd, Robert, and Breffni O'Rourke, New Developments in Virtual Exchange in Foreign Language Education, Language Learning and Technology, 23, (3), 2019, p1 - 7, Journal Article, PUBLISHED  Handle
O'Rourke, Breffni, Intercultural encounters as hospitality. An interview with Richard Kearney, Journal of Virtual Exchange, 1, 2018, p25 - 39, Journal Article, PUBLISHED  TARA - Full Text  DOI
Michel, Marije; O'Rourke, Breffni, What drives alignment in SCMC? Insights from eye-tracking and stimulated recall, Seventh International Conference on Task-Based Language Teaching, University of Barcelona, 19-21 April 2017, 2017, Conference Paper, PRESENTED
Language Learning in Higher Education: Special Issue on synchronous communication technologies in language and intercultural learning and teaching in higher education, 7, 1, (2017), 1-238p, O'Rourke, Breffni; Stickler, Ursula, [eds.], Journal, PUBLISHED  DOI
O'Rourke, Breffni; Stickler, Ursula, Synchronous communication technologies for language learning: Promise and challenges in research and pedagogy, Language Learning in Higher Education, 7, (2), 2017, p1 - 19, Journal Article, PUBLISHED  DOI

Page 1 of 5
Preface in, editor(s)Jager, Sake Kurek, Malgorzata O'Rourke, Breffni , New directions in telecollaborative research and practice: selected papers from the second conference on telecollaboration in higher education, Dublin,, 2016, ppxxv - xxviii, [O'Rourke, Breffni], Book Chapter, PUBLISHED
Breffni O'Rourke, Review of Language, learning, and teaching: Irish research perspectives, by F. Farr and M. Moriarty (eds.) , Language and Intercultural Communication, 2014, Review, PUBLISHED
Breffni O'Rourke, Becoming biliterate in English and Spanish, 16 March, 2013, Association of Spanish Parents in Ireland, Invited Talk, PUBLISHED
Breffni O'Rourke, Web 2.0 and the digitally pre-literate language classroom, WEB 2.0 AND LANGUAGE LEARNING: DEFINABLE BOUNDARIES?, University of Limerick, 1 June, 2012, School of Language, Literature, Culture and Communication, Invited Talk, PUBLISHED
O'Rourke, Breffni, Telecollaboration for foreign language learning: How and why?, International Conference on Human and Material Resources in Foreign Language Learning, Murcia, 14 July, 2006, Universidad Católica San Antonio, Invited Talk, PUBLISHED
O'Rourke, B., Review of Tandem learning on the internet: learner interactions in virtual online environments (MOOs), by M. Kötter , System, 33, (1), 2005, p187-189 , Review, PUBLISHED
O'Rourke, B., Review of Media - Multimedia - Omnimedia, by Hogan-Brun, G. and Jung, U. H. , System, 28, (4), 2000, Review, PUBLISHED
O'Rourke, B., Review of Language Teaching and Language Technologies, by Jager, S. et al. (eds.) , System, 27, 1998, p587-591 , Review, PUBLISHED


Award Date
European Language Label - winner for Speakwise project, with Gillian Martin and Helen O'Sullivan 2010
Provost's Teaching Award - nominee 2016-2017
Provost's Teaching Award - nominee 2012-2013

I work chiefly in the area of technologies for language learning and teaching. New technologies have transformed the everyday communicative landscape for users of most languages, and can be transformative of language pedagogy. But pedagogical practice lags innovations and social developments. Researchers in technology-enhanced language learning aim to help learners, teachers and curriculum designers to understand and systematically exploit the potential of new media and technologies.

My main interest is in the potential of online communication between language learners, particularly telecollaboration or virtual exchange, a burgeoning area of practice and research. My publications on online tandem learning and metalinguistic focus in online chat are widely cited. Current focuses of investigation include:

  • Learner/learner interaction in virtual exchange environments: attention to linguistic form; discussion engagement; communicative alignment. These phenomena are central to online language learning, but they also have consequences for our understanding of communication generally. I have pioneered the use of eye-tracking methods to explore them, alongside innovative discourse analysis techniques.
  • Tools and practices of vocabulary learning: This work is driven by two recent developments: in research, increasing recognition of vocabulary as a central component of language competence; and in technology, the rise of ubiquitous online and cloud computing. These developments inevitably have consequences for how learners learn, not least what they do beyond the classroom. My work in this area seeks to find out what tools and practices university students use to collect and learn vocabulary and to develop new technological tools to enhance language acquisition in this central aspect of learners' competence.