New series: Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching

10 October 2017

In January 2018 we will be publishing Language Teacher Psychology edited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas, which is the first book in our new series, Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching. In this post, series editors Sarah Mercer and Stephen Ryan introduce the new series and explain the inspiration behind it. 

Both of us started our careers in the classroom as language teachers and it was there that we first developed our fascination with the differences we noted in how our learners approached their learning … or did not, as the case may be. Little did we know back then just where that fascination would take us. From those initial sparks began an ongoing interest in language learning psychology. Our curiosity led us to seek ways to understand what made our learners tick and, somewhat inadvertently, into the exciting world of educational psychology. Once exposed to these – at least to us – new ideas, we then became interested in how best to apply these insights in our teaching. It was classroom practice that triggered our early interest and that practical focus continues to be a key driver for us in our research and we hope in this new Multilingual Matters series too.

Over time, our own understandings of psychology have grown and become – we like to think – more nuanced. In the same way, and over a similar timeframe, a new academic field has grown, both in scale and sophistication, around in interest in the Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching (PLLT). One of the great joys for us in recent years has been the discovery of many like-minded, curious teachers/teacher-researchers/researchers looking to explore the potential of educational psychology theory and research in an attempt to better understand language teaching and learning. For many years, discussions of psychology in language education were dominated by the concept of learner motivation and while that remains a key area of inquiry, we are now seeing a whole range of other topics moving into focus. In addition to motivation, the new field covers various dimensions of the self, identity, affect, cognition, attributions, personality, strategies, self-regulation, and agency among others. A distinguishing trait of this new field is that it seeks to explore the connections between these concepts as opposed to separating them from each other and attempting to analyse them in isolation. Another key shift has been a growing attention to teacher psychology. While there is a strong body of research in certain areas, large domains of teacher psychology have remained almost completely unexamined in the field of language education. Given the tight connections between learner and teacher psychology, it is surprising we know so little about what makes such key stakeholders in classroom life function and potentially flourish in their professional roles.

The first book in the series, Language Teacher Psychology

As a part of the emergence of this new field, there has been an accompanying increase in the number of publications with a PLLT focus. At first, these were scattered across publishing houses, but we felt that there was a need to bring them together under one roof to make it easier for people to find related works, to see connections across areas of research and practice, and to foster cooperation rather than further fragmentation. Multilingual Matters already housed many key PLLT publications within its broader SLA series and it is from that highly successful series that the new PLLT was born. The birth of the new PLLT series has coincided with the further growth of a biennial conference dedicated to the field as well as the formation of a professional association for those working in the area. It is tremendously exciting to witness the new series taking shape and we feel enormously privileged to be a part of this innovative new project. We can already see some thrilling publications on the horizon as academics from across the globe come forward to share their work on PLLT through the series. We hope you will enjoy reading the books that will make up the new series and we also hope that some of you may consider making your own contribution in the future.

For more information about the Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching series, please see our website. Book proposals for this series should be sent to Laura Longworth.


From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship

7 October 2016

This autumn we are publishing From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui and Manuela Wagner. In this post, the editors describe how the book came together.

From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural CitizenshipThis book is the outcome of several years of collaboration among language teachers and researchers interested in the integration of language and culture in their teaching. We call it teaching ‘intercultural communicative competence’. We are part of a much bigger group called ‘Cultnet’ who have supported our work in many ways.

The concept of teaching intercultural communicative competence is not new. The ideas have circulated among language teachers for more than 20 years and are beginning to take root in curricula, in textbooks and in teaching. What is new is the introduction of ideas from citizenship education.

Citizenship education is attractive because it ensures that learners do not only learn about citizenship but also get directly involved in their community as they are interacting in the classroom and in communities. This is what we introduce into language teaching and learning.

However, citizenship education is inward-looking. It prepares people as members of their own societies and communities i.e. a national perspective. In contrast, foreign language teaching is international in its outlook, teaching the languages and cultures (the ‘languacultures’) of other countries. So combining citizenship education and foreign language education leads to a focus on ‘intercultural citizenship’ (not ‘international citizenship’).

Intercultural citizenship means language learners at school and university – from elementary/primary school to advanced learners specialising in languages – can work together on citizenship problems and plan together a response which is not inward-looking but benefits from a broader perspective.

For example, the book has chapters describing how young learners in schools in Denmark and Argentina work together on environmental issues, or older learners in England and Argentina work on historical and political issues which are highly sensitive, and gain a new understanding through their intercultural, cross-Atlantic cooperation. All this is facilitated by use of the internet.

The book also explores how learners and teachers understand intercultural citizenship. There are chapters from China and Korea as well as the USA, which describe how learners think they can be ‘active in the community’ or ‘global citizens’, a much-used term in education and beyond.

We think this approach excites learners and gives them something important and intellectually – and sometimes emotionally – demanding to do with their languages, in the here and now. We have seen this happen among older and younger learners, with advanced and with modest levels of language competence. They find themselves ‘making a difference’ in their communities in ways they would not have thought of if they had not worked with people in other countries and continents. At the same time their language competence improves – this happens because they are concentrating on what they can do and not only on the language they are using to do it.

If you would like more information about the book, please see our website.


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