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Enhancing learner self-confidence 

Learner confidence can be slow to change and is deeply rooted. It is based on experiences in all areas of learners’ lives – some beyond our reach. However, it is easier to change if we focus on language learning and strengthen their confidence specifically in that domain, rather than aiming for their overall sense of self. When learners feel confident, they are more willing to try out new aspects of language and are less afraid of getting things wrong. If we want learners to actively use the language, helping them to feel confident is one key way to facilitate this.

In language learning, there are a number of things teachers can do to authentically boost learners’ confidence. Simply telling them to be confident or giving false praise will not work – learners have to feel they have earned their successes in order to take ownership of it and feel empowered by it. 

  1. Help learners see progress.

    Language learning is gradual and takes time. Sometimes it can be hard for learners to see their progress so making their growth visible is helpful for boosting their sense of achievement. For example, learners can respond to can-do statements, keep portfolios, or make a list of all the things they can already do in a language. It is also important to discourage social comparisons. All learners are individuals and make progress at their own pace. Ideally, we want learners to focus on their own progress and ensure they keep moving forward without comparing their own gains to those of others. Teachers need to avoid presenting a public comparison of grades or progress.  

  2. Ensure learners experience success.

    To gain confidence, they need to experience success. However, it is important that learners recognise this as a genuine earned success – if something is too easy, learners will not feel a sense of pride or a boost to their confidence. One way to ensure moments of success is for teachers to use scaffolding. This is when teachers break down bigger tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks which build up in gradual degrees of difficulty. For example, if practising a specific language structure such as questioning, the teacher may begin with an easier task which just requires more limited responses such as filling in sentences. They may make the next task a little more difficult where they have to add questions to a dialogue. Finally, if they feel learners have had sufficient practice and support, they could then move on to a more challenging task such as interviewing a partner where there is less structure and support. There are many ways to scaffold depending on aims and tasks, but the idea is to build up difficulty and take away support as learners gain confidence and mastery.  

  3. Empower learners with strategies.

    Confidence also comes from having a sense of direction and knowing what to do. This means it helps if teachers explicitly teach learners strategies for how to learn and use a language. For example, we can show learners how to carry on a conversation even when they don’t know certain words, how to read a text without knowing every single word, how to learn new vocabulary, how to plan and structure an oral presentation, where to find resources for practising writing blogs, who to approach for feedback or extra practice opportunities etc. Learners can be encouraged to try out different strategies and report back on how useful they found them. It is empowering to have a pathway of action to try out and ideas for how to overcome obstacles as well as believing one can improve one’s own ability. This is where having a growth mindset is also critically important for confidence and a willingness to even try out strategies.  

  4. Foster learner autonomy.

    A related feeling of control and empowerment can come from learners being given opportunities to make decisions about their learning. Learners can be given choices in (1) what they work on (e.g., between different tasks) or (2) how they work on it (e.g., offered the choice of who to work with or choosing between different forms of output such as a video or podcast). Any degree of choice can help learners feel they have control over their learning and helps them also make choices they feel comfortable with. This sense of control and empowerment can boost their confidence and willingness to become active participants in class.  

  5. Tackle unrealistic expectations and perfectionism.

    A threat to learner confidence can stem from them having unrealistic expectations of what they should be able to do or tending towards perfectionism. It is beneficial for teachers to explicitly discuss the nature of language learning with learners stressing how normal it is for progress to be slow and how mistakes are typical for every learner. In addition, teachers can use tasks (in writing and speaking) where they deliberately encourage learners to focus on communicating their main message and not worry about mistakes. Learners can be prompted try out new language and be creative in using a diverse array of communication strategies such as, reformulating complex expressions, using mime or gesture, or drawing on their other languages if need be. Language use can be extremely rewarding when they can get their message across to a partner successfully using whatever communication strategies they may know! It is communication that counts, not perfection! 


Reflection questions 

  • Can you think of a learner who needs a boost to their confidence? Would any of these strategies help them to see what they are positively capable of? 
  • Looking at upcoming tasks you have planned, can you see any which would benefit from the addition of other steps to scaffold it for weaker learners? 
  • In feedback, how often do you focus on highlighting the positive things learners can do and did well?  





