culminating reflection

Please look back over all we’ve read, discussed and done, and indicate how the information, discussion, and assignments regarding learning theories, neuroscience, motivation and engagement, and Habits of Mind contributed to your understanding of furthering your continual learning and the learning of your students. Be concise

ISBN 978-92-64-02912-5
Understanding the Brain: The Birth of a Learning Science
© OECD 2007
Executive Summary
Education is like a double-edged sword. It
may be turned to dangerous uses if it is not
properly handled.
Wu Ting-Fang
After two decades of pioneering work in brain research, the education community has
started to realise that “understanding the brain” can help to open new pathways to improve
educational research, policies and practice. This report synthesises progress on the brain-
informed approach to learning, and uses this to address key issues for the education
community. It offers no glib solutions nor does it claim that brain-based learning is a
panacea. It does provide an objective assessment of the current state of the research at the
intersection of cognitive neuroscience and learning, and maps research and policy
implications for the next decade.
Part I “The Learning Brain” is the main report, which is the distillation from all the analyses
and events over the past seven years of the OECD/CERI “Learning Sciences and Brain
Research” project. Part II “Collaborative Articles” contains three articles devoted to the
“learning brain” in early childhood, adolescence and adulthood, respectively. These have
been written, in each case, by three experts who have combined their experience and
knowledge in synergy of the different perspectives of neuroscience and education. Annex A
reproduces some insights and dialogue that have emerged from the project’s interactive
website, open to civil society and including notably a teachers’ forum. Annex B updates the
reader with developments in neuroimaging technology which have proved so fundamental
to the advances discussed in this report.
The first chapter offers a novel “ABC” of the contents of the report by listing and discussing
keywords in alphabetical order. This serves both to give short summaries of complex
concepts and to steer the reader towards the relevant chapter(s) providing the more
in-depth coverage. This is followed in the first half of the following chapter by a short but
essential overview of the brain’s architecture and functioning.
How the brain learns throughout life
Neuroscientists have well established that the brain has a highly robust and well-developed
capacity to change in response to environmental demands, a process called plasticity. This
involves creating and strengthening some neuronal connections and weakening or
eliminating others. The degree of modification depends on the type of learning that takes
place, with long-term learning leading to more profound modification. It also depends on the
period of learning, with infants experiencing extraordinary growth of new synapses. But a
profound message is that plasticity is a core feature of the brain throughout life.

There are optimal or “sensitive periods” during which particular types of learning are most
effective, despite this lifetime plasticity. For sensory stimuli such as speech sounds, and for
certain emotional and cognitive experiences such as language exposure, there are relatively
tight and early sensitive periods. Other skills, such as vocabulary acquisition, do not pass
through tight sensitive periods and can be learned equally well at any time over the lifespan.
Neuroimaging of adolescents now shows us that the adolescent brain is far from mature, and
undergoes extensive structural changes well past puberty. Adolescence is an extremely
important period in terms of emotional development partly due to a surge of hormones in
the brain; the still under-developed pre-frontal cortex among teenagers may be one
explanation for their unstable behaviour. We have captured this combination of emotional
immaturity and high cognitive potential in the phrase “high horsepower, poor steering”.
In older adults, fluency or experience with a task can reduce brain activity levels – in one
sense this is greater processing efficiency. But the brain also declines the more we stop
using it and with age. Studies have shown that learning can be an effective way to
counteract the reduced functioning of the brain: the more there are opportunities for older
and elderly people to continue learning (whether through adult education, work or social
activities), the higher the chances of deferring the onset or delaying the acceleration of
neurodegenerative diseases.
The importance of environment
Findings from brain research indicate how nurturing is crucial to the learning process, and
are beginning to provide indication of appropriate learning environments. Many of the
environmental factors conducive to improved brain functioning are everyday matters – the
quality of social environment and interactions, nutrition, physical exercise, and sleep –
which may seem too obvious and so easily overlooked in their impact on education. By
conditioning our minds and bodies correctly, it is possible to take advantage of the brain’s
potential for plasticity and to facilitate the learning process. This calls for holistic
approaches which recognise the close interdependence of physical and intellectual
well-being and the close interplay of the emotional and cognitive.
In the centre of the brain is the set of structures known as the limbic system, historically
called the “emotional brain”. Evidence is now accumulating that our emotions do re-sculpt
neural tissue. In situations of excessive stress or intense fear, social judgment and cognitive
performance suffer through compromise to the neural processes of emotional regulation.
Some stress is essential to meet challenges and can lead to better cognition and learning, but
beyond a certain level it has the opposite effect. Concerning positive emotions, one of most
powerful triggers that motivates people to learn is the illumination that comes with the
grasp of new concepts – the brain responds very well to this. A primary goal of early
education should be to ensure that children have this experience of “enlightenment” as early
as possible and become aware of just how pleasurable learning can be.
Managing one’s emotions is one of the key skills of being an effective learner; self-regulation
is one of the most important behavioural and emotional skills that children and older people
need in their social environments. Emotions direct (or disrupt) psychological processes, such
as the ability to focus attention, solve problems, and support relationships. Neuroscience,
drawing on cognitive psychology and child development research, starts to identify critical
brain regions whose activity and development are directly related to self-control.

