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Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching

Dear HLT Readers,

Welcome to the August issue of HLT. First some Pilgrims news… The summer teacher training courses are in full swing in Canterbury. Wish you were here…

However, if you have not made it this summer there are also courses in autumn, 2015. For more information go to Autumn at Pilgrims. Also there will be other opportunities for us to meet soon; there will be the Humanising Language Teaching Conference in Portonovo, Italy, and IATEFL Poland in the historic city of Kraków.

We are glad to announce the Pilgrims ELT Conference 2015@Portonovo, Ancona - Italy, a marvellous dream spot ( from August 26th – August 29th 2015

Humanistic Language Teaching Conference
Past, Present and Future

Participants will attend plenary sessions by keynote speakers and commit themselves to two 6-hour workshops over two days (Thursday and Friday). The aim of the conference is to continue spreading knowledge of humanistic thinking and its practical applications. The participants are usually teachers and trainers from primary, middle and secondary schools, teacher associations and universities.

Come and join the Conference for four unforgettable days in the superb setting of Portonovo where you can share ideas and get many more from amazing speakers who have been inspiring your teaching for years.

Why come to Pilgrims @Portonovo 2015? Because you, passionate teacher, deserve it!!!

For more information go to
and book soon because places are filling quickly!!!

Best wishes and see you in August 2015

Jim Wright - Head of Pilgrims, e-mail:
Valeria Gallerani - Director of the Conference, e-mail;

I would also like to give you an update on The C Group activities. There will be a panel discussion devoted to creativity at the Creativity in ELT Conference in Malta Conference (for more details see below). The panelists are Alan Maley, Chaz Pugliese and Daniel Xerri.

In this issue don’t miss Combining Creativities: The Easiest Way In by Chaz Pugliese (published in the C for Creativity section). For more updates on The C Group’s activities, news and developments such as the IATEFL 2016 scholarship read C Group News: Alan Maley’s Blog, the IATEFL Scholarship and How to Join The C Group.

Also note that an article about writing for HLT has been published in ELT Journal. Please follow this link: If you think you could contribute an article to HLT or have not contributed for a while do not hesitate to contact me. I am always eagerly waiting for your contributions.

Educational Journal of Living Theories

Special issue December 2015 Creative teaching, creative learning: what does it mean and why is it important?
Edited by Jane Spiro Oxford Brookes University

A call for papers is opened to teachers/teacher educators in any sector who consider creative approaches to learning and teaching to be important. We are inviting you to share your responses to the questions: what does creativity mean to me? What do I do about it? Why is it important? How is it important for others? Your paper might include teaching activities, planning principles and decisions, student work and feedback, lesson notes, critical incidents and turning points, readings and experiences that influenced you, visual and digital material; journal entries, narrative accounts, or any other ways of explaining your approach. The special issue hopes to draw together educators from any subject discipline who aim for creativity in their classrooms, and believe it to be important.

We welcome submissions from educational practitioners who are undertaking to understand and explain their educational influences in their own learning, the learning of others, and in their own contexts (Whitehead, 1989). We are dedicated to publishing accounts in which practitioners show how they are living their values in their working lives. Many practitioners may not before have been able to, or have wanted to, or have felt the relevance of writing and representing their significant ideas and extensive personal knowledge. Thus, one of the chief reasons for the existence of this e-journal is to give to such people the space, freedom and encouragement to speak. So this is about you and your personal experience of creativity in your life. Although we prefer practitioners' accounts, we are open to different forms of expression from contributors who stand firmly in their lives for the life-affirming values that help others and make the world a better place for all people.

Papers can be any length up to 6000 words, and can include digital links as these will be published online.

You will be part of an open and constructive peer review process.
Shorter papers and accounts may be combined to reflect shared concerns and interests.

Deadline date for submission of proposals. March 30th 2015 Final submission of papers 1 September 2015.

