Naming Love in the L2 Classroom: A Catalyst for Future Research

Rebecca Oxford (University of Maryland, USA) & Ana Barcelos (Federal University of Vicosa, Brazil)

“The Inuit had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them. There ought to be as many for love” (Atwood, 1972, p. 107, adapted). Thoughts of love pervade private lives, media, and literature. A few narrative studies (e.g., Oxford & Cuéllar, 2014) explore teacher-student love and compassion in L2 education, with benefits for motivation, performance, and satisfaction, but most L2 emotion investigations concern learner anxiety without other emotions. Exceptions are works on learner anxiety and enjoyment together (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2014), positive psychology (MacIntyre, Gregersen, & Mercer, 2016), and L2 teacher psychology (Mercer & Kostoulas, 2017).

This colloquium, whose presenters hail from Austria, England, the United States, Brazil, Japan, and Canada, is a catalyst for future research on love in L2 education. It showcases five 25-minute, thematically-related papers illustrating how love naturally occurs in many L2 education settings and can be further fostered by practical activities. Presenters’ insights come from their formal research (e.g., narrative, survey, and observational); classroom experiences with songs, discussions, and poetry; and L2-education applications of positive psychology, contemplative inquiry, spirituality, and philosophy.

The first paper, “What’s Love Got to Do with Language Learning and Teaching?” (Ana Barcelos & Hilda Simone H. Coelho), discusses theories and definitions of love in education and the social sciences based on Day (2007), Frederickson (2013), Freire (2006), hooks (1999), Maturana (1996), and Noddings (2005) and then explains how love is related to L2 learning and teaching. The second paper, “Developing a Classroom Climate of Love through Social and Emotional Intelligence” (Christina Gkonou & Sarah Mercer), addresses social and emotional intelligence as vital components in creating a climate of love in the L2 classroom. It reports on a global survey of these intelligences in 890 teachers and, with selected teachers, post-survey classroom observations and stimulated recalls.The third paper, “Identity and Authenticity Resonance: A Theoretical Approach to What It Means to Love Teaching” (Tammy Gregersen & Peter MacIntyre), reflects on the love of teaching and on aligning one’s identity with authenticity, based on theories of love (Buscaglia, 1973; Frederickson, 2013; Palmer, 2007), social identity, individual differences, and situated learning. The fourth paper, “’The Encouragement of Light’: Perspectives on Love in the Language Classroom,” (Rebecca Oxford) discusses Zajonc’s (2006) epistemology of love, including caring, gentleness, intimacy, and vulnerability, and compares this with Fox’s (1988) “deep education,” Fromm’s “art of loving,” humanistic L2 teaching, and narrative studies of love in teaching Chinese and EFL. The final paper, “Singing Our Way to Well Be-Loving,” (Tim Murphey) highlights the use of songs in the language class to promote love. It explains how bilingual “songlets” can align (Atkinson et al., 2007) students’ potentially bilingual brains and create a more loving, wholesome, holistically diverse world.

A subsequent 20-minute panel discussion allows presenters to compare, contrast, and synthesize their ideas. Next comes a 20-minute period in which small groups discuss love in L2 education and report to the whole group, with results later aggregated and posted online, along with presentations and panel comments. The colloquium concludes with a summary (15 minutes) of hopes for future research on love in L2 education based on the whole colloquium.


What’s love got to do with language learning and teaching?

Ana Barcelos & Hilda Simone H. Coelho (Federal University of Vicosa, Brazil)

Affective factors have been the focus of several studies (Arnold, 1999; So, 2005; Mastrella, 2002; Mastrella-Andrade, 2012; Aragão, 2007, 2008; Imai, 2010) in applied linguistics (AL). For the most part, the most researched emotion has been anxiety. More recently, however, several studies, keeping up with the rise of positive psychology in AL (McIntyre and Mercer, 2014) have started investigating other kinds of emotions, such as enjoyment (Dewaele, 2014), hope (Murphey, 2009; Ciarrochi, Heaven, Davies, 2007) and hot cognition (Oxford, 2013). These studies have allowed the field to expand the spectrum of emotions and emphasize the importance of well-being in language learning and teaching. However, one of the emotions we find missing is love. We believe that this is one of the emotions that can contribute to learners’ and teachers’ wellbeing. Thus, in this theoretical paper, we look at the role of this specific emotion in language teaching and learning by first discussing some myths and misrepresentations about love in education; second, by talking about the different definitions of love in education and social sciences in general, based on the studies of Noddings (2005), Day (2007), Freire (2006), hooks (1999), Maturana (1996) and Frederickson, 2013), among others; and third, by pointing out how love, language learning and teaching are related. We conclude by reflecting on how love can contribute to more effective learning and teaching as well as to a better life quality in the classroom for teachers and students.


