Weaving webs of connection: Empathy, perspective taking, and students’ motivation

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Alastair Henry
Cecilia Thorsen


L2 motivation is a relational phenomenon, shaped by teacher responsiveness (Lamb, 2017; Ushioda, 2009). Little, however, is known about the practices in which responsiveness is manifested. Drawing on research from the culturally responsive teaching paradigm (Petrone, 2013), and highlighting the role of empathy and perspective taking (Warren, 2018), the aim of this ethnographic case study of two lessons with a focus on poetry is to develop a relational understanding of the evolution of motivation. Analyses reveal how perspective taking has instructional and interactional dimensions, and how connections between lesson content and funds of knowledge with origins in students’ interactions with popular culture bring additional layers of meaning to learning. It is suggested that while connections that arise through perspective taking practices shape students’ in-the-moment motivational responses, they also accumulate in ways that lead to enduring motivational dispositions.


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Author Biographies

Alastair Henry, University West, Trollhättan

Alastair Henry is Professor of Language Education at University West, Sweden. His research focuses on the psychology of language learning and teaching. With Zoltán Dörnyei and Peter MacIntrye he is the co-editor of Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning (2015, Multilingual Matters), and with Martin Lamb, Kata Csizér and Stephen Ryan, he is a co-editor of The Palgrave Macmillan Handbook of Motivation for Language Learning (2019, Palgrave MacMillan). With Zoltán Dörnyei and Christine Muir, he co-wrote Motivational Currents in Language Learning: Frameworks for Focused Interventions (2016, Routledge). His work has appeared in journals such as Applied Linguistics, Language Learning and Modern Language Journal.

Contact details: University West, Gustava Melins, gata 2, 461 32 Trollhättan, Sweden (alastair.henry@hv.se)

Cecilia Thorsen, University West, Trollhättan

Cecilia Thorsen is Senior Lecturer in education at University West, Sweden. Alongside work on language learning psychology, her research focuses on educational attainment, student resilience, and assessment practices. In addition to a number of SLA journals, her work has appeared in British Journal of Educational Psychology, Educational Research and Evaluation, and Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research.

Contact details: University West, Gustava Melins, gata 2, 461 32 Trollhättan, Sweden (cecilia.thorsen@hv.se)


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