Language, literacy and the brain
The brain is biologically primed to acquire language right from the very start of life; the process
of language acquisition needs the catalyst of experience. There is an inverse relationship
between age and the effectiveness of learning many aspects of language – in general, the
younger the age of exposure, the more successful the learning – and neuroscience has started
to identify how the brain processes language differently among young children compared with
more mature people. This understanding is relevant to education policies especially regarding
foreign language instruction which often does not begin until adolescence. Adolescents and
adults, of course, can also learn a language anew, but it presents greater difficulties.
The dual importance in the brain of sounds (phonetics) and of the direct processing of
meaning (semantics) can inform the classic debate in teaching reading between the
development of specific phonetic skills, sometimes referered to as “syllabic instruction”, and
“whole language” text immersion. Understanding how both processes are at work argues for
a balanced approach to literacy instruction that may target more phonetics or more “whole
language” learning, depending on the morphology of the language concerned.
Much of the brain circuitry involved in reading is shared across languages but there are some
differences, where specific aspects of a language call on distinct functions, such as different
decoding or word recognition strategies. Within alphabetical languages, the main difference
discussed in this report is the importance of the “depth” of a language’s orthography: a
“deep” language (which maps sounds onto letters with a wide range of variability) such as
English or French contrasts with “shallow”, much more “consistent” languages such as
Finnish or Turkish. In these cases, particular brain structures get brought into play to support
aspects of reading which are distinctive to these particular languages.
Dyslexia is widespread and occurs across cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. Atypical
cortical features which have been localised in the left hemisphere in regions to the rear of the
brain are commonly associated with dyslexia, which results in impairment in processing the
sound elements of language. While the linguistic consequences of these difficulties are
relatively minor (e.g. confusing words which sound alike), the impairment can be much more
significant for literacy as mapping phonetic sounds to orthographic symbols is the crux of
reading in alphabetic languages. Neuroscience is opening new avenues of identification
and intervention.
Numeracy and the brain
Numeracy, like literacy, is created in the brain through the synergy of biology and
experience. Just as certain brain structures are designed through evolution for language,
there are analogous structures for the quantitative sense. And, also as with language,
genetically-defined brain structures alone cannot support mathematics as they need to be
co-ordinated with those supplementary neural circuits not specifically destined for this
task but shaped by experience to do so. Hence, the important role of education – whether
in schools, at home, or in play; and hence, the valuable role for neuroscience in helping
address this educational challenge.
Although the neuroscientific research on numeracy is still in its infancy, the field has already
made significant progress in the past decade. It shows that even very simple numerical
operations are distributed in different parts of the brain and require the co-ordination of

multiple structures. The mere representation of numbers involves a complex circuit that
brings together sense of magnitude, and visual and verbal representations. Calculation calls
on other complex distributed networks, varying according to the operation in question:
subtraction is critically dependent on the inferior parietal circuit, while addition and
multiplication engage yet others. Research on advanced mathematics is currently sparse, but
it seems that it calls on at least partially distinct circuitry.
Understanding the underlying developmental pathways to mathematics from a brain
perspective can help shape the design of teaching strategies. Different instructional
methods lead to the creation of neural pathways that vary in effectiveness: drill learning,
for instance, develops neural pathways that are less effective than those developed
through strategy learning. Support is growing from neuroscience for teaching strategies
which involve learning in rich detail rather than the identification of correct/incorrect
responses. This is broadly consistent with formative assessment.
Though the neural underpinnings of dyscalculia – the numerical equivalent of dyslexia –
are still under-researched, the discovery of biological characteristics associated with
specific mathematics impairments suggests that mathematics is far from a purely cultural
construction: it requires the full functioning and integrity of specific brain structures. It is
likely that the deficient neural circuitry underlying dyscalculia can be addressed through
targeted intervention because of the “plasticity” – the flexibility – of the neural circuitries
involved in mathematics.
Dispelling “neuromyths”
Over the past few years, there has been a growing number of misconceptions circulating
about the brain – “neuromyths”. They are relevant to education as many have been
developed as ideas about, or approaches to, how we learn. These misconceptions often have
their origins in some element of sound science, which makes identifying and refuting them
the more difficult. As they are incomplete, extrapolated beyond the evidence, or plain false,
they need to be dispelled in order to prevent education running into a series of dead-ends.
Each “myth” or set of myths is discussed in terms of how they have emerged into popular
discourse, and of why they are not sustained by neuroscientific evidence. They are grouped
as follows:
• “There is no time to lose as everything important about the brain is decided by the age of
• “There are critical periods when certain matters must be taught and learnt.”
• “But I read somewhere that we only use 10% of our brain anyway.”
• “I’m a ‘left-brain’, she’s a ‘right-brain’ person.”
• “Let’s face it – men and boys just have different brains from women and girls.”
• “A young child’s brain can only manage to learn one language at a time.”
• “Improve your memory!”
• “Learn while you sleep!”

The ethics and organisation of educational
The importance and promise of this new field are not the reason to duck fundamental
ethical questions which now arise.
For which purposes and for whom? It is already important to re-think the use and possible
abuse of brain imaging. How to ensure, for example, that the medical information it gives
is kept confidential, and not handed over to commercial organisations or indeed
educational institutions? The more accurately that brain imaging allows the identification
of specific, formerly “hidden”, aspects of individuals, the more it needs to be asked how
this should be used in education.
