LINGUIST List 28.382

Wed Jan 18 2017

Review: Applied Ling; Lang Acquisition; Psycholing: Gregersen, Mercer, MacIntyre (2016)

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <clarelinguistlist.org>


Date: 01-Sep-2016
From: Jose Aguilar <jose.aguilarriouniv-paris3.fr>
Subject: Positive Psychology in SLA
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/27/27-1882.html

EDITOR: Peter MacIntyre
EDITOR: Tammy Gregersen
EDITOR: Sarah Mercer
TITLE: Positive Psychology in SLA
SERIES TITLE: Second Language Acquisition
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Jose Aguilar, Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris III

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry

Summary

Peter D. MacIntyre et al.’s ‘Positive Psychology in SLA’ is a 388 pages long edited volume “dedicated to theories in positive psychology and their implications for language teaching, learning and communication” (MacIntyre et al., 2016: back cover). The volume counts fifteen original articles, plus introduction and conclusion sections, as well as academic and personal information about each contributor. There is no unified references section at the end; each article contains its own. The volume presents a synthetic, useful index.

Chapter 1 is an introduction by the editors, who argue the need for a work such as theirs about positive psychology in SLA, as they present an overview of the volume.

Chapter 2, by Rebecca L. Oxford, is entitled “Toward a Psychology of Well-Being for Language Learners: The ‘EMPATHICS’ Vision”. ‘EMPATHICS’ stands for emotion and empathy (E), meaning and motivation (M), perseverance (P), agency and autonomy (A), time (T), hardiness and habits of mind (H), intelligences (I), character strengths ( C ) and self factors, namely efficacy, concept, esteem and verification (S). Each element of the model is extensively discussed, by drawing on multidisciplinary literature. The ‘EMPATHICS’ model is ultimately presented as a holistic approach that allows practitioners to account for the complexity of language learning as it may be uniquely experienced by different individuals.

Part One is entitled “Theoretical”. It comprises Chapters 3 through 5. Chapter 3, by Sarah Mercer, is entitled “Seeing the World Through Your Eyes: Empathy in Language Learning and Teaching”. Mercer approaches the notion of empathy by drawing on social (positive) psychology, education and applied linguistics. Ultimately ‘empathy’ is characterized as a set of conducts to which pre-service teachers can (and should) be sensitized through conscious practice and training.

Chapter 4, by Joseph Falout, is entitled “The Dynamics of Past Selves in Language Learning and Well-Being”. Falout considers the influence that past selves, or “images of who one has been, and what one has gone through and done” (Falout, 2016: 112), may have on self-factors and thus on a social and identity-engaging activity, such as learning a language. Drawing on the Positive Psychological literature, the author presents concepts, such as decision-making and self-appraisals, which may be associated with specific practices, such as “[c]herishing the good moments” and “[r]eframing the bad moments”, which may lead to learning experiences better suiting each individual’s needs and expectations.

Chapter 5, by Ana Maria F. Barcelos and Hilda Simone H. Coelho is entitled “Language Learning and Teaching: What’s Love Got To Do With It?”. The authors state that love should be made its own rightful and necessary place in any and all educational situations. Both authors acknowledge how reluctant some educational professionals may feel about supporting such a claim; consequently, they suggest an encompassing definition of love that may cater to all sensitivities as well as help understand the intricacies of an educational situation. Ultimately, the authors propose lists of self-check, context-based, specific questions for each educational professional to work out what love may be within his or her professional practice, as well as to develop new ways to look at such practice.

Part 2 is entitled “Empirical” and contains Chapters 6 through 12, which present an empirical outline, with research questions and data discussion according to specific methods. Chapter 6, by Tammy Gregersen, Peter D. MacIntyre and Margarita Meza, is entitled “Positive Psychology Exercises [(PPEs)] Build Social Capital for Language Learners: Preliminary Evidence”. The authors “explore both the emotional and the social consequences of enriching an extracurricular language conversation program with PPEs.” (Gregersen et al., 2016: 147). The six chosen PPEs were: laughter, exercise, interaction with pets, listening to music, expressing gratitude and engaging altruism. The analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data generated allows the authors to “see preliminary evidence of […] positive psychology supporting positive outcomes” (ibid.: 164).

Chapter 7, by Phil Hiver, is entitled “The Triumph Over Experience: Hope and Hardiness in Novice L2 Teachers”. The author “investigate[s] why some L2 teachers appear to be more successful than others” and “explore[s] the process through which hope emerged, and examine[s] the role this played in helping them overcome the demands of their novice year.” (ibid.). The analysis ofinterviews andLikert scales allows Hiver to identify moments along 19 novices’ first year when they managed/failed to rely on hope in order to overcome experiences that they perceived as difficult.