Sarah Mercer is Professor of Foreign Language Teaching at the University of Graz, Austria. Her research interests include all aspects of the psychology surrounding the foreign language learning experience. She is the author, co-author, and co-editor of several books in this area including, Exploring Psychology for Language Teachers (2015, with Marion Williams and Stephen Ryan), Teacher Wellbeing (2020, with Tammy Gregersen), and Engaging Language Learners in Contemporary Classrooms (2020, with Zoltán Dörnyei). She has published over 150 book chapters and journal articles and has served as Principal Investigator on several funded research projects. In 2018, she was awarded the Robert C. Gardner Award for excellence in second language research by the International Association of Language and Social Psychology (IALSP). Sarah is the auhor of this paper.


Fostering a growth mindset 

 Learners hold a range of beliefs about language learning – some of which may stem from their own experiences, but many of which they have picked up from media, family, or friends. One set of beliefs which can be impactful on how learners approach language use and learning are called mindsets. This refers to whether a learner fundamentally believes that their ability to learn a language is a fixed, given talent that cannot really be changed by anything a person does (fixed mindset), or whether they feel language learning ability is something you can develop with the right strategies, motivation, and investment of time and energy (growth mindset). In reality, most people lie somewhere along a continuum between fixed and growth.  


Naturally, it is empowering to hold a growth mindset and believe you can make a difference to your learning and improve. Not only does it give you some control over your learning, but it means that what you do matters to your learning outcomes. It implies that a mistake does not have to define you, but instead can offer an opportunity to learn. Getting things wrong is not a statement about one’s ability or talent, but merely a normal part of the language learning process. It allows you to see engaging consciously with mistakes is a valuable strategy to help you improve. Having a growth mindset is a cornerstone of a positive frame of mind which is likely to facilitate learners’ willingness to take risks and use the language. 


So, how do we foster a growth mindset and how to we work with learners who hold more of a fixed mindset? Here the notion of a continuum is vitally important. Mindsets have typically been positioned as binary opposites with people considered as having either a fixed or growth mindset. However, when we understand we are all along a continuum with a more or less fixed/growth orientation, it becomes easier to understand the positive potential for change. We are not asking learners to make a radical shift from one set of beliefs to another but to move along the continuum to a more growth rather than fixed orientation. Beliefs change gradually and take time, but they are fundamentally open to change. Below are three areas teachers can actively work on to boost a growth mindset orientation.  


  1. Raising the topic of mindsets explicitly

    To raise learners’ awareness of this set of beliefs and how they might be impacting on their approaches to language learning, it can be worth discussing the topic explicitly. There are many resources online that explain what mindset beliefs are and show how the fixed mindset beliefs can hold learners back from taking proactive action to enhance their learning. Students can also be given a series of statements about ability. They can reflect on which ones mirror their own opinions and examine whether this suggests a fixed or growth mindset orientation. It is important learners do not feel judged in their orientation but see this as a chance to become aware of any unhelpful beliefs that may be holding them back.  


A growth mindset does not suggest everyone can reach the same level of ability. Rather, it stresses that everyone can improve their current abilities with motivation, an investment of time and energy, opportunities to practice, and a knowledge of useful learning strategies. Knowing that everyone, including themselves, has the potential to improve on where they are now can be extremely empowering. It implies that it can be helpful to accompany a discussion of mindsets with an exploration of learning strategies and how to learn. Learners can be helped to recognize the power and control they can have of their own learning through goal setting, use of strategies, regular practice, and actively learning from one’s mistakes.   


  1. Discussing the nature of mistakes and their value for learning.

    Similarly, it can be important to have an open discussion about mistakes and the potential they offer for learning. This in turn can strengthen a growth mindset. Teachers themselves also serve as critical role models in how we respond to mistakes – we must take care not to jump on learner mistakes as problems but embrace them with enthusiasm and show learners how they can be a learning or teaching opportunity. Of course, teachers are not perfect either, and we are certain to make mistakes too – students will learn a lot from watching how we respond to our own mistakes, and we can use those moments to model growth mindset behaviours. Have learners look for examples in real life of people who struggled, experienced failures or setbacks, but overcame them through effort, perseverance, strategies, and seeking out support from others. 

  2. Thinking about teacher language and feedback.

    As with all beliefs, learners will often pick up on how the teacher talks about language learning and how they respond to mistakes. When we provide feedback to learners, we need to focus less on the outcome and be wary of praising ability or intelligence. Instead, we need to focus on the aspects learners can control and influence such as how they approached the tasks, the strategies they can use, celebrating effort and progress. Naturally, we must take care not to inadvertently imply that progress is only about effort and a growth mindset. Instead, we can show how it is also requires an active approach and we can highlight these aspects in the feedback we give. Finally, we need to talk about the meaning of the word ‘yet’ and its importance for mindsets. If a learner says, ‘I cannot do this’, we can tell them, ‘ok, you cannot do this YET but with the right kind of approach and time, you will be able to do it’. Teachers need to have positive expectations of all learners and communicate that directly and indirectly. If we can show learners that we believe in their potential for improvement, it will be easier for learners to believe this about themselves.  


