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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 Head of the Centre for Language and Communication Studies (CLCS), in the School of Linguistic, Speech, and Communication Sciences. Professor 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 research interests include the construct of discussion engagement; the use of eye-trackers to investigate aspects of online communication, such as alignment between online chat partners; and the use of immersive social virtual reality for online language and intercultural learning. He has been vice-president of UNICollaboration, the cross-disciplinary organisation for telecollaboration and virtual exchange in higher education, and a committee member of the Irish Association for Applied Linguistics (IRAAL).

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

Publications and Further Research Outputs

Peer-Reviewed Publications

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, 2024

Breffni O'Rourke, Gillian Martin, Sina Werner, What does Social Virtual Reality have to offer in a language-focussed online exchange?, Exploring the Impact of Virtual Exchange on Teacher Education, León, Spain, 8-9 February 2024, 2024 Conference Paper, 2024 URL

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, 2023

Gillian Martin, Breffni O'Rourke, Sina Werner, "Du hast eine Hand verloren", - "Yeah that happened before": Investigating situated language in SVR, EUROCALL 2023, Reykjavik, 15-18 August 2023, 2023 Conference Paper, 2023 URL

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, 2022 URL

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, 2019 Handle

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, 2019 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, 2019

O'Rourke, Breffni, Intercultural encounters as hospitality. An interview with Richard Kearney, Journal of Virtual Exchange, 1, 2018, p25 - 39 Journal Article, 2018 DOI TARA - Full Text

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, 2017 DOI

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, 2017 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, 2017

O'Rourke, Breffni, Defining and exploring engagement in classroom discussion, IRAAL Annual Conference 2016: Paradigm shifting in applied linguistics: New theories and new methods, Dublin, 19 November 2016, 2016 Conference Paper, 2016

Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 10, 1, (2016), Lewis, Tim, O'Rourke, Breffni, Dooly, Melinda, [eds.] Journal, 2016 DOI

Lewis, Tim, O'Rourke, Breffni, Dooly, Melinda, Innovation in language learning and teaching - Online Intercultural Exchange, Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 10, (1), 2016, p1 - 5 Journal Article, 2016 DOI

O'Rourke, Breffni, New Directions in Telecollaborative Research and Practice: The Second Conference on Telecollaboration in University Education, 2016 Meetings /Conferences Organised, 2016 URL

New directions in telecollaborative research and practice: Introduction 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, pp1 - 15, [Jager, Sake; Kurek, Malgorzata; O'Rourke, Breffni] Book Chapter, 2016 URL

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 Book, 2016 DOI URL

Breffni O'Rourke, Helen O'Sullivan, Gillian Martin, A discourse-analytic framework for conversational engagement in online discussion tasks, part 2: level of analytic depth, Eurocall 2015, Padova, 26-29 August 2015, 2015 Conference Paper, 2015 URL

Breffni O'Rourke, Eye-tracking as evidence of individual and discourse processes in online communication, Eyetracking as a research method in online language education, Open University, Milton Keynes, 12-13 June, 2015, Open University, Cambridge University Press, British Association of Applied Linguistics Invited Talk, 2015

Eyetracking in CALL - present and future in, editor(s)Ana María Gimeno Sanz Mike Levy Françoise Blin David Barr , WorldCALL: Sustainability and Computer-Assisted Language Learning, London and New York, Bloomsbury, 2015, pp285 - 298, [Breffni O'Rourke, Lijing Shi, Bryan Smith, Ursula Stickler, Claire Prendergast] Book Chapter, 2015

Breffni O'Rourke, Synchronous technologies for language learning: promises and challenges in research and pedagogy, Language. Learning. Technology, Leuphana, University of Lueneburg, 20-21 November, 2015 Invited Talk, 2015 URL

O'Rourke, B, Martin, G.S., O'Sullivan, H, A discourse analytic framework for conversational engagement in online discussion tasks., EuroCALL, Groningen, 20-23 August 2014, 2014 Conference Paper, 2014 URL TARA - Full Text