The use of products affecting the brain: The boundary between medical and non-medical use
is not always clear, and questions arise especially about healthy individuals consuming
substances that affect the brain. Should parents, for instance, have the right to give their
children substances to stimulate their scholarly achievements, with inherent risks and
parallels to doping in sport?
Brain meets machine: Advances are constantly being made in combining living organs with
technology. The advantages of such developments are obvious for those with disabilities who
are thus enabled, say, to control machines from a distance. That the same technology could
be applied to control individuals’ behaviour equally obviously raises profound concerns.
An overly scientific approach to education? Neurosciences can importantly inform education
but if, say, “good” teachers were to be identified by verifying their impact on students’
brains, this would be an entirely different scenario. It is one which runs the risk of creating
an education system which is excessively scientific and highly conformist.
Though educational neuroscience is still in its early days, it will develop strategically if
it is trans-disciplinary, serving both the scientific and educational communities, and
international in reach. Creating a common lexicon is one critical step; another is establishing
shared methodology. A reciprocal relationship should be established between educational
practice and research on learning which is analogous to the relationship between medicine
and biology, co-creating and sustaining a continuous, bi-directional flow to support brain-
informed educational practice.
A number of institutions, networks and initiatives have already been established to show the
way ahead. Vignette descriptions of several leading examples are available in this report.
They include the JST-RISTEX, Japan Science and Technology’s Research Institute of Science
and Technology for Society; Transfer Centre for Neuroscience and Learning, Ulm, Germany;
Learning Lab, Denmark; Centre for Neuroscience in Education: University of Cambridge,
United Kingdom; and “Mind, Brain, and Education”, Harvard Graduate School of Education,
United States.
Key messages and themes for the future
Educational neuroscience is generating valuable new knowledge to inform educational policy and
practice: On many questions, neuroscience builds on the conclusions of existing knowledge
and everyday observation but its important contribution is in enabling the move from
correlation to causation – understanding the mechanisms behind familiar patterns – to
help identify effective solutions. On other questions, neuroscience is generating new
knowledge, thereby opening up new avenues.

Brain research provides important neuroscientific evidence to support the broad aim of lifelong
learning: Far from supporting ageist notions that education is the province only of the young
– the powerful learning capacity of young people notwithstanding – neuroscience confirms
that learning is a lifelong activity and that the more it continues the more effective it is.
Neuroscience buttresses support for education’s wider benefits, especially for ageing populations:
Neuroscience provides powerful additional arguments on the “wider benefits” of education
(beyond the purely economic that counts so highly in policy-making) as it is identifying
learning interventions as a valuable part of the strategy to address the enormous and
costly problems of ageing dementia in our societies.
The need for holistic approaches based on the interdependence of body and mind, the emotional
and the cognitive: Far from the focus on the brain reinforcing an exclusively cognitive,
performance-driven bias, it suggests the need for holistic approaches which recognise the
close inter-dependence of physical and intellectual well-being, and the close interplay of
the emotional and cognitive, the analytical and the creative arts.
Understanding adolescence – high horsepower, poor steering: The insights on adolescence are
especially important as this is when so much takes place in an individual’s educational
career, with long-lasting consequences. At this time, young people have well-developed
cognitive capacity (high horsepower) but emotional immaturity (poor steering). This
cannot imply that important choices should simply be delayed until adulthood, but it does
suggest that these choices should not definitively close doors.
Better informing the curriculum and education’s phases and levels with neuroscientific insights: The
message is a nuanced one: there are no “critical periods” when learning must take place
but there are “sensitive periods” when the individual is particularly primed to engage in
specific learning activities (language learning is discussed in detail). The report’s message
of an early strong foundation for lifetimesof learning reinforces the key role of early
childhood education and basic schooling.
Ensuring neuroscience’s contribution to major learning challenges, including the “3Ds”: dyslexia,
dyscalculia, and dementia. On dyslexia, for instance, its causes were unknown until
recently. Now it is understood to result primarily from atypical features of the auditory
cortex (and possibly, in some cases, of the visual cortex) and it is possible to identify these
features at a very young age. Early interventions are usually more successful than later
interventions, but both are possible.
More personalised assessment to improve learning, not to select and exclude: Neuroimaging
potentially offers a powerful additional mechanism on which to identify individuals
learning characteristics and base personalisation; but, at the same time, it may also lead to
even more powerful devices for selection and exclusion than are currently available.
Key areas are identified as priorities for further educational neuroscientific research, not as
an exhaustive agenda but as deriving directly from the report. This agenda for further
research – covering the better scientific understanding of such matters as the optimal
timing for different forms of learning, emotional development and regulation, how specific
materials and environments shape learning, and the continued analysis of language and
mathematics in the brain – would, if realised, be well on the way to the birth to a
trans-disciplinary learning science.
This is the aspiration which concludes this report and gives it its title. It is also the report’s
aspiration that it will be possible to harness the burgeoning knowledge on learning to create an
educational system that is both personalised to the individual and universally relevant to all.
Stick to it!Persevering in task through to
completion; remaining focused. Looking
for ways to reach your goal when stuck.
Not giving up.