In sum, having a growth mindset can help learner believe in their potential to improve through practice and the learning potential of mistakes. This can reduce their anxiety, boost their confidence, and empower them to speak up and use the language seeing it not as a potential threat or risk of failure but an opportunity for growth. 


Reflection questions 

  • Think about your learners. Do you know whether they have a more fixed/growth mindset? 
  • Are you aware of ways in which you talk about challenge, mistakes, difficulties, and abilities – to what extent are you consistently communicating a belief in growth for all learners? 
  • Can you think of a class where it might be worthwhile doing some explicit activities and work on a growth mindset?  



Sarah Mercer is Professor of Foreign Language Teaching at the University of Graz, Austria. Her research interests include all aspects of the psychology surrounding the foreign language learning experience. She is the author, co-author, and co-editor of several books in this area including, Exploring Psychology for Language Teachers (2015, with Marion Williams and Stephen Ryan), Teacher Wellbeing (2020, with Tammy Gregersen), and Engaging Language Learners in Contemporary Classrooms (2020, with Zoltán Dörnyei). She has published over 150 book chapters and journal articles and has served as Principal Investigator on several funded research projects. In 2018, she was awarded the Robert C. Gardner Award for excellence in second language research by the International Association of Language and Social Psychology (IALSP). Sarah is the author of this paper.

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Understanding the impact of task design on learners’ willingness to speak 

Have you noticed that in some classes and with some speaking activities, learners are more actively engaged than with others? Have you ever wondered why? One social factor is the group atmosphere. This is centrally important to how comfortable and safe learners feel in a class generally, and it can notably impact learners’ willingness to speak up.  


However, another social factor affecting learner engagement concerns the speaking activity itself. How a speaking task is set up can influence how anxious a learner feels about speaking and how willing they are to interact with others. For example, compare how it feels to talk to strangers about something you know little about with no prior warning with how it feels to talk to a friend about a topic you are passionate about and know lots about. There are three main dimensions of a speaking activity that we can pay attention to, in order to lower anxiety and enhance learners’ willingness to engage: 

1. The topic and level of preparedness.

Learners need two main things in order to feel prepared to engage in a speaking task: (1) They need knowledge and ideas of what to say about the topic; (2) and they need the language to be able to talk about it. When learners feel adequately prepared, it lowers their anxiety and helps them feel confident enough to engage. One way of contributing to this is to also ensure that task instructions are clearly articulated, and any complex task is broken down into manageable steps so learners know what is expected of them and how to proceed.  


Regarding the topic itself, teachers may consider offering pre-speaking activities to trigger initial thinking and brainstorming, or they may give input on a topic. Obviously, if learners are being asked to talk about their favourite film, they may need less preparation time to talk spontaneously than if they were being asked to discuss a topic where they may need to gather their thoughts, such as if asked to make suggestions of how to live in a more environmentally respectful way.  


In terms of language, again, it depends on how familiar learners are with the topic and its related field of vocabulary. If it is a new or less familiar topic area, it can help learners to do some explicit vocabulary work or brainstorming of expressions to equip learners with the language they need to take part.  


Another dimension that can impact on learners’ willingness to speak is the topic itself. How interesting will they find the task? How personally relevant or meaningful is it? Taking time to find out about learner interests or what aspects of a topic learners could find interesting is worthwhile as it can notably boost learners’ motivation to speak about the topic.  

2. Interlocutors

 This refers to speaking partners and who learners are being asked to talk to. In some ways, reflecting on interlocutors ties in together with a consideration of the topic. Learners need to feel safe talking about a specific topic with a particular partner. For low-risk topics and themes that are not too personal, they may be comfortable working with diverse peers. However, especially at the start of the course or in respect to more sensitive topics, learners may prefer to work with a friend who they know well and are familiar with. Sometimes teachers allow students to choose their partners and sometimes they may assign partners. Occasionally, it is useful to have learners work with people they know less well to provide an authentic reason to talk such as when they do not know each other’s hobbies or favourite films. This can also strengthen overall group dynamics, but mixing up learners for speaking tasks needs handling with care depending on the task and topic.  

