“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
Thursday, 6 April 2017
Plenary session by Sarah Mercer
Sarah Mercer is currently Professor of Foreign Language Teaching at the University of Graz, Austria, where she is Head of ELT Research and Methodology and Deputy Head of the Centre for Teaching and Learning in Arts and Humanities. Her research interests include all aspects of the psychology surrounding the foreign language learning and teaching experience, focusing in particular on issues of self and identity. She is the author, co-author and co-editor of several books in this area including, Towards an Understanding of Language Learner Self-Concept, Psychology for Language Learning, Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLA, New Directions in Language Learning Psychology, Positive Psychology in SLA, Exploring Psychology for Language Teachers (Winner of the Ben Warren Prize), and Teacher Psychology in SLA. Her current research focuses on the professional wellbeing of language teachers in a diverse range of contexts.
Connecting minds: language learner and teacher psychologies
Language learning is a deeply social and emotional undertaking for both teachers and learners. In this talk, I wish to reflect on the fundamental role played by psychology in the learning and teaching of foreign languages. Far from being an optional extra in the teaching and learning debate, we will see just how crucial an understanding of psychology is, given that people and their relationships lie at the heart of the teaching/learning interaction. While teaching materials and specific methodologies remain vitally important, it is impossible to reap the full benefits offered by such resources without those involved being psychologically in a facilitative frame of mind. Together we will consider some of the foundations of a healthy psychology in the language classroom for both teachers and learners. We will assume a socially situated understanding of psychology that challenges the division between cognition and emotion as well as the emphasis on the individual in isolation. We will focus on the centrality of social relationships, especially the connection between teachers and learners, and the role of perception in engagement with contextual opportunities. We will cover diverse aspects of psychology such as beliefs, emotions, sense of self, agency and engagement. Specifically, we will consider how we can help learners to connect mentally and emotionally to their language learning and how we can support teachers to ensure a positive level of professional well-being in their jobs. In sum, this talk aims to focus our minds on what matters most in language education: The people.