2.Managing impulsivity
Take your Time! Thinking before
acting; remaining calm, thoughtful and
3.Listening with
understanding and empathy
Understand Others! Devoting mental
energy to another person’s thoughts
and ideas. Make an effort to perceive
another’s point of view and emotions.
4.Thinking flexibly
Look at it Another Way! Being able
to change perspectives, generate
alternatives, consider options.
5.Thinking about your thinking
Know your knowing! Being aware of your
own thoughts, strategies, feelings and
actions and their effects on others.
6.Striving for accuracy
Check it again! Always doing your best.
Setting high standards. Checking and
finding ways to improve constantly.
7.Questioning and problem posing
How do you know? Having a questioning
attitude; knowing what data are needed
and developing questioning strategies to
produce those data. Finding problems to
8.Applying past knowledge to new
Use what you Learn! Accessing prior
knowledge; transferring knowledge
beyond the situation in which it was
9.Thinking and communicating with clarity
and precision
Be clear!Striving for accurate
communication in both written and oral
form; avoiding over generalizations,
distortions, deletions and exaggerations.
10.Gather data through all senses:
Use your natural pathways!Pay attention
to the world around you Gather data
through all the senses; taste, touch,
smell, hearing and sight.
11.Creating, imagining, and innovating
Try a different way! Generating new and
novel ideas, fluency, originality
12.Responding with wonderment and awe
Have fun figuring it out! Finding the world
awesome, mysterious and being intrigued
with phenomena and beauty.
13.Taking responsible risks
Venture out!Being adventuresome; living
on the edge of one’s competence. Try new
things constantly.
14.Finding humor
Laugh a little! Finding the whimsical,
incongruous and unexpected.Being able
to laugh at oneself.
15.Thinking interdependently
Work together! Being able to work in and
learn from others in reciprocal situations.
Team work.
16. Remaining open to continuous learning
I have so much more to learn! Having
humility and pride when admitting we
don’t know; resisting complacency.
H a b i t so fM i n d
Images © 2000 Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development,1703 N. Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311 USA
This and other resources available at


33 Motivation in Second Language

›- What does it mean when we say that a learner is motivated?
)0- What is the role of motivation in language learning, especially in classroom contexts?
>- How can language teachers actively promote their students’ motivation?
When enthusiastic novice teacher Erin Gruwell
started her teaching career in a high school in
Long Beach, California, she soon realized that
she had been assigned the lowest-performing stu-
dents in the school, with all the students in her
class labeled at-risk inner-city youths, also known
as “unteachables.” Cliques formed among the stu-
dents according to their ethnic backgrounds, fights
broke out, and the drop-out rate was high. Not only
did school management not help in this situation
of violence, racial tension, and underachievement,
but the head of her department even refused to
let her use actual books in class in case they got
damaged or lost. To make a long story short, it
is difficult to imagine a more desperate situation
for a beginner teacher, yet Erin Gruwell not only
survived the first year but became so successful that
all 150 of her “unteachable” students graduated
from high school and many went on to college.
As a result, her inspirational story was turned into
a Hollywood film in 2007, Freedom Writers, starring
Oscar-winner Hilary Swank. After leaving her high
school job, Erin Gruwell became a distinguished
teacher in residence at California State University,
Long Beach; published several teacher-training
books based on her experience (e.g., Gruwell,
2007a, 2007h); and started the Freedom Writers
Foundation, which aspires to spread the Freedom
Writersmethod across the country_
How did Erin Gruwell achieve the almost
unachievable? Of course, she had to have a natural
gift for teaching with a uniquely compassionate
and, at the same time, stubborn personality, but
that would not have been enough to beat such
impossible odds. As becomes clear from her writ-
ings and from the well-scripted film, with no
available resources and support all she had at
her disposal was a range of creative educational
strategies to raise the students’ motivation and
promote group dynamics in her classes—and she
used these to great effect. The ultimate lesson
from Erin Gruwell’s story is that motivational and
group-building strategies can work even in such a
tough environment, and therefore an understand-
ing of the motivational dimension of classrooms
can offer teachers very powerful tools to combat a
range of possible problems, from student lethargy
to an unproductive classroom climate.
Motivation is a word that both teachers and learners
use widely when they speak about language learn-
ing success or failure, and normally it is taken for
granted that we understand what the term cov-
ers. This seemingly unambiguous understanding,
however, contrasts starkly with the perception of
motivation as a technical term in the psycho-
logical and applied linguistics literature. Although
it is used frequently, the meaning of the concept
can- span—such- a- wide- -spectrum-that sometimes
we wonder whether people are talking about the
same thing at all. In fact, there have been serious
do ubts as to whether motivation is more than a
rather obsolete umbrella term for a wide range
of variables that have little to do with each other.
Indeed, motivation has been considered as both
affect (emotion) and cognition; it has been used
as both a stable variable of individual difference
(i.e., a trait) and a transient-state attribute; and
it has even been characterized as a process that
is in constant flux, going through ebbs and flows.
Furthermore, motivation has been considered as
both a factor internal to the learner (e.g., individual
curiosity or interest) and a factor externally deter-
mined by the sociopolitical setup of the learner’s
environment (e.g., language attitudes influenced
by the relationships within language communities).