3. Focus on communication and fluency before accuracy.

There are many different types of speaking activity. Sometimes we may want learners to practise a specific language form and the focus may be more on the use of language than general fluency and communication. In this case, teachers have to think carefully how to note down aspects of language they wish to give feedback on and when. Interrupting a learner while speaking and providing feedback in front of others can be very damaging to their self-confidence (LINK) and may negatively affect their future willingness to speak. It is less face-threatening to make note of language issues you become aware of as you move around the class and then address them anonymously with the whole class. This allows language issues to be picked up on, but nobody feels especially focused on. 


Ideally, speaking activities are primarily used for boosting learner communication skills and enhancing fluency. The key is to get learners to actively use the language, not worry about accuracy but focus instead on getting their message across to their partner. The more they speak, the better they will become. Work with speaking activities where the focus is on communicating such as in problem-solving tasks, opinion discussions, storytelling, drama activities, interviews, or imagination activities. Crucially, tell learners explicitly that mistakes are unimportant for such tasks; explain you are more interested in them using the language creatively and actively to get their message across than the accuracy of the language they use to do this. Tell them it counts as a success if their partner can understand and respond! 


A low-anxiety speaking task is one where the learner understands the task, feels adequately prepared to complete it (with ideas and language), where they feel comfortable with their speaking partner(s), and where they do not have to worry about mistakes as the focus is on getting their message across. Thinking about the set up of speaking tasks can be critical to their success. These reflective questions may help you think about speaking tasks you work with:  

  1. How prepared in terms of ideas and language do learners need to be in order to work on this task? 
  2. How interesting or motivating is the topic for learners? 
  3. To what extent do learners need to work with a familiar partner(s) for this task/topic in order to feel comfortable, or could it be a task to work on with a less familiar peer from class?  
  4. Is this task designed to focus on communicating an authentic message rather than concentrating on accuracy of language use?  
  5. Are learners aware of the focus on communication and not accuracy?  




Sarah Mercer is Professor of Foreign Language Teaching at the University of Graz, Austria. Her research interests include all aspects of the psychology surrounding the foreign language learning experience. She is the author, co-author, and co-editor of several books in this area including, Exploring Psychology for Language Teachers (2015, with Marion Williams and Stephen Ryan), Teacher Wellbeing (2020, with Tammy Gregersen), and Engaging Language Learners in Contemporary Classrooms (2020, with Zoltán Dörnyei). She has published over 150 book chapters and journal articles and has served as Principal Investigator on several funded research projects. In 2018, she was awarded the Robert C. Gardner Award for excellence in second language research by the International Association of Language and Social Psychology (IALSP). Sarah is the auhor of this paper.

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ELT podcasts you should be listening to

Flashback: Late 2014, a couple of colleagues and I are on Skype (yes Skype!) talking about our love of podcasts, and what we’re currently listening to. At that time, the podcast du jour was Serial, an investigative journalism podcast that addressed a possible miscarriage of justice in the US, which started in October of that year and has now been downloaded over 68 million times! A podcast which according to Sherrill, (2020) (1) helped move podcasting from a niche activity to a mainstream media platform. During our conversation, we discuss the lack of ELT podcasts, and one thing led to another and in March 2015 the first episode of TEFL commute dropped.

Flashforward: January 2023, it’s estimated that there are over 5 million podcasts with over 70 million episodes between them (2). Of that, 105 of those episodes are TEFL commute, and in the seven years since we started there is now a burgeoning ELT podcast range for teachers to get stuck into covering many angles.

Aside from their enjoyment value, podcasts are an excellent way of squeezing a little bit of continuing professional development into our busy lives. Something we can listen to, while doing something else. Listening on demand, unlike video on demand does not tie us to a screen.

ELT podcasts contain interviews which allows us to hear from renowned ELT professionals. They also give us new and differing perspectives on educational topics and provide us with things we can try out in the classroom. Space limits me from mentioning all the ELT podcasts out there, but if you’re looking for some to get started then hopefully these five will help you on your way.


TEFL commute

As one of the founders of this podcast, we started this with the idea of providing teachers with something to listen to on their journey to work. Most episodes are based around a light-hearted discussion inspired by a word related to education – anything from stationary to games, or grammar. As well as discussions, the podcast tries to demystify areas of language teaching, and provide activities for the classroom.


This is a long-running podcast about language teaching and applied linguistics. If you prefer something less light-hearted then this might be the podcast for you. Currently at 116 episodes,  TEFLology mixes episodes that bring you in-depth interviews with leading figures in the industry, and chats on areas of interest for the presenters.