Chapter 8, by Éva Czimmermann and Katalin Piniel, is entitled “Advanced Language Learners’ Experiences of Flow in the Hungarian EFL Classroom”. Five research questions are presented. They concern the occurrence of flow in the aforementioned context. A set of quantitative data was produced. It consisted in Likert scales from 85 BA English major students in a Hungarian university. They had to evaluate their experience as they performed a set of tasks. The analysis of these data allowed the authors to conclude that “the more creativity is involved, the more likely it will be that learners find themselves in the flow channel.” (Czimmermann & Piniel, 2016: 208).

Chapter 9, by Jean-Marc Dewaele and Peter D. MacIntyre, is entitled “Foreign Language Enjoyment and Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety: The Right and Left Feet of the Language Learner”. According to the authors, there is a dearth of empirical studies concerning “enjoyment”. Such does not appear to be the case with other psychological states such as “anxiety”, which seem to have largely studied. Consequently, they present two concepts, “Foreign Language Enjoyment” (FLE) and “Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety” (FLCA), whose validity they willingly test. Two research questions are defined, which the authors answer by factor-analysing the quantitative and qualitative data generated by an online questionnaire, which was completed by 1742 multilinguals from 90 nationalities. The analysis showed factorial differences between anxiety and enjoyment. Ultimately, the authors call for further research on FLE and FLCA, as they claim that these concepts may help better understand the complexity of the (language) learning process.

Chapter 10, by J. Lake, is entitled “Accentuate the Positive: Conceptual and Empirical Development of the Positive L2 Self and Its Relationship to L2 Proficiency”. The author focuses on the L2 positive self and L2 self-efficacy, in order to define two research questions concerning the possibility to act upon the aforementioned aspects of the self, within a language learning context. The participants in the study completed a self-report questionnaire, which allowed the author to measure aspects of the formers’ global positive self, positive L2 self and L2 self-efficacy. Factor analysis and structural equation modelling allowed the author to conclude that “the identity processes are also predictive of L2 proficiency and […] may help in developing positive identities for personal growth” (ibid.: 253).

Chapter 11, by Zana Ibrahim, is entitled “Affect in Directed Motivational Currents [(DCMs)]: Positive Emotionality in Long-Term L2 Engagement”. The author is interested in the “themes underlying the positive emotions described by people who experienced a DMC during language learning” (ibid.: 260). A phenomenological approach is adopted to collect and analyse data – namely interviews – from seven participants. Data analysis revealed six themes: unique experience, learning as lifestyle, enjoyment/happiness, effort as not effort, sense of change, and sense of being lucky.

Chapter 12, by R. Kirk Belnap, Jennifer Bown, Dan P. Dewey, Linnea P. Belnap and Patrick R. Steffen, is entitled “Project Perseverance: Helping Students Become Self-Regulating Learners”. The notion of perseverance is questioned through the quantitative – Likert scales – and qualitative – interviews – data produced at the end of a 16-week study abroad intensive program of Arabic, which gathered 52 students. The authors’ findings point to the importance of communication among tutors and learners during study abroad experiences, in order for the latter to experience a feeling of accomplishment.

Part Three is entitled “Applied”, it comprises Chapters 13 through 16, which present actual classroom-based experiences by language teaching practitioners. Chapter 13, by Marc Helgesen, is entitled “Happiness in ESL/EFL: Bringing Positive Psychology to the Classroom”. The author presents eight teaching and learning activities – gratitude list, complimenting, giving reasons, spending time with family and friends, forgiveness, taking care of oneself, noticing good things, and learning to work with stress. Each activity is linked to personal development principles of positive psychology, and targets specific linguistic aspects of the English language. Further positive psychology-based activities are presented, some of which are illustrated with figures of actual productions by learners.

Chapter 14, by Tim Murphey, is entitled “Teaching to Learn and Well-Become: Many Mini-Renaissances”. The author’s main tenet is that “getting students to teach others outside of class spreads the benefits” (Murphey, 2016: 324). Drawing on qualitative and quantitative data produced in one author’s elective class in a Japanese university, the author argues for the benefits of having students teach what they are learning.

Chapter 15, by Candy Fresacher, is entitled “Why and How to Use Positive Psychology Activities [(PPAs)] in the Second Language Classroom”. The author shares her experience of integrating PPAs in a university context in Hungary. These were: three gratitudes, value in action, active constructive dialogues, loving-kindness meditation and positivity portfolios.