Perhaps the only thing about motivation
that most researchers would agree on is that it, by
definition, concerns the fundamental question of
why people behave as they do. Accordingly, moti-
vation determines the direction and magnitude
of human behavior or, in other words, the choice
of a particular action, the persistence with it, and
the effort expended on it. This seems to be fairly
straightforward: Motivation is responsible for why
people decide to do something, how long they are
willing to sustain the activity, and how hard they are
going to pursue it. So, what is the problem?
The complex relationship of
motivation, cognition, and emotion
The basic problem with conceptualizing motiva-
tion as the foundation of human behavior lies with
the fact that human behavior can be influenced
and shaped in a wide variety of ways, ranging from
external motives, such as rewards and incentives,
to diverse types of pressure, threats, and punish-
ments. From an internal point of view, there is also
a broad spectrum of reasons for doing things: we
can be motivated by the love of money or power,
the love of people and the world around us, or the
love of peace and freedom. Our principal motiva-
tion can also be centered around our faith, our
family, our profession, or our car. To make things
even more complex, several of these motives can
affect us simultaneously, interacting with each
other on a temporary or on a permanent basis.
There is, however, some good news amid
all this perplexing complexity. In spite of what
lies behind our motivation, the actual state of
being motivated is clearly discernible from a
phenomenological (i.e., experiential) perspec-
tive; we simply know and feel when we are moti-
vated and when we are not, and we can even
grade this distinct experience of wanting (e.g.,
“It wouldn’t be bad” versus “I really-really-really
want it!”). Further good news is that people typi-
cally have no problem distinguishing this moti-
vational experience from emotional experiences
such as feeling happy, sad, or angry, even though
those experiences are also gradable (i.e., you can
be a bit sad or really angry). Finally, both motiva-
tional and emotional states can be relatively easily
separated from thoughts, which are not gradable
in terms of their intensity either in a positive or
negative direction and have therefore sometimes
been referred to as the “cold intellect.” Thus, it
has long been established—ever since Plato, in
fact—that phenomenologically we can separate
three areas of mental functioning: cognition,
motivation, and affect (or emotions). This war-
rants their use as primary organizing principles of
learner characteristics.
So, we can safely conclude that motivation does
exist but that, in accordance with the hardware of
our human mind being a highly integrated neural
network, motivation constantly interacts with cogni-
tive and emotional issues and that complex motiva-
tion constructs usually include cognitive and affective
components. For example, classic expectancy-value
theories of motivation hold that individuals are moti-
vated to do a task if they expect to do well on it and
if they value the task outcome (Wigfield & Eccles,
2000). In this case, a key component is our appraisal
of the task and its consequences, which is a primary
cognitive function; for such reasons, most modern
motivational theories have been largely cognitive in
nature (for a review, see Dornyei & Ushioda, 2011).
In addition to the motivation-cognition link, motiva-
tion is closely related to affect; we do not need much
justification to assert that emotions such as joy, hap-
piness, fear, anger, and shame profoundly shape our
behavior. And, of course, to close the circle, emo-
tions also have a cognitive dimension, which can be
clearly seen when we become angry, for example,
after we have cognitively appraised a situation and
come to the rational conclusion that some major
injustice has been done. Indeed, R. Buck (2005)
is clearly right_ when __he -concludes, “In their fully
articulated forms, emotions imply cognitions imply
motives imply emotions, and so on” (p. 198).
Chapter 33 51 9
Motivational conglomerates
So, even if motivation is recognized as a valid cat-
egory, it always manifests itself in a dynamic inter-
play with cognitive and emotional factors. I have
suggested (Dornyei, 2009b) that a particularly fruit-
ful approach to conceptualizing motivation, rather
than trying to identify individual motives in isola-
tion (as has been the typical practice in motivation
research in the past), is to focus on motivational
conglomerates of motivational, cognitive, and emo-
tional variables that form coherent patterns or
amalgams that act as wholes. While this may sound
very abstract, well-known concrete examples of
conglomerates, such as interest, indicate that such
patterns/amalgams do exist and have tradition-
ally been seen as significant motivational factors.
Interest, for example, is clearly a motivational con-
cept and, accordingly, has been included as a key
component in various mainstream theories (e.g.,
expectancy-value theories or self-determination
theory), yet it also involves a salient cognitive aspect
(curiosity about and the engagement with a specific
domain) as well as a prominent affective dimen-
sion (the joy associated with this engagement).
Therefore, when people say in everyday parlance
that someone is “interested” in doing something,
they actually are referring to this complex meaning
using a single term as a shortcut because they intui-
tively know that the constituents of the concept
hang together in a way that forms a whole. The vali-
dation of this assumption is that the interlocutors
have no problem understanding what is meant. In
the next section, I describe a new motivation theory
for learning foreign or second languages that is
based on a motivational conglomerate of this sort:
the learners’ visions of their future self-image.
In a long-term learning process such as the mas-
tery of a second language, the learner’s ultimate
success always depends on the level of motivation;
therefore, the concept of second language (L2)
learning motivation (L2 motivation) has been the
targetof intensive researchin secondlanguage_
acquisition (SLA) for over five decades. During
this period, several approaches have been pursued.