Teacher Talk Radio

Technically not a podcast but a whole internet-based radio station. It describes itself as community radio station for teachers and educators. Shows go out live (from 11am to 10pm) but then each episode can be downloaded like a podcast. There are around 15 different hosts covering all aspects of education though many episodes feature ELT, and hosts such as Jane Ritter, Graham Stanley, and Harry Watters are from an ELT background.

TEFL Training Institute

Another long stay podcast having reached 200 episodes. While 200 might seem like a lot to catch up on, the podcast aims to be bite-sized, so episodes are around 15 minutes with the goal of giving ideas to teachers, trainer and managers. Episodes feature chats with people from throughout the industry, along with discussions on ELT topics.

Something rhymes with purple

Ok, so this one is made for mainstream not ELT consumption. However, most English teachers are fascinated by the English language, and this podcast deals with just that. The two hosts, well-known in the UK, spend each episode looking at words and sayings discussing meaning and origins. The weekly topics are eclectic and more than one thing they have discussed has made its way into my language classes!

If you’ve never listened to a podcast, I hope that at least one of these five will appeal to you but if not, as I mentioned at the outset, I can’t include them all so if you’re still looking for the right one for you then simply search your favourite podcast provider.

Happy Listening.


Shaun Wilden is an education technologist who teaches and trains both face-to-face and online courses. He is the academic manager for online courses for the International House World Organisation overseeing their suite of asynchronous teacher development courses. He also teaches digital literacy as well as short courses in teaching online at the University of Oxford. His latest book, Mobile Learning, was published by Oxford University Press. In his spare time, he makes the TEFL commute podcast for teachers and plays board games.




(1) Sherrill, Lindsey. (2020). The “ Serial Effect” and the True Crime Podcast Ecosystem. Journalism Practice. 16. 1-22. 10.1080/17512786.2020.1852884.
(2) https://www.demandsage.com/podcast-statistics/
(3) (italics)TEFL commute: http://www.teflcommute.com
(4) (italics)TEFLology: www.teflology-podcast.com
(5) (italics)Teacher Talk Radio: https://www.ttradio.org
(6) (italics)TEFL Training Institute: https://www.tefltraininginstitute.com/podcast
(7) (italics)Something rhymes with purple: https://somethinelse.com/projects/something-rhymes-with-purple/


Creating positive group dynamics 

A positive group atmosphere is hugely important to the success of any language class in terms of engagement. We need learners to be actively using the language in class, so we need to ensure that speaking is not associated with any kind of social risk or threat to their sense of self. Learners need to feel safe and willing to use the language with others.

However, very often, students are afraid of using the language in front of peers who they are worried may ridicule them and they are concerned about speaking in front of the teacher who they imagine is evaluating and judging them. In sum, asking learners to speak up in class can be incredibly face-threatening, especially during the teenage years, when learners are preoccupied with social standing and hyper-sensitive about how they may appear to others.

For some, being silent may seem safer and smarter than taking the risk of speaking up and facing negative evaluation or even being made fun of. So, how can we create the kind of group atmosphere in which learners feel safe, supported, and encouraged to speak up and use the language without fear of mistakes or risk of embarrassment?  


The key is having a positive group atmosphere among the students. However, this does not arise overnight or as the result of one single activity. There are no express routes to a good group dynamic. Rather, this emerges over time from the quality of relationships developed among peers and between teacher and students. It takes time but it is worth the investment as it can transform learner participation and language use in class.  


Teacher-student relationships 

For teachers, it is important to make a conscious effort to get to know your learners as individuals. This means knowing their names and how to pronounce them correctly and also finding out personal things about them such as their hobbies, interests, or favourite films or band. Micro-conversations are those little two-minute interactions you may have with a learner in the hall, before class starts, after class ends, or during an activity – these little conversations play a critical role in building up trust and rapport. It is a way for you to connect on a personal level and show you are interested in them as a person.

Another way to build trust is to be transparent in what you are doing and why. Explain the reasoning behind actions, have clear grading scales and criteria, welcome feedback from learners, empower learners to make choices where possible, and be consistent in your expectations of learners. Teachers may also share a little about their personal lives (not too much and only what is appropriate!) so that learners can see you as a real person beyond the classroom! With a good rapport between teacher and learners, they will feel safer and less worried about being judged harshly when they speak or make mistakes.  


