Ellen Knell

Associate Director for Curriculum and Instruction, Center for Language Studies

3094 JFSB


Curriculum Vitae

Research Areas: , , , ,

Teaching Experience

It is an honor to teach BYU students who are bright, hard-working, and inquisitive. I have the opportunity to work with students who want to become second language teachers. I want to model best teaching practices, and I emphasize engagement, interaction, and experiential learning. All are crucial in order to successfully learn a second language. I also train the approximately 50 language teachers at BYU who teach less commonly taught languages such as Swahili, Kiribati, and Hmong.


My research focuses on second language pedagogy. I am especially interested in immersion education as Utah has more foreign language immersion programs than any other state. Because of my Chinese language background, I focus on ways to help Chinese immersion students improve their language and literacy. I have also researched English immersion programs in China. I first became aware of immersion education when I lived in Hong Kong and worked in China. I’ve published in the following areas:

  • Evaluating English immersion programs in China
  • Predicting successful literacy acquisition for Chinese-speaking students learning English
  •  Best practices when teaching English-speaking Chinese immersion students to read and write Chinese characters
  • When and how to introduce Chinese characters to English-speaking secondary students beginning to learn Chinese
  • The effects of repeated/timed readings on Chinese character recognition, reading comprehension, and fluency for Chinese immersion students.

Selected Publications

Knell, E., Kao, S. C., (2020). Repeated readings and Chinese immersion students’ reading fluency, comprehension, and character recognition. The Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education, 8, 230-256.

Knell, E., West, H., (2017). To delay or not to delay: The timing of Chinese character instruction for secondary learners. Foreign language Annals, 50, 519-532.

Knell, E., (2016) The Role of oral language in the development of L2 literacy skills. The TESOL encyclopedia on English language teaching and learning. (J. Liotas Editor-in-chief). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley/Blackwell Publishers.

Knell, E., West, H., (2015). Writing practice and Chinese character recognition in early Chinese immersion students. Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association, 50, 45-62.

Knell, E., Chi, Y.P., (2012). The role of motivation, affective attitudes, and willingness to communicate for Chinese students learning English. International Education, 41, 66-87.

Siegel, L., Knell, E., & Pei, M., (2010). Teaching English to Chinese-speaking children. In C. Chan & N. Rao (Eds.) Revisiting the Chinese learner: Changing contexts, changing education. Comparative Education Research Center: The University of Hong Kong.

Knell, E., Siegel, L., Qiang, H.Y., Zhao, L., Pei, M., Zhao, W., & Chi, Y. P. (2007). Early English Immersion and Literacy in Xi’an, China. Modern Language Journal, 91, 395-416.


I am the Immersion Education Coordinator at BYU. I supervise the certification of students who are getting an immersion endorsement in order to foster bilingualism in K-12 students. I also supervise the training of about 50 teachers of less commonly taught languages. BYU is a premier language learning university with many returned missionaries who speak a second language. I want to facilitate their continued language and cultural learning. Who knows what future responsibilities they may have!

Citizenship assignments

  • • I work with the Church Literacy Team to develop Sunday school materials for members who can’t read or write in their language of opportunity. Many of these members (mostly women) have had very limited, if any, schooling and can’t read Church materials, including the scriptures. The Church Literacy Team uses content-based instruction principles to construct Sunday School materials that teach the gospel along with language basics such as the alphabet, letter sounds, Gospel vocabulary, and basic grammatical principles. The members learn to read scriptures, hymns, and other church materials and also improve their daily lives and career options.
  • I had the opportunity to work in Ghana and Sierra Leone to pilot, test, and evaluate the Church literacy materials.
  • I collaborate with the organization, “No Poor Among Us” located in Mozambique that serves poor women and girls. I help develop the English and career curriculum and train teachers in-person and remotely.