Chapter 16, by M. Carmen Fonseca-Mora and Francisco Herrero Machancoses, is entitled “Music and Language Learning: Emotions and Engaging Memory Pathways”. Musical intelligence, emotions and the allegedly positive influence of their interaction upon language learning are central here. Ultimately, the authors plead for music to be integrated with classroom-based teaching and learning situations.

Chapter 17 is a conclusion by the editors, who ultimately argue in favour of adopting positive psychology approaches in language learning, educational contexts.

Evaluation

MacIntyre et al.’s edited volume is a thorough work on the application of positive psychological principles on applied linguistics and language learning endeavours. The theories reviewed, the data analysed and the practices presented, will certainly appeal scholars, curriculum developers, language teaching practitioners, teachers’ educators and pre-service language teachers. The volume is accessible and reads quite easily. The outline in three parts struck this reviewer as a rather adequate editorial decision, since a permanent balance is felt among the theoretical aspects of Part 1 and the practicality of Part 3. As is usually the case with editorial projects in English, this volume does not seem to take into account works on language learning and positive psychology in French or by French scholars, such as Joelle Aden (2014), Emmanuelle Maître de Pembroke (2013) or this very reviewer, Aguilar & Brudermann (2014). This apparent lack of knowledge about (or interest in?) language learning and applied linguistics research in French, seemed comically striking to this reviewer, while reading Dewaele and MacIntyre’s “FLE” concept proposal – in France and in French, “FLE” stands for “Français comme Langue Étrangère”. Although not all the proposals may actually be said to be “original” – this reviewer was reminded of Comenius’ (1986) pedagogical proposals while reading Chapter 14, by Murphey – all of them seem timely and adequate, particularly at dire times when humanistic values, namely empathy, are desperately needed. On a rather personal basis, this reviewer was thrilled to be granted the chance to review this volume, and hopes that in the near future, aspects of language teaching, and language learning, may follow some of the proposals and approaches put forward in the book.

References

Aden, J. (2014). De la langue en mouvement à la parole vivante : théâtre et didactique des langues. Langages, (192), 101 110.

Aguilar Río, J. I., & Brudermann, C. (2014). Language learner. In C. Fäcke (Eds.), Manual of Language Acquisition (pp. 291–307). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.

Comenius, J. A. (1986). Didáctica magna. Torrejón de Ardoz: Akal.

Czimmermann, E. & Piniel, K. (2016). “Advanced Language Learners’ Experiences of Flow in the Hungarian EFL Classroom”. In P. D. MacIntyre, T. Gregersen, S. Mercer (Eds.). (2016). Positive psychology in SLA (193-214). Bristol, UK ; Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters.

Falout, J. (2016). “The Dynamics of Past Selves in Language Learning and Well-Being”. Falout considers the influence that past selves, taken as “images of who one has been, and what one has gone through and done”. In P. D. MacIntyre, T. Gregersen, S. Mercer (Eds.). (2016). Positive psychology in SLA (112-129). Bristol, UK ; Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters.

Gregersen, T. et al. (2016). “Positive Psychology Exercises Build Social Capital for Language Learners: Preliminary Evidence”. In P. D. MacIntyre, T. Gregersen, S. Mercer (Eds.). (2016). Positive psychology in SLA (147-167). Bristol, UK ; Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters.

Hiver, P. (2016). “The Triumph Over Experience: Hope and Hardiness in Novice L2 Teachers”. In P. D. MacIntyre, T. Gregersen, S. Mercer (Eds.). (2016). Positive psychology in SLA (168-192). Bristol, UK ; Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters.

Lake, J. (2016). “Accentuate the Positive: Conceptual and Empirical Development of the Positive L2 Self and Its Relationship to L2 Proficiency”. In P. D. MacIntyre, T. Gregersen, S. Mercer (Eds.). (2016). Positive psychology in SLA (237-257). Bristol, UK ; Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters.

MacIntyre, P. D., Gregersen, T., & Mercer, S. (Eds.). (2016). Positive psychology in SLA. Bristol, UK ; Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters.

Maitre de Pembroke, E. (2013). Activités de production orale et émotions : gérer la complexité dans l’instant de l’échange. Lidil. Revue de linguistique et de didactique des langues, (48), 157–169.

Murphey, T. (2016). “Teaching to Learn and Well-Become: Many Mini-Renaissances”. In P. D. MacIntyre, T. Gregersen, S. Mercer (Eds.). (2016). Positive psychology in SLA (324-343). Bristol, UK ; Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Jose Ignacio Aguilar Río is a Senior Lecturer at Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 University in France. He teaches undergraduate and post-graduate courses in education and applied linguistics. His research interests are in classroom interaction, foreign language teacher education and research methodology. He has presented papers at international conferences in Europe. His works have been published in international reviews.

Page Updated: 18-Jan-2017