520 Unit V
The first famous theory was R. C. Gardner’s (1985)
social psychological paradigm, in which attitudes
toward the speakers of the target language com-
munity were seen to play a key role in determining
the learner’s integrative motivation (i.e., the desire to
learn an L2 of a valued community to communicate
with members of the community and sometimes
even to become like them). In the subsequent cog
nitive period, the best-known theory was Noels’s
(2001) adaptation of self-determination theory to
language learning contexts, highlighting two moti-
vational dimensions: intrinsic motivation, perform-
ing a behavior for its own sake (e.g., to experience
pleasure or to satisfy one’s curiosity), and extrinsic
motivation, pursuing something as a means to an
end (e.g., to receive some extrinsic reward such as
good grades or to avoid punishment). In the late
1990s, there was a growing interest in looking at
motivation as a dynamic concept that is in constant
change and displays ongoing ebbs and flows, the
process-oriented approach (see Dornyei, 2005);
this has culminated in contemporary attempts to
adopt a dynamic systems perspective in motivation
research that integrates the various factors related
to the learner, the learning task, and the learning
environment into one complex system (for a review,
see Dornyei & Ushioda, 2011). Because motivation
theories intend to answer the ultimate question of
why people behave and think as they do, it is not at
all surprising to find such a richness of approaches.
In this chapter, however, I focus on one recent
theory in particular, the L2 motivational self system
(Dornyei, 2005, 2009a). This is partly because this
theory offers a comprehensive perspective that
builds on several previous constructs and is compat-
ible with the emphasis on motivational, cognitive,
and emotional conglomerates discussed earlier and
partly because the framework it provides is practical
and lends itself to classroom application.
Possible selves and the L2
motivational self system
In 2005, I proposed a new approach to the
understanding of L2 motivation (Dornyei,
2005) , conceived within an L2 motivational self
system, which attempts to integrate a number of
influentiaLSLA theories with-the-findin-gs- of self
research in psychology. The new initiative was
rooted in the important psychological concept
o f possible selves (Markus & Nurius, 1986),
which represents people’s ideas of what they
might become, what they would like to become,
and what they are afraid of becoming. Thus, pos-
sible selves involve people’s vision of their likely
or hoped-for (or even dreaded) selves in future
states, not unlike an athlete envisaging himself
or herself stepping onto the Olympic podium
one day in the future. In this sense, possible
selves are more than mere long-term goals or
future plans in that they involve tangible images
and senses; if we have a well-developed possible
future self, we can imagine this self within vivid
and realistic future scenarios.
From the point of view of learning and
teaching, one type of possible self, the ideal self
is of particularly relevance because it involves the
characteristics that someone would ideally like to
possess (i.e., it concerns hopes, aspirations, and
wishes). If a person has a well-established and vivid
ideal self—for example, a student envisions him-
self or herself as a successful business person—this
self-image can act as a potent future self-guide
with considerable motivational power. This is
expressed in everyday speech when we talk about
people following or living up to their dreams. A
complementary self-guide that has educational
relevance is the ought-to self, which involves the
attributes that someone believes he or she ought
to possess (i.e., it concerns personal or social
duties, obligations, and responsibilities). This
self-image is particularly salient in some Asian
contexts where students are often motivated to
perform well to fulfill some family obligation or
to bring honor to the family’s name (see Magid,
2012). These two self-guides form the basis of the
proposed L2 motivational self system, but to make
the theory comprehensive, a third dimension
has been added, representing the motivational
influence of the students’ learning environment
(i.e., the motivational impact of various facets of
the classroom situation, such as the teacher, the
curriculum, and the learner group). This is justi-
fied by the observation that for some language
learners the motivation to learn a language does
not come from internally or externally generated
future self-images but from successful learning
experiences—after all, nothing succeeds like suc-
cess, as the saying goes.
Accordingly, the proposed L2 motivational
self system consists of the following three main
constituents (for a more detailed discussion, see
Dornyei, 2009a):
I. Ideal L2 self which concerns the L2-specific
facet of the learner’s ideal self. If the person
the learner would like to become speaks an L2
(e.g., the person is associated with traveling or
doing business internationally), the ideal L2
self is a powerful motivator for the learner to
succeed in learning the L2 because he or she
would like to reduce the discrepancy between
the actual and ideal selves.
2. Ought-to L2 self, which concerns the attributes
that the learner believes he or she ought to
possess to avoid possible negative outcomes
and that, therefore, may bear little resem-
blance to his or her own desires or wishes.
3. L2 learning experience, which concerns the learn-
er’s situation-specific motives related to the
immediate learning environment and experi-
ence (e.g., the positive impact of success or the
enjoyable quality of a language course).
Theoretical and research support
Over the past five years, several studies have
employed and tested the L2 motivational self sys-
tem in a variety of learning environments (e.g.,
see the selection of papers in Dornyei & Ushioda,
2009) and the emerging picture consistently sup-
ports the validity of the theoretical construct. In
studies that specifically compared R. C. Gardner’s
traditional concept of integrativeness with the
ideal L2 self, the latter was found to explain the
criterion measures better (typically explaining
more than 40% of the variance, which is an excep-
tionally high figure in motivation studies), and the
construct seems to work equally well for different
age groups, from secondary school pupils through
university students to adult language learners. This
is good news, but we need to ask a further theoreti-
cal question: Is the proposed system compatible
with the dynamic and complex nature of motiva-
tion discussed earlier?