Introducing Blended Learning into Tertiary Level German: An Activity Theoretical Analysis in, editor(s)John L. Plews and Barbara Schmenk , Traditions and Transitions: Curricula for German Studies, Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2013, pp315-332 , [G S Martin, H O'Sullivan, B O'Rourke] Book Chapter, 2013

Breffni O'Rourke and Claire Prendergast, Eye-tracking in SCMC for language learning, WorldCALL, Glasgow, 10-13 July 2013, 2013 Conference Paper, 2013

Using eye-tracking to investigate gaze behaviour in synchronous computer-mediated communication for language learning in, editor(s)M. Dooly and R. O'Dowd , Researching Online Interaction and Exchange in Foreign Language Education: Methods and Issues, Oxford, Peter Lang, 2012, pp305 - 341, [O'Rourke, B.] Book Chapter, 2012

'The Irish are too polite': Analysing stereotype and identity dynamics in student webchat in, editor(s)Arnd Witte and Theo Harden , Intercultural competence: Concepts, challenges, evaluations, Oxford, Peter lang, 2011, pp393 - 409, [O'Sullivan, Helen, Martin, Gillian, and O'Rourke, Breffni] Book Chapter, 2011

Breffni O'Rourke, Online synchronous discourse in tandem language learning: insights from an eye-tracker study, New Insights into the Study of Conversation. Applications to the Language Classroom, Granada, 26-28 May, 2010 Conference Paper, 2010

O'Rourke, Breffni and Lorna Carson, Language Learner Autonomy: Policy, Curriculum, Classroom, Oxford, Peter Lang, 2010, 1-413pp Book, 2010 URL

Language and learners, interdependence and autonomy in, editor(s)O'Rourke, Breffni and Lorna Carson , Language learner autonomy: Policy, curriculum, classroom, Oxford, Peter Lang, 2010, ppxix - xxv, [Carson, Lorna and Breffni O'Rourke] Book Chapter, 2010 URL

Salience or context in the processing of L1 and L2 multi-word units? in, editor(s)Wysocka, M. , On language structure, acquisition and teaching, Katowice, University of Silesia Press, 2009, pp293 - 304, [Cie licka, A, O'Rourke, B., Singleton, D.] Book Chapter, 2009

Breffni O'Rourke, The Other C in CMC: What Alternative Data Sources Can Tell Us About Text-Based Synchronous Computer Mediated Communication and Language Learning, Computer Assisted Language Learning, 21, (3), 2008, p227 - 251 Journal Article, 2008 URL URL DOI

The processing of multi-word units: Evidence from readers' eye movements in, editor(s)Myczko, K., Skowronek, B., Zabrocki, W. , Perspektywy glottodydaktyki i językoznawstwa. Tom jubileuszowy z okazji 70. urodzin Profesora Waldemara Pfeiffera, Poznań, Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, 2008, pp39 - 55, [Cieślicka A, O'Rourke B, Singleton D.] Book Chapter, 2008

Models of Telecollaboration (1): E-Tandem in, editor(s)Robert O'Dowd , Online Intercultural Exchange, Clevedon, Multilingual Matters, 2007, pp41 - 61, [Breffni O'Rourke] Book Chapter, 2007

Activation of literal and idiomatic meanings during on-line processing of L1 and L2 idioms in, editor(s)Arabski, J. , Challenging tasks for psycholinguistics in the new century, Katowice, Oficyna Wydawnicza Waclaw Walasek, University of Silesia, 2007, pp267 - 282, [Cieslicka, A., O'Rourke, B., Singleton, D.] Book Chapter, 2007

The problem of data in L2 computer mediated communication research in, editor(s)Koetter, Markus Traxel, Oliver Gabel, Stephan , Investigating and facilitating language learning, Trier, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 2006, pp131 - 144, [Breffni O'Rourke] Book Chapter, 2006

O'Rourke, Breffni, Form-focused interaction in online tandem learning, CALICO Journal, 22, (3), 2005, p433 - 466 Journal Article, 2005

