Fiona O'Hanlon


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Personal profile


I was a Chancellor's Fellow in Languages Education at Moray House School of Education between 2014 and 2019. Prior to this, I was the University of Edinburgh Research Fellow for Soillse, an inter-university network which provides research capacity to support the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture between 2010-2014.

My research focuses on languages education at the primary and secondary school stages - encompassing both Gaelic-medium education and the learning of modern languages as a subject in English-medium education.  Key strands of this work relate to pupil and teacher experiences of language learning and teaching,  teacher initial and continuing education for language teaching, public attitudes towards languages and language learning, and the contribution of language education to language maintenance for lesser used languages (such as Gaelic in Scotland and Welsh in Wales).  

I am a Board Member of SCILT (Scotland's National Centre for Languages), and represent Higher Education on this board (2018 - ongoing). Between 2014 and 2017 I was a Board member of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the executive non-departmental public body which works to promote the use and understanding of Gaelic language, education and culture.  As part of this role, I was a member of the Core Group for the development of the National Statutory Guidance on Gaelic education, required by the Education (Scotland) Act 2016. 

I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Research Interests

Research summary

I am interested in language and equity issues and how these are taken forward in education and in educational policy.  Specific areas of interest include:

  • Bilingual education
  • Languages education
  • Attitudes to language
  • Language policy
  • Language planning
  • Mixed methods research

Current projects include a comparative study of the language use, identities, and patterns of civic participation of young people who are in Gaelic-medium or Welsh-medium education or are learning Gaelic or Welsh in secondary school (together with colleagues from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Aberystwyth), and a study of the implementation of the 1+2 languages policy in practice in six primary-secondary school pairs in central Scotland (together with Prof. Do Coyle and Thomas Chaurin).

Knowledge exchange

I am a member of the Scottish Council of Deans of Education 1+2 Languages group, which developed a National Framework for Languages to inform initial teacher education and continuing professional development for teachers in Scotland with regard to languages education.  The National Framework identifies key values, practices and reflective questions for colleagues designing initial teacher education programmes or continuing professional development for teachers and student teachers, and provides summaries of research papers relating to key aspects of languages education. It is available at: 

I am currently working with Prof. Do Coyle, Thomas Chaurin and colleagues from Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian, Borders and Fife councils to develop a self-evaluation tool for modern languages.  This self-evaluation tool is based on the findings of the 1+2 languages research project above, and will support colleagues to self-assess, and plan next steps in relation to the teaching of modern languages in the Broad General Education phase.




Education/Academic qualification

PhD Education, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Lost in Transition? Celtic language revitalization in Scotland and Wales: the primary to secondary school stage, University of Edinburgh


Award Date: 15 Jun 2012

MSc Education (by research), Master of Education, Gaelic in Upper Primary Schools in Scotland: policy and practice, University of Edinburgh


Award Date: 1 Nov 2005

English Literature and English Language, Master of Arts, University of Edinburgh


Award Date: 1 Jan 2004

External positions

Board Member, SCILT (Scotland's National Centre for Languages)

2018 → …

Board Member, Bòrd na Gàidhlig

Mar 2014Mar 2017


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