Dr Julia Snell

Dr Julia Snell

Associate Professor in English Language


Summary: Language variation; social class; ethnography; spoken discourse analysis; regional/social dialectology; language attitudes and ideologies; classroom discourse; teacher professional development

Location: 5.2.04

Teaching Commitments: Language In Society; English: Context, Culture, Style; Children, Talk and Learning; Language, Style and Attitudes; English Language dissertation

I joined the School of English in February 2014 after three years as a Lecturer at King’s College London (2011-2014) and just over two years as a Research Officer at the Institute of Education, University of London (2008-2011). In 2011, I also spent one semester as Guest Professor in the Department of English Studies, University of Ghent. I maintain contact with the Centre for Language, Discourse and Communication at King’s College London, where I teach on the annual summer school in ‘Key Concepts and Methods in Ethnography, Language and Communication’.

Research Interests

My research is interdisciplinary, integrating approaches from linguistics, anthropology, sociology and education in order to investigate the ways in which children’s language and communicative practices shape (and are shaped by) their social and intellectual lives. My research to day has covered two related areas: (1) children’s language variation; and (2) dialogic pedagogy (that is, pedagogy that uses the power of talk to shape and enhance children’s thinking and learning).

My research on language variation has focused on the influence of social class, investigating how children from different social backgrounds use the resources of their local dialect, in addition to ‘standard’ spoken English, to construct their identities, negotiate social hierarchies and manage their relationships with each other and with their teachers (e.g. Snell 2010, 2014, 2017). This research has been used to challenge the negative and uniformed views on working-class children’s language that sometimes appear in media and public discourse, and in educational policy documents (e.g. Snell 2013, 2015).

My work on dialogic pedagogy (with Adam Lefstein) has sought to promote the use of dialogic teaching practices to engage active pupil participation in academically challenging classroom discourse (e.g. Lefstein & Snell 2011c, 2014). This research has investigated the factors that may impact dialogic practices, such as importing popular culture into the classroom (Lefstein & Snell 2011a), pressure from high-stakes standardised testing (Segal, Snell & Lefstein 2017), and teachers’ views on pupil ability (Snell & Lefstein 2018).

Drawing upon our research on dialogic pedagogy, Adam Lefstein and I have developed an  innovative, linguistic ethnographically informed approach to teacher learning from video-recorded lessons. We elaborate on this approach in our book, Better than Best Practice: Developing Teaching and Learning through Dialogue, which is aimed at teachers and teacher educators, as well as educational researchers. Please visit our website  for more information about the book and related work.

Both strands of my research reflect my interest in ethnography, and in developing innovative research methodologies (in particular finding ways to combine quantitative with qualitative methods). 

Postgraduate Supervision

I would be keen to hear from prospective PhD students working in any of my mains areas of research interest. I also welcome PhD applicants who wish to undertake interdisciplinary work in language and linguistics. 


You can find further details and links to pre-print drafts of several of my papers on my personal webpage and my academia.edu and researchgate profiles. Please get in touch if you’re struggling to get hold of any of the following chapters or articles.


Snell, J., F. Copland, & S. Shaw (eds.) (2015). Linguistic Ethnography: Interdisciplinary Explorations. London: Palgrave.

Lefstein, A. & J. Snell (2014). Better than Best Practice: Developing Teaching and Learning through Dialogue. London: Routledge.

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

Snell, J. & A. Lefstein. (2018). “Low Ability”, participation and identity in dialogic pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal. 55(1): 40-78.

Segal, A., J. Snell and A. Lefstein (2017). Dialogic teaching to the high-stakes standardised test? Research Papers in Education. 32(5): 596-610.

Snell, J. and R. Andrews (2016). To what extent does a regional dialect and accent impact on the development of reading and writing skills? Cambridge Journal of Education.

Lefstein, A., J. Snell and M. Israeli. (2015). From Moves to Sequences: Expanding the Unit of Analysis in the Study of Classroom Discourse. British Educational Research Journal.

Snell, J. (2013). Dialect, interaction and class positioning at school: From deficit to difference to repertoire. Language and Education 27(2): 110-128.

Lefstein, A. & J. Snell (2013). Beyond a unitary conception of pedagogic pace: Quantitative measurement and ethnographic experience. British Educational Research Journal. 39(1): 73–106.

Snell, J. (2011). Interrogating video-data: Systematic quantitative analysis versus micro-ethnographic analysis. Journal of Social Research Methodology 14(3): 253–258.

Lefstein, A. & J. Snell (2011a). Promises and problems of teaching with popular culture: A linguistic ethnographic analysis of discourse genre mixing. Reading Research Quarterly 46(1): 40-69.

Lefstein, A. & J. Snell (2011b). Professional vision and the politics of teacher learning. Teaching and Teacher Education 27: 505-514.

Snell, J. (2010). From sociolinguistic variation to socially strategic stylisation. Journal of Sociolinguistics 14(5): 618-644.

Snell, J. (2006). Schema theory and the humour of Little Britain. English Today 22(1): 59-64.

Book Chapters

Snell, J. (fc in 2018). Social Class. In Karin Tusting (ed.).The Routledge Handbook of Linguistic Ethnography. London: Routledge.

Snell, J. (2017). Enregisterment, indexicality and the social meaning of ‘howay’: dialect and identity in north-east England. In Emma Moore and Chris Montgomery (Eds). Language and a Sense of Place. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Snell, J. (2015). Linguistic ethnographic perspectives on working-class children’s speech: challenging discourses of deficit. In J. Snell, J., F. Copland, & S. Shaw (eds). Linguistic Ethnography: Interdisciplinary Explorations. London: Palgrave.

Snell, J. (2014). Social Class and Language. In J. Verschueren, J. Östman, J. Blommaert & C. Bulcaen. Handbook of Pragmatics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Snell, J. & A. Lefstein (2015). Moving from ‘interesting data’ to ‘publishable research article’ – some interpretative and representational dilemmas. In P. Smeyers, D. Bridges, N. Burbules & M. Griffiths. (eds.). International Handbook of Interpretation in Educational Research Methods. Springer.

Lefstein, A. & J. Snell (2011c). Classroom discourse: The promise and complexity of dialogic practice. In S. Ellis, E. McCartney, & J. Bourne (eds). Insight and Impact: Applied Linguistics and the Primary School. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 165-185.

Moore, E. & Snell, J. (2011). ‘Oh, they’re top, them’: Right dislocated tags & interactional stance. Studies in Language Variation, Proceedings from ICLaVE 5. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 97-110.

Snell, J. (2010). ‘Yeah but no but yeah’: A linguistic perspective on the humour of Little Britain. In S. Lockyer (ed). Reading Little Britain. London: I.B. Tauris, 53-71.


I currently teach on the second-year undergraduate core module ‘Language in Society’ and the first-year core module ‘English: Context, Culture, Style’. My option modules are ‘Children, Talk and Learning’ and ‘Language, Style and Attitudes’.