The crystalline structure of knowledge: Education and the participation of the individual mind in culture in, editor(s)H. Rasche and C. Schönfeld , Denkbilder. Festschrift für Eoin Bourke, Tübingen, Königshausen & Neumann, 2004, pp395 - 406, [O'Rourke, B.] Book Chapter, 2004

Talking text: Reflections on reflection in computer-mediated communication in, editor(s)D. Little, J. Ridley and E. Ushioda , Learner autonomy in the foreign language classroom: teacher, learner, curriculum and assessment, Dublin, Authentik, 2003, pp47 - 60, [O'Rourke, B. and K. Schwienhorst] Book Chapter, 2003

Breffni O'Rourke, Metalinguistic knowledge in instructed second language acquisition: A theoretical model and its application in computer-mediated communicationi, University of Dublin, Trinity College, 2003 Thesis, 2003 TARA - Full Text

Learner databases and virtual worlds - Using computers to create collaborative learning environments in, editor(s)M. Ruane D. P. Ó Baoill , Integrating Theory and Practice in LSP and LAP, Dublin, ALC & IRAAL, 2000, pp123 - 132, [O'Rourke, B. and K. Schwienhorst] Book Chapter, 2000

Little, D., E. Ushioda, M. C. Appel, J. Moran, B. O'Rourke and K. Schwienhorst, Evaluating tandem language learning by e-mail: report on a bilateral project, Dublin, CLCS, Trinity College Dublin, 1999 Report, 1999

O'Rourke, B., A network-based tool for organizing second-language vocabulary, ED-MEDIA / ED-TELECOM, Freiburg, edited by T. Ottmann and I. Tomek , Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, 1998 Conference Paper, 1998

O'Rourke, B., Report on the design of a multimedia tool for self-access language learning, CERCLES, Dresden, edited by D. Little and B. Voss , CERCLES, 1997, pp163 - 175 Conference Paper, 1997

Non-Peer-Reviewed Publications

Breffni O'Rourke, Gillian Martin, Sina Werner, Situated Language in Social Virtual Reality for Virtual Exchange, Virtual Exchange for the Post-pandemic Era: DEI in a virtual global context. A Global Symposium, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 5 May 2023, 2023, UIUC College of Education Invited Talk, 2023 URL

Breffni O'Rourke, Virtual reality in virtual exchange settings, SALIS Applied Linguistics group, Dublin City University, DCU, 6 November 2023, 2023, SALIS Applied Linguistics group Invited Talk, 2023

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, 2016 DOI URL

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, 2014

Breffni O'Rourke, Becoming biliterate in English and Spanish, 16 March, 2013, Association of Spanish Parents in Ireland Invited Talk, 2013

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, 2012

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, 2006

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, 2005

O'Rourke, B., Review of Media - Multimedia - Omnimedia, by Hogan-Brun, G. and Jung, U. H. , System, 28, (4), 2000 Review, 2000

O'Rourke, B., Review of Language Teaching and Language Technologies, by Jager, S. et al. (eds.) , System, 27, 1998, p587-591 Review, 1998

Research Expertise


I work chiefly in the area of technologies for language learning and teaching. Recent technological developments 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. 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. - Eye-tracking methodology: I have pioneered the use of eye-tracking methods to explore online communication, alongside innovative discourse analysis techniques. - Virtual reality in online language and intercultural learning: I explore the linguistic and communicational affordances of immersive virtual reality, and their pedagogical potential.


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



Editor-in-chief, Language Learning in Higher Education 2016

Vice President, UNICollaboration 2018

Board Member / Publications Officer, UNICollaboration: the Association for Telecollaboration and Virtual Exchange in Higher Education 2016

Scientific committee member, Bellaterra Journal of Teaching & Learning Language & Literature 2014

Executive Committee, Irish Association for Applied Linguistics 2002-2005

Awards and Honours

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


UniCollaboration: Board Member / Publications Officer / Vice President 2016 – 2021

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