Although so far we have looked only at the
motivational capacity of future self-guides and
images, the possible selves present broad over-
arching constellations that blend together moti-
vational, fOgrti-tine, and affective areas. Previously,
the originator of the concept, Markus (2006), has
pointed out that the possible self-structure could be
Chapter 33 521
seen as a “dynamic interpretive matrix fOr thought,
feeling and action” (p. xi), and indeed, MacIntyre,
MacKinnon, and Clement (2009) have under-
scored the emotional aspect of possible selves:
“When emotion is a prominent feature of a possible
self, including a strong sense of fear, hope, or even
obligation, a clear path exists by which to influence
motivation and action” (p. 47). Furthermore, as
we see in the next section, the effective functioning
of these self-guides is dependent. on several cogni-
tive components, most notably on the learners’
appraisal of their own capabilities and their per-
sonal circumstances to anchor their vision in a
sense of realistic expectations. Last but not least,
learners also need a good repertoire of task-related
strategies that can he activated by the ideal lan-
guage self—after all, even Olympic athletes need
coaches and training plans in addition to their
vivid vision of achieving excellence. All this points
to the conclusion that effective future self-guides
conic in a package with a vision component that
activates appropriate emotions and a variety of task-
specific cognitive plans, scripts, and self-regulatory
strategies. As such, future vision can he seen as the
ultimate motivational conglomerate.
Conditions for the motivational
power of vision
It has been widely observed that, although vision-
ary future self-guides have the capacity to motivate
action, this does not always happen automatically
but depends on a number of conditions. The fol-
lowing list contains some of’ the most important
prerequisites; this list is highly relevant when we
consider ways of generating an 1.2 vision in the
learners because vision-enhancing strategies are
geared at ensuring that these conditions are met.
The learner has a desired e self-image. People
differ in how easily they can generate a suc-
cessful possible self, and therefore not every-
one is expected to possess a developed ideal
or ought-to self-guide.
The learner’s future se f is .sufficiently different
from the retreat self If there is no observable
gap between current and future selves, no
increased effort is felt to be necessary and no
motivation emerges.
The learner’s future self-image is -elaborate and
vivid. People vary in the vividness of their
mental imagery, and a possible self with instil .-
licitly_ specificity and detail may not evoke
the necessary motivational response.
The learner’s future selfimage is perceived as plau-
sible. Possible selves are effective only to the
extent that the individual does indeed per-
‘e them as possible, that is, to he realistic
within the person’s individual circumstances.
Thus, a sense of controllability (i.e., the belief
that his or her action can make a difference)
is an essential prerequisite.
The learner’s future .self image is not perceived as
being comfortably certain to be reached, that is,
to be within his or her grasp. The learner must
believe that the possible self will not happen
automatically, without a marked increase in
expended effort.
The learner’s future .velpimage is in harmony (or
at least does not clash) with the expectations of
his or her family, peers, and other elements of the
social environment. Perceived social expecta-
tions or group norms that are incongruent
with the self-image (e.g., language learning is
for girls) are obviously counterproductive, as
are ideal and ought-to self-images that are in
conflict with each other.
The learner’s future self-image is regularly acti-
vated in his or her working self-concept. Possible
selves become relevant for behavior only
when they are primed by frequent and varied
The learner’s future .self image is accompanied by
relevant and effective procedural strategies that act
as a road map toward the goal. Once the learner’s
vision generates energy, he or she needs pro-
ductive tasks into which to channel this energy.
A learner’s desired future self-image is offset by
a counteracting feared possible self in the .same
domain. Maximal motivational effectiveness is
achieved if the learner also has a vivid image
about the negative consequences of failing to
achieve the desired end state.
Luckily, most teachers do not have to face teaching
situations as adverse as Erin Gruwell did at the
beginning of her career; nevertheless, research
has shown that many teachers find that problems
with motivating pupils are the second most
522 Unit V
serious source of difficulty (the first is maintaining
classroom discipline), outranking other, obviously
important issues such as the effective use of differ-
ent teaching methods, a knowledge of the subject
matter, and the competent use of textbooks and
curriculum guides (Veenman, 1984). If you have
ever tried to teach a language class with reluctant,
lethargic, or uncooperative students, you know
that the results of these surveys of the impedi-
ments to learning are quite accurate. This being
the case, teacher skills in motivating learners need
to he seen as central to teaching effectiveness.
The key question is this: Can motivational skills
he consciously developed, or is the motivational
and inspirational capacity of a teacher solely the
consequence of a natural talent that the person
has been born with? My past research and expe-
rience suggests that, while having a natural flair
always helps, there is no doubt that motivational
skills can be developed in teachers as part of pur-
poseful training. Furthermore, there is a growing
body of research that shows that, once such skills
are in place, they have a significant impact on stu-
dent motivation (e.g., see Guilloteaux & Dornyei,
2008; Papi & Abdollahzadeh, 2012). Let us start
the exploration with several key motivational prin-
Three fundamental motivational
Principle I: There is much more to motiva-
tional strategies than offering rewards and
punishments. Although rewards and punish-
ments are often seen as the only tools in the moti-
vational arsenal of teachers, a closer look at the
spectrum of other, potentially more effective moti-
vational strategies reveals that we have an array of
varied techniques at our disposal to increase our
learners’ enthusiasm for L2 learning. In fact, most
educational psychologists would consider rewards
and punishments too simplistic and rather unde-
sirable tools. The “carrot and stick” approach may
work in the short run, but rarely does it lead to
real long-term commitment. For example, books
have been written about the potential damage of
grades, which are by far the most often used forms
of _rewards and punishments; _ getting- rewards
and good grades in particular—can become more
important than learning, and students can easily
become grade-driven. Therefore, I encourage
teachers to start experimenting with other moti-
vational techniques, such as making the learning
process more engaging or promoting the learn-
ers’ language-related vision. The variety of ways by
which human learning can he promoted is so rich
that teachers should be able to find something that
works in most learning situations.