Submissions should be sent to the EJOLTS website at clearly indicating Creativity Special Issue and/or directly to the special issue editor Jane Spiro

The August 2015 issue of HLT is entitled: Current Issues in the Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching. The subject is very close to my heart and interests, and I am sure you will enjoy reading this issue. (All the articles devoted to psychology are highlighted in the contents page in blue). I would like to thank Christina Gkonou and Mark Daubney for being the host editors and for harvesting such interesting texts. Now over to Christina and Mark who will introduce this issue of HLT.

Enjoy the June issue of HLT

Hania Kryszewska
HLT Editor

Current Issues in the Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching

We would like to start the editorial of this Special Issue of HLT by expressing our thanks. Firstly, we would like to thank Hania Kryszewska, the HLT editor, for giving us the opportunity to be the host editors of an issue focusing on the psychology of language learning, a vibrant field of great relevance for language teachers, language teacher educators, as well as experienced and early-career researchers alike. Secondly, we would like to express our gratitude to all the authors who have generously contributed their work, helping us, in turn, to compile a collection of articles which we hope goes some way towards reflecting and doing justice to just some of the exciting, rich, complex, but never less than intriguing, developments which are currently shaping the psychology of language learning.

It has been our good fortune that some of the foremost scholars in the field generously accepted our invitation to write an article for this special issue, yet one of our aims since the inception of this project has been to seek to achieve a balance between established voices and those with less experience, not only to attain a broader representation of the practitioners and researchers working in the field, but also to better understand how aspects of the psychology of language learning are perceived, understood and addressed by a broad range of professionals striving to help people learn languages other than their L1.

A parallel aim has been to gather perspectives from a variety of contexts and across educational settings. Hence, the authors hail from a variety of countries, with Asia, Europe and North America all represented, whilst the contexts in which they work range from primary schooling to higher education, thereby providing readers with a spectrum of voices, perspectives and experiences which we hope will provide them with inspiration and insights – on a theoretical, empirical and practical level – which they might reflect upon and incorporate into their own thinking and practices and set the wheels of a more nuanced understanding of the contexts in which they work in motion.

In a recent publication, Mercer, Ryan and Williams (2012) state that their understanding of psychology is one derived from educational psychology and that language learning psychology is “concerned with the mental experiences, processes, thoughts, feelings, motives, and behaviours of individuals involved in language learning” (p. 2). This is also the perspective which we subscribe to, and a perspective that is borne out in nearly all the articles that have been written for this issue. However, before describing the contents of this special issue, we would like to give a brief overview of how language learning psychology has developed over the years and to impart to the reader an idea of what to expect.

Psychology has long been present in SLA theory and, by extension, language teaching practice. Skinner’s behaviourist theory informed the audiolingual approach, humanistic psychology underpinned many of the fashionable ‘designer’ methods of the 1970s, and cognitive science’s overriding concern with information processing has provided the rationale for SLA’s input-interaction-output models over the years. Due to limitations of space and at the risk of oversimplifying, the late 1970s and onwards witnessed a growing concern with the characteristics that made individual learners more or less successful (Gardner & Lambert, 1972), and gradually led to a focus on what is often referred to as ‘individual differences’ and a parallel research agenda known as ‘ID research’. This in turn led to an interest in identifying strategies of ‘good language learners’ (Griffiths, 2008; Rubin, 1975) which could then, it was hypothesised, be adopted by less successful learners. Such individual differences included motivation, anxiety, aptitude, learning styles, learning strategies, learner beliefs, to mention but a few. Yet despite all the excitement generated by these agendas, it has steadily been recognised that learner differences are not only rooted in the unique personalities of each individual, but also constantly shaped by the very social and situated nature of learning that takes place in given contexts. Initially thought of as relatively stable traits over time and space, learners’ attributes are now seen as dynamic and in constant change, emergent phenomena in constant interaction with multiple factors, including others (teachers, fellow learners, friends, parents etc.) and the social context (classroom, school, region etc.).