Developing a classroom climate of love through social and emotional intelligence

Christina Gkonou (University of Essex, UK) & Sarah Mercer (University of Graz, Austria)

Given the fundamentally social, interactional and interpersonal nature of language learning and teaching, we argue that emotional and social intelligence play an especially significant role in language education. However, despite the growing interest in relationships, group dynamics, emotions and learner-centred approaches within SLA (Benesch, 2012; Dewaele, 2010; Dörnyei & Murphey, 2003; Underhill, 2013), research into the emotional and social intelligence of language teachers and/or learners remains scarce. The present study was designed to address this gap. Data were gathered through a three-stage process. First, 890 EFL teachers from across the globe completed an online questionnaire which aimed at examining their levels of emotional and social intelligence. Next, the classes of six volunteer teachers in the UK and Austria who displayed high levels of emotional and social intelligence in the questionnaire data, were observed. Then stimulated recall interviews were conducted with the teachers to see what emotional and social strategies they use in their actual teaching, focusing on areas of classroom management, decision-making, and interpersonal encounters. In our talk, we will present the main findings from all three stages of the project reflecting on the implications that can be drawn for SLA research, language pedagogy, and teacher education. We will focus on discussing how both emotional and social intelligence are vital competences for teachers to have in their professional toolkits in order to create a climate of love in the language classroom, which we argue is essential for effective language teaching and learning.


Identity and authenticity resonance: A theoretical approach to what it means to love teaching.

Tammy Gregersen (University of Northern Iowa, USA) & Peter MacIntyre (University of Cape Breton, Canada)

What does it mean to love teaching and is it a state reserved for a lucky few? We approach this conversation drawing upon the work of three respected authors. First, we examine Barbara Frederickson’s (2013, Love 2.0) recent conceptualization of love as positivity resonance. Second, we draw on Leo Buscaglia (1973, Love) who espouses a view of love as being true to oneself in spite of external pressures to conform. And we employ Parker Palmer’s (2007, The Courage to Teach) idea that our ”deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.” Using these three authors as a guide, this presentation examines the ever-shifting, synergetic relationship between teacher identity and authenticity. We demonstrate how reflecting critically, discovering one’s personal style, displaying emotion, and recognizing diversity might facilitate aligning one’s identity (who I am) with authenticity (what I do). We address teaching from a second language acquisition (SLA) perspective using social identity theory, situated learning, image-texts and individual differences theory to identify applicable theoretical tenets concerning identity and authenticity. Finally, we provide research-based applications concerning how to align teacher identities with authenticity. The presentation concludes with a discussion of the proposition that when teachers love teaching, they fulfil their deepest personal and educational mission.


“The encouragement of light”: Perspectives on love in the language classroom

Rebecca Oxford (University of Maryland, USA)

The Persian poet Hafiz wrote, ”How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all of its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being. Otherwise, we all remain too frightened” (Ladinsky, 2002, p. 161). L2 teachers’ loving encouragement weakens the monster grip of anxiety, opens learners’ hearts, and allows learners to show the world their cultural and communicative abilities. The presenter explains Arthur Zajonc’s (2006, 2009) epistemology of love, an educational mode that is currently used to teach subjects from the social sciences and humanities to the natural sciences. This epistemology includes respect, caring, gentleness, intimacy, vulnerability, participation, transformation, Bildung (formation or sculpting), insight, and peace. The presenter compares this epistemology with Matthew Fox’s (1988) ”deep education,” involving love, compassion, and radical amazement; Lin’s (2006) ”love, peace, and wisdom in education;” Fromm’s (1956) ”art of loving;” Meister Eckhart’s wisdom schools (Fox, 2014); Gertrude Moskowitz’s (1978) humanistic caring and sharing in the L2 classroom; Earl Stevick’s humanistic harmony ”within and between people in a language course” (1980, p. 5); young Mattie Stepanek’s ”Heartsongs,” written shortly before he died; Oxford and Bolaños’ (2016) and Oxford and Cuéllar’s (2014) narrative studies of compassionate L2 mentorships; and the loving rapture of peak experiences and inspired consciousness (Oxford, 2016). Just as the presentation began with Hafiz’s poem, it ends with Christopher Logue’s (1969) poem, ”Come to the Edge.” With the encouragement of light and love, L2 learners’ hearts can open, and with repeated calls to the edge and a loving push, learners can take wing. The poems, perspectives, and classroom examples point to love in L2 learning.


Singing our way to well be-loving

Tim Murphey (Kanda University of International Studies, Japan)

Well-being is a state of general ”wellness” which can make us lazy in our efforts to improve the world. I have proposed ”well-becoming” as a more active, procedural way to conceptualize the quest for well-being. Inspired by this colloquium I want to explore one way that we can ”well be-love” or do ”well be-loving.” I believe that one of the ways that this happens in my classes is through singing short songlets, with call and response routines, which begin as speed dictations that students help each other with and then turn into short conversational routines. I will be singing with the audience several songlets which basically answer some our most enduring questions in our lives and whose answers give us guidance and hope: How are you? How do you have a good life? How do you succeed? What do you like? What do you love? Who do you love? What should we notice? Due to time limits, I will record myself as I talk and we sing and make the recording available to everyone online. I will also have a detailed handout to guide them through the process and possibilities for using these songlets and even making their own. I will also have a list of cutting edge research references that support the ideas that anthropologically language and song developed in parallel (Mithen 2006), that enfant development and later language acquisition abilities depend on early musical contact (Krueger, 2013), that our brains are musical organs (Patel, 2008; Sacks, 2007), and that sound sensitivity, English prosody processing, and English listening comprehension are correlated in sensitive periods in early childhood (Tabata, 2016). I further contend that bi- and multi-lingual songlets can align (Atkinson et. al, 2007) students’ potentially bilingual brains and align teachers and students into a more wholesome holistically diverse world.