Learner-learner relationships 

Learners also need to appreciate each other as individuals, respecting difference and individuality. Many of the activities in the language class enable learners to get to know each other personally, and it is good to occasionally allow students to work with diverse partners when they feel confident to do so, in order to ensure learners know as many of their peers as possible. There are other ways we can work on strengthening learner relationships, here are just a selection of ideas: 

  1. Use ice-breaker and team-building activities.

    Ice-breaker activities are designed to help people feel at ease and get to know each other when a group first forms. However, they can be used repeatedly throughout the year to ensure individuals continue to get to know each other, learn personal details about one another, have fun together, or cooperate on a shared task. Knowing others in class makes it a safer space and helps learners feel a sense of connection to one another.  

  2. Ensure learners work with diverse members of class.

    Learners tend to stick with friends for activities which is fine when they need to feel secure and strengthen their confidence (LINK 2). However, with low-risk speaking tasks, it can useful to deliberately mix learners up so they get to know others in class individually. For example, students can find out about each other’s hobbies, get them to learn what things they have in common, have them share photographs of things or people they love, or ask them to tell each other about a social issue that matters to them (e.g., the environment, animal rights, racism etc.).  

  3. Make sure learners feel a sense of belonging.

    Not only teachers need to know learner names and how to pronounce them correctly, but also learners need to know each other and be able to use each other’s names appropriately and respectfully. This helps a sense of inclusion and togetherness. In addition, diverse social groups represented in your class may have different celebrations that can be acknowledged as a group. To ensure learners feel a sense of belonging, the whole class could draw up a calendar of diverse social and cultural celebrations and days of relevance (e.g., Easter or Diwali or Eid or World mother languages day or World chess day or World diabetes day) – let learners suggest things to add to the calendar and ideas of how the days can be marked. This enables all learners and issues or events that matter to them to be celebrated within the group as a whole, which can strengthen everyone’s sense of belonging and also generate a shared understanding of diversity. In a classroom where everyone feels welcome and seen, learners will feel a stronger sense of security and a greater willingness to participate as a valued member of the group.  

  4. Have learners work cooperatively together on joint projects or tasks.

    Relationships can be positively impacted when learners have a shared goal and support each other in working towards it. When learners depend on each other and everyone has something to contribute, they can value and appreciate every individual’s contribution. A common task type that fosters this sense of cooperation is when learners work on jigsaw tasks or form expert groups. Here they form groups of say four. Each individual then works on a reading or research task alone. They then come back together to share what they have read or found out with the rest of the group. Together all four work on a joint task that they can only complete with the input from each and every individual member of the group.   

  5. Develop students’ empathic skills through role play or perspective-taking.

    Learners need to become empathic by imagining how another person might think or feel in diverse situations. This is a key life skill learners need not just for enhancing classroom life but also for life beyond school. They can work with stories, film extracts, poems, or photographs where they are asked to imagine how another person might feel, think, or react. Taking part in role plays also involves imagining the thinking and behaviour of someone else. Being able to switch perspectives and see the world through another person’s eyes helps learners be more supportive of peers and less likely to engage in bullying. 

  6. Have a zero-tolerance policy for any bullying or ridicule.

    If a problematic situation does arise, try to find ways to turn this incident into a discussion on empathy, perspective-taking, and respect. Do not ignore such incidents but use them as an opportunity for learning and demonstrate your insistence on respect for all learners.  


Reflection questions 

  • When you think of a class you work with currently, how would you describe the group dynamic? Is there any areas of your relationship with students you could work on? To what extent do you feel all the learners know and respect each other? Are there any learner relationships activities you might want to work with? 
  • Can you think of a past class which had a fantastic, positive group dynamic? Reflecting on the class now, what do you think were the factors which contributed to this positive atmosphere? Are there any lessons you can draw from it for your current teaching groups? 




Sarah Mercer is Professor of Foreign Language Teaching at the University of Graz, Austria. Her research interests include all aspects of the psychology surrounding the foreign language learning experience. She is the author, co-author, and co-editor of several books in this area including, Exploring Psychology for Language Teachers (2015, with Marion Williams and Stephen Ryan), Teacher Wellbeing (2020, with Tammy Gregersen), and Engaging Language Learners in Contemporary Classrooms (2020, with Zoltán Dörnyei). She has published over 150 book chapters and journal articles and has served as Principal Investigator on several funded research projects. In 2018, she was awarded the Robert C. Gardner Award for excellence in second language research by the International Association of Language and Social Psychology (IALSP). Sarah is the author of this paper.