In recent years, this shift has seen a notable increase in interest in language learning psychology. In May 2014, the first dedicated conference, focusing on the interface of psychology and language learning, entitled Matters of the Mind, was held at the University of Graz, Austria. The resounding success of this event has seen the wave of interest generated being taken forward, and a second conference, Matters of Individuals in Contexts, will be held in August 2016 at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland (for details see A spate of publications, partly arising from the conference in Graz (see Gkonou, Tatzl, & Mercer, forthcoming; Gregersen, MacIntyre, & Mercer, forthcoming; the 2015 Special Issues, edited by Sarah Mercer and Stephen Ryan, of Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching -, reflects this increasingly influential and vibrant subfield in SLA. Indeed, the field has accelerated to such an extent that Dörnyei and Ryan (2015) have used the title The Psychology of the Language Learner Revisited to reassess Dörnyei’s original The Psychology of the Language Learner, published 10 years earlier, in order to review the huge shift in thinking on individual differences and language learner psychology that has, in the intervening years, taken place.

Some of these publications have largely been aimed at graduate students and researchers (Dörnyei, MacIntyre, & Henry, 2015; Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2009; MacIntyre & Mercer, 2014; Mercer, Ryan, & Williams, 2012). However, there are welcome signs that some of the exciting developments in language learning psychology – such as the constructs known as the L2 Self, self-concept and complexity theory – which have mainly been the subject of debate in academic circles, are filtering through to publications whose aim is to shape classroom practice and teacher-thinking (Dörnyei & Kubanyiova, 2014; Gregersen & MacIntyre, 2014; Hadfield & Dörnyei, 2014; Williams, Mercer, & Ryan, 2015). This is not to say that teachers are unaware of the importance that psychology holds for the language learner and the language classroom, or that there has been a total absence of publications for teachers in the field. In fact, teachers are often well aware of the importance of psychological aspects of learning and the context in which this takes place. Earl Stevick’s wise, far-sighted and oft-quoted observation that language learning depends “...less on materials, techniques and linguistic analyses, and more on what goes on inside and between the people in the classroom” (1980, p. 4) can often sum up many a teacher’s primary concern. Williams and Burden’s (1997) landmark publication, Psychology for Language Teachers, saw teachers explicitly addressed. Further, the latter authors acknowledged the debt their social constructivist approach owed “to the humanist tradition in its emphasis upon the whole person and on the affective aspects of learning” (1997, p. 2). This contributed to the trend that helped counter the notable neglect of affect and the social context when considering learning, which was mainly due to the influence of cognitive science and behaviourism, which have held considerable sway over SLA over the years.

Indeed, these are considerations that have shaped our conviction that HLT is a most fitting format for this issue because it has long been associated with humanistic thinking and psychology, and creative and communicative approaches towards language teaching and learning, and has continued to be a progressive source of practical ideas for teachers to take into their classrooms. The last but one issue, Issue 2 of this year, focused on creativity, another key aspect of the psychology of the language learner. But now to the present issue.

In the main articles, there is a wealth of ideas to be considered and harvested. The first Learner Agency and Engagement: Believing You Can, Wanting To, by Sarah Mercer, is brimming with ideas on the psychology of language learning, as well as pointers towards classroom activities, but focuses on the fundamental role that learner agency and engagement exerts on the language learning process. Whilst duly recognising the importance of teachers’ understanding of the psychology of language learners, in the final reckoning Sarah advocates that it is the responsibility of the learners to exercise their agency to achieve their learning goals. In the second Young learners’ Learning Styles in Magic Book I and Magic Book II: Mission Accomplished?, Marina Mattheoudakis and Thomai Alexiou take a little researched area in ELT and look at how young learners’ learning style profiles are promoted and approached in two ELT coursebooks that they authored for the Greek Ministry of Education. Reporting on an innovative research project, they look at whether the books in question promote a balance between visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activities, important features in helping to trigger and engage young learners’ interest and involvement through multimodal approaches. Next in The Courage to Be a Language Learner, Peter MacIntyre, Tammy Gregersen and Esther Abel draw upon ideas from dynamic systems theory and positive psychology to consider how ‘courage’ can be generated and factored into the mindsets and behaviour of learners. Rather than focus on addressing the negative impact of anxiety on learning, as most strategies for dealing with this emotion have largely done, they examine how to accentuate the positive, a proactive approach designed to bolster ‘strength of character’ – especially for adults – for and during the tough task of learning a language, thereby encouraging both teachers and learners to build up resistance to undesirable emotions and to move away from a (n) (over) reliance on firefighting negativity. Welcome suggestions for classroom activities are also provided. The intriguing title of Stephen Ryan’s article The Horse, the Water, And the Horse’s Reflection: Understanding Language Learner Narrative Identity in the Classroom plays on the well-known adage, ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink’, and the article itself is a fascinating consideration of how people learning languages are more likely to achieve success by constructing for themselves a narrative of a successful language-using self. We all tell ourselves stories about ourselves, reflecting on the degree of success of our past endeavours, whilst imagining ourselves in the future. With imagination a crucial factor in driving learning forward, Stephen suggests that teachers need to create stimulating classroom environments in which activities are geared towards allowing learners to build an adaptive and successful ‘narrative of self’. Again, useful guidance for pedagogical applications is given.

