Research Project

Language Teachers' Emotions

Principal Investigator
Dr Christina Gkonou

The emotional dimension of language teachers' psychology

This project is comprised of several strands of investigation. The Principle Investigator is Dr Christina Gkonou.

Language teacher engagement with highly anxious learners

This research project examines how teachers of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) try to address their students’ language anxiety. In most cases, these teachers’ efforts are motivated by an ethic of care in which they seek to construct positive relationships with students in order to help mitigate their students’ anxiety. However, such efforts often also lead to teacher emotional labour, in an attempt by teachers to suppress their own emotions and prioritise those of their students.

Further resources for language teachers

Negative emotions should not remain hidden - an article from the English Language Gazette

Dr Christina Gkonou has researched foreign language anxierty extensively and puts forward her advice for teachers. Dr Gkonou confirmed that, according to her research, anxiety is the most common negative emotion among language learners. Her key recommendation is to discuss anxiety as frequently as possible in class.

Read the online article from the English Language Gazette to learn more about the key recommendations.

In search of peace of mind: Anxiety and language education - a Multilingual Matters blog post featuring Dr Christina Gkonou

In this blog, Dr Christina Gkonou discusses her personal experience of language anxiety. In particular, she explains what language anxiety is and how it can best be mitigated to ensure academic achievement and personal well-being.

Read the full post from the Multilingual Matters blog to learn more about anxiety in the classroom.

Caring and emotional labour: Language teachers’ engagement with anxious learners in private language school classrooms

This study examines how a group of eight teachers of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Greece discuss their efforts to address their students’ language anxiety (LA).

Read the abstract or download the full article from the journal Language Teaching Research.

An interview with Dr Christina Gkonou from the TEFLology podcast

Listen to Dr Christina Gkonou discuss her research interests and her findings in the full podcast on YouTube.

Applied language learning psychology: Bringing in teachers’ perspectives

This two-phase project focuses on gaining classroom-based insights into language learning psychology by exploring teachers’ beliefs, experiences and practices in respect to key areas in the field, including motivation, emotions and beliefs.

Our main aim for the methodological design was to create data collection instruments with ‘participant benefits’ by conducting research that would give teachers something back. Foreign language teachers in Austria, Portugal, and Greece took part in the study.

Key publications

Teacher perspectives on language learning psychology

This study focuses on the psychological aspects of language learning which teachers felt were particularly important in their own settings. In particular, teachers’ beliefs, experiences and teaching strategies were explored.

Read the abstract or download the full article from our research repository.

Agency, anxiety, and activity: Understanding the classroom behaviour of EFL learners

Dr Christina Gkonou contributes a chapter to the volume 'Theorizing and Analyzing Agency in Second Language Learning: Interdisciplinary Approaches'.

Read the abstract or download the full article from Taylor Francis Online.

A global study on EFL teachers’ emotional and social intelligence

This project focuses on the role of teacher socio-emotional competencies in effective classroom management, the promotion of positive and healthy interpersonal relationships between the teacher and their students and among students, and the successful regulation of emotions during the process of language learning and teaching. We look specifically at how these competencies function in actual classrooms and how best they can be fostered.

Key publications

The relational beliefs and practices of highly socio-emotionally competent teachers

Dr Christina Gkonou discusses the centrality of the student‐teacher relationship with regard to the importance of socio‐emotional competence for teacher well-being. Teachers cite the necessity of empathy, trust and positive dynamics both in the group and in individual learners.

Read the book review at the Wiley Online Library.

Understanding emotional and social intelligence among English language teachers

This study reviews the literature on emotional intelligence and social intelligence within psychology and education, and argues for the relevance and importance of both constructs specifically within English language teaching. The paper concludes with a reflection on the implications of the findings for language teaching and language teacher education.

Read or download the full text from our research repository.

Innovative practices in language teacher education: Spanning the spectrum from intra- to inter-personal professional development

This volume addresses innovations in language teacher education, offering a diversity of personal/psychological perspectives and topics in the theory and practice of language teacher education. The text deals with innovations in teaching for learning, teacher autonomy, dynamic self-reflection, peace education, professionalism, action research, socio-emotional intelligence, embodiment, professional development, NeuroELT, and more.

Visit the Springer publisher website to learn more about the book.

English language teacher agency and emotions

This project concentrates on the emotional experiences, including ethical dilemmas and emotional rewards, of experienced English language teachers during classroom practice. We focus specifically on the language used by teachers to discuss their emotions, as well as the strategies they deploy to manage emotionally challenging episodes in class.

Key publications

Language teacher agency, emotion labor and emotional rewards in tertiary-level English language programs

This article addresses under-explored components of language teaching through reporting on the findings of a qualitative study with language teachers in tertiary settings in the U.K. and the U.S. The study considers aspects of teacher experience in terms of discourses of teaching-as-caring and Foucault’s (1983) concept of ethical self-formation.

Read the abstract or download the full text from the journal System.

Critical incidents in language teaching

This project draws on research interviews with tertiary-level experienced teachers of English and analyses their storytelling of critical incidents throughout their careers and how they interpreted the effects of ‘what happened’ in retrospective sense-making. The project focuses on those teacher stories which are classified as ‘critical incidents’, i.e. events that mark a significant turning point in one’s professional life, are often highly emotionally charged, and are cast as having a continuing significance.

Key publications

Critical incident analysis

Dr Christina Gkonou is contributing to 'Qualitative Research Topics in Language Teacher Education'. Soon to be published by Routledge.

Critical incidents in language teachers’ narratives of emotional experience

Dr Christina Gkonou is contributing to 'Language Teaching: An Emotional Rollercoaster'. Soon to be published by Multilingual Matters.

Get in touch
Centre for Research in Language Development throughout the Lifespan (LaDeLi) University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Telephone: 01206 872083