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Curriculum, Teaching  & Learning
Alister Cumming

Alister Cumming
Professor Emeritus

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Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

Centre for Educational Research on Languages and Literacies

Research Overview

Since July 1, 2016 I am Professor Emeritus, continuing with some professional and research responsibilities but having retired as a Professor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning where I was formerly (from 1993 to 2013) the Head of the Centre for Educational Research on Languages and Literacies (CERLL, which was formerly the Modern Language Centre).

My research, teaching, and publications have focused on the learning, teaching, and assessment of writing in English as a second/foreign language, the evaluation of programs and curricula for second language education and immigrant settlement, and the development of assessment instruments and procedures in academic, professional and settlement contexts.

Curriculum Vitae

Academic History

Ph.D., H.C. University of Copenhagen, English, Germanic and Romance Studies, 2009
Ph.D. University of Toronto, Education, 1988
M.A. University of British Columbia, English, 1979
B.A. University of British Columbia, English, 1975

Teaching Overview

The courses I usually taught at the University of Toronto are CTL 3013 Second-Language Assessment, CTL 3020 Writing in a Second Language, CTL 3003 Planning and Organizing the Second-Language Curriculum, CTL 3807 Research Methods in Second-Language Education, and CTL 3001 Research Colloquium in Second-Language Education.

From 2014 to 2017 I was a Changjiang Scholar in the National Research Centre for Foreign Language Education at Beijing Foreign Studies University, China, where I taught, consulted, and conducted a research project on writing development in English among undergraduate and graduate students at a consortium of universities in China. In May 2016, I was a visiting TÜBİTAK scholar at Yeditepe University, Istanbul. In March 2013 I was the Lansdowne Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Victoria.

Representative Publications


Riazi, M., Shi, L., & Barkaoui, K. (Eds.) (2020).  Studies and essays on learning, teaching and assessing L2 writing in honour of Alister Cumming.  Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Qian, D. & Cumming, A. (Eds.) (2017). Special issue of Language Assessment Quarterly, 14 (2), 97-188. High-stakes English language testing in China.

Ortega, L., Cumming, A. & Ellis, N. (Eds.) (2013). Agendas for language learning research. Supplement 1 to Language Learning 63. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Cumming, A. (Ed.) (2012). Adolescent literacies in a multicultural context.  New York: Routledge.

Leki, I., Cumming, A., & Silva, T. (2008). A synthesis of research on second language writing in English.  New York: Routledge.

Cumming, A. & Laurier, M. (Eds.). (2007). Language assessment, special issue of the Canadian Modern Language Review, 64, 1.

Cumming, A. (Ed.). (2006). Goals for academic writing: ESL students and their instructors. Amsterdam:  John Benjamins.

Cumming, A., Kantor, R., Baba, K., Eouanzoui, K., Erdosy, U., & James, M. (2006). Analysis of discourse features and verification of scoring levels for independent and integrated prototype tasks for the new TOEFL. TOEFL Monograph Series, Report No. 30. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.


Research Grants and Contracts

I held three standard grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Most recently, from 2006 to 2010, I and colleagues investigated the development of literacy among adolescents at an after-school tutoring program in downtown Toronto. The project, Adolescent Literacy in Three Urban Regions, involved collaborations in Toronto with Pathways to Education Canada, in Amsterdam with colleagues at the University of Amsterdam, and in Geneva with colleagues at the University of Geneva and the Educational Research Services of the Canton of Geneva.

My project funded by a Changjiang Scholarship at Beijing Foreign Studies University analyzed how English majors at 8 universities in Chinese developed abilities over one year to write from sources in English for their course papers at the Bachelor's and Masters' levels. Data included detailed questionnaires, integrated writing assessments, and samples of students' course papers collected over two years.

Honours and Awards

I received: a Changjiang Scholarship from the Chinese Ministry of Education for 2014 to 2017 to spend summers at Beijing Foreign Studies University to teach and to coordinate research on English writing development at the undergraduate and graduate levels with a consortium of universities throughout China; a TÜBİTAK scholarship for a lecture series at Yeditepe University in Istanbul in May 2016; an honorary doctorate from the University of Copenhagen in 2009; a Japan Science Foundation Research Fellowship at Nagoya University in 2006; a University of Auckland Visiting Research Fellowship in 1999; and the R.B. Jackson Award from the Canadian Educational Researchers' Association for the best article appearing in the Canadian Journal of Education – for Cumming, Mackay & Sakyi (1994).

Professional Activities

Some of the roles I have recently had with professional associations, in addition to serving on the Boards of a dozen scholarly or professional journals, include:

Executive Director, Language Learning; A Journal of Research in Language Studies, University of Michigan, Wiley-Blackwell Publishers (2006 to 2015), and Associate Executive Director in 2016 and 2017

Annual Selection Panel, Humanities and Social Sciences, PhD and Postdoctoral Fellowship Schemes, Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (Chair of Panel from 2016 to 2022; Member of the Panel 2011 to 2015)

Chair of the TOEFL Committee of Examiners and member of its Research Sub-committee and of the TOEFL Board, Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ (2006 to 2011)

Subject specialist, Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation and Vocational Qualifications (2001 to 2021)