The short articles complement the major ones by exploring a number of key areas in the psychology of language learning. Nick Michelioudakis in Psychology and ELT: The Long Reach of Emotions looks at the impact of emotions on people and their relevance to the ELT classroom. Rúben Correia in Classroom Anxiety and Young Language Learners: Broadening the Scope of the Research Agenda reflects on his own teaching context and the language anxiety experienced by lower secondary school pupils in Portugal, whilst Masoud Mahmoodzadeh in A Study on the Dynamic Peer Orientation of Foreign Lnguage Anxiety: A Classroom Perspective reports on a research project carried out in Iran examining the same affective factor from a dynamic perspective. In Drawing on Insights from Group Dynamics to Grapple with the Contextual “Mess” in the Classroom Elena Ončevska ‘revisits’ group dynamics to reinforce the importance of relationships in the teaching-learning experience, and in The Role of Portfolio Assessment in Developing Selected Aspects of Learner Autonomy Anna Czura reports on her mixed-methods research focusing on the impact of portfolios on the autonomy of lower-secondary pupils in Poland. The next two articles address affective responses to literature, albeit with different age groups and focuses. Firstly, Sandie Mourão in Fostering Affective Responses to Picturebooks in the Young Learner Classroom explores how to enrich the classroom experience of young learners by using picturebooks, more specifically by helping practitioners to better understand the broader significance to learning of facilitating and enabling the affective responses of young learners to picturebooks. Next, Neophytos Mitsigkas in Using Literature as a Key Determinant to Enhance Learners’ Motivation reflects on how literature can enhance secondary school learners’ motivation, with suitably chosen texts improving the likelihood of increasing critical thinking, as well as emotional and linguistic involvement. In the last of the short articles Neurodrama in ELT- How to Plan a Lesson with the Brain in Mind?, Alicja Gałązka contemplates the neurological predisposition of the brain to ‘prioritise human relationships’, the neurological conditions of SLA and how drama in the ELT classroom can provide a platform for engaging students through emotional responses. Alicja describes a range of drama strategies and their respective aims that many practitioners will find both challenging and fun.

Finally, in Student Voices, Anthony Otey begins by reflecting on growing up in New York, USA, and his bilingual background. He relates how his various cultural and linguistic identities played their role in his language education, and influenced his thoughts, feelings and actions as he took, perhaps, his first steps towards becoming a teacher while he was a Fulbright English Language Teaching Assistant at a higher education institution in Portugal. As Anthony rightly observes, we all have our ‘comfort zones’, and moving out of them can often prove to be the catalyst for reflection and, ultimately, for professional development.

In keeping with the spirit of the aforementioned developments in the psychology of language learning, we would ask readers not to view these articles as isolated and independent entities, but as a web of interconnected and complementary texts that give some insight into the complex process of language learning and how psychology is inextricably bound up in this process and the journey of each person learning a language. In their recent volume, Gregersen and MacIntyre (2014, p. xiii) observe that the “various attributes of a learner are interconnected – like a fishing net. If we tug on one end of the net, the shape of the entire net changes. Teachers are continuously tugging on the learner’s net by their activity choices, their instruction, their feedback, and their mentorship.” In fact, language learning psychology may well be best viewed as an interconnected network of complex attributes, a system in constant interaction, constantly changing as it influences and is influenced by a multitude of factors across time and space.

We hope this special issue will not only impart ideas and inspiration that will raise practitioners’ awareness of potentially different ways to ‘tug’ the nets of the learners in their own contexts in an effort to improve the learning experience, but also that the same ideas might lead teachers, teacher educators and researchers to re-evaluate their own attributes and practices in the light of some of the aspects of the psychology of language learning that are discussed herein. We wish you happy reading.

Christina and Mark
HLT Host Editors

Christina Gkonou is a lecturer at the Department of Language and Linguistics, University of Essex, UK, where she teaches on modules on research methods and the psychology of language learning and teaching (at the postgraduate level) and on the methodology of teaching English as a foreign language (at the undergraduate level). She is also the programme leader for the MA in TEFL/TESOL. Previously, she has worked as an EAP tutor at the International Academy, University of Essex, UK, and as an EFL tutor in a large English Language School in Thessaloniki, Greece. She holds a BA in English Language and Literature from Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, Greece, an MA in TEFL from the University of Essex, UK, and a PhD in English Language Teaching from the same University. Her doctoral research focused on a mixed-methods investigation into the classroom anxiety of Greek EFL learners attending a private language school. Christina’s research interests focus on language learning anxiety, emotions, agency and identity (of both learners and teachers) and ecologies of learning. E-mail:

Mark Daubney is an associate professor in the Department of Languages and Literatures at the School of Education and Social Sciences at Leiria Polytechnic Institute, Portugal. He holds a BA from Salford University and a PGCE from Reading University. He has been teaching EFL for over 20 years, and was a teacher in a large language school in Portugal and a lecturer at the Catholic University in the same country. His research interests broadly focus on teacher training and the influence of affective factors on classroom interaction, especially the interface between emotions, such as anxiety and motivation, and teacher identity. He holds a Master’s and a PhD in Language Didactics from Aveiro University, Portugal. His Master’s research focused on anxiety experienced by future English teachers in their language classes, whilst his PhD was a longitudinal study of language anxiety experienced by trainee teachers on their practicum. Currently, Mark is the coordinator of the foreign languages department and the Chinese-Portuguese-English Studies programme. E-mail:


Dörnyei, Z., & Kubanyiova, M. (2014). Motivating learners, motivating teachers: Building vision in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dörnyei, Z., MacIntyre, P. D., & Henry, A. (Eds.). (2015). Motivational dynamics in language learning. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Dörnyei, Z., & Ryan, S. (2015). The psychology of the language learner revisited. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Dörnyei, Z., & Ushioda, E. (Eds.). (2009). Motivation, Language Identity and the L2 Self. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Hadfield, J., & Dörnyei, Z. (2013). Motivating learning. Harlow: Longman.

Gardner, R. C., & Lambert, W. E. (1972). Attitudes and motivation in second language learning. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Gkonou, C., Tatzl, D., & Mercer, S. (forthcoming). New Directions in Language Learning Psychology. New York: Springer.

Gregersen, T., & MacIntyre, P. D. (2014). Capitalizing on language learners’ individuality: From premise to practice. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Gregersen, T., MacIntyre, P., & Mercer, S. (Eds.). (forthcoming). Positive psychology in SLA. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Griffiths, C. (2008). Lessons from good language learners. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

MacIntyre, P. D., & Mercer, S. (2014). Introducing positive psychology to SLA. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 4(2), 153-172.

Mercer, S., & Ryan, S. (Eds.). (2015). Special Issue. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 5(1).

Mercer, S., Ryan, S., & Williams, M. (Eds.). (2012). Psychology for language learning: Insights from research, theory and practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Rubin, J. (1975). What the “good language learner” can teach us. TESOL Quarterly, 9(1), 41-51.

Stevick, E. W. (1980). Teaching Languages: A way and ways. Rowley, MA.: Newbury House.

Williams, M., & Burden, R. L. (1997). Psychology for language teachers: A social constructivist approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Williams, M., Mercer, S., & Ryan, S. (forthcoming). Exploring Psychology in Language Learning and Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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