Principle 2: Generating student motivation is not
enough in itself—it also has to be maintained
and protected. In everyday parlance, motivating
someone equals generating the initial motivation
in the person. In educational contexts, however,
this is not the whole picture. Although generating
motivation is a crucial aspect of any motivational
teaching practice, unless motivation is actively
maintained and protected during the lengthy pro-
cess of L2 learning, the natural human tendency
to lose sight of the goal, get tired or bored with an
activity, and give way to attractive distractions will
result in the initial motivation gradually petering
out. Thus, motivation needs to be actively nur-
tured, which means that any motivational practice
needs to be an ongoing activity.
Principle 3: It is the quality (not the quantity)
of the motivational strategies that we use that
counts. One of the challenges of looking at
the richness of the motivational strategies in the
literature is that we become aware of the great
number of useful techniques available that we
are not applying consistently in our own teaching
practice. Is this a problem? Not necessarily. There
is so much that requires our constant attention in
the L2 classroom that we simply cannot afford to
continuously strive to achieve super-motivator sta-
tus; if we try to do so, we will end up being burned
out. I have come to believe that what we need is
quality rather than quantity. A few well-chosen
strategies that suit both teachers and their learners
may be sufficient to create a positive motivational
climate in the classroom. Indeed, some of the
most motivating teachers rely on only a handful of
The range of motivational strategies
As noted previously, there is a wealth-of potential
motivational techniques available to teachers for
use in the language classroom; Figure 1 presents
20 motivational facets of motivational teaching
Chapter 33 523
Generating initial motivation
Enhancing the learners’ L2-
related values and attitudes
Increasing the learners’
expectancy of success
Increasing the learners’ goal-
Making the teaching materials
relevant for the learners
Creating realistic learner
• Making learning stimulating and
• Presenting tasks in a motivating
• Setting specific learner goals
• Protecting the learners’ self-
esteem and increasing their self-
• Allowing learners to maintain a
positive social image
• Creating learner autonomy
• Promoting self-motivating
• Promoting cooperation among
the learners

Maintaining and protecting
Encouraging positive
retrospective self-evaluation
• Promoting motivational
• Providing motivational
• Increasing learner satisfaction
• Offering rewards and grades in
a motivating manner
Creating the basic motivational
• Appropriate teacher behaviors
• A pleasant and supportive
atmosphere in the classroom
• A cohesive learner group with
appropriate group norms
Figure I. The main components of DOrnyers (2001) framework of motivational teaching practice
in the L2 classroom.
practice, grouped into four broad, successive
stages (Dornyei, 2001):
1. Creating the basic motivational conditions.
Motivational strategies cannot be employed suc-
cessfully in a motivational vacuum; certain pre-
conditions must be in place before any further
attempts to generate motivation can be effective.
2. Generating initial motivation. Unless we are sin-
gularly fortunate with the composition of our
classes,student motivation will not be automatic
for everybody, and we need to actively generate
positive student attitudes toward L2 learning.
524 Unit V
3. Maintaining and protecting motivation. We can
initially whet the students’ appetites with
appropriate motivational techniques, but
unless motivation is actively maintained and
protected, it is likely to decrease in strength
over time and can even disappear altogether
(see Principle 2).
4. Encouraging positive retrospective self-evaluation.
A large body of research has shown that the
way learners feel about their past accom-
plishments significantly determines how they—
approach subsequent learning tasks. Strangely
enough, the students’ appraisal of their past
performance does not depend only on the
absolute, objective level of the success they
have achieved but also on how they subjectively
interpret their achievement. Using appropri-
ate strategies, teachers can help learners to
evaluate their past performance in a more
positive light, take more satisfaction in their
successes and progress, and explain their past
failures in a constructive way.
The introduction of the L2 motivational self
system has further broadened the motivational rep-
ertoire at the disposal of language teachers because
it highlights the significance of the learners’ lan-
guage learning vision. The possibility of harnessing
the powerful motivational capacity of vision opens
up a whole new avenue for promoting student
motivation by means of increasing the elaborate-
ness and vividness of self-relevant imagery in the
students. The reality of such an approach has been
evidenced in the field of sports psychology, where
vision and imagery are generally seen as highly
effective performance-enhancement techniques.
Thus, language teachers interested in promoting
their students’ motivation can now choose from
a variety of techniques based on their personal
preferences as well as the needs and characteristics
of their learners. The L2 motivational self system
suggests that these motivational strategies can
be divided into two main groups: (1) strategies
focusing on the learners’ vision of their ideal and
the ought-to L2 selves; and (2) strategies that con-
cern the improvement of the learning experience.
Furthermore, it makes sense to subdivide Group 2
into two ‘levels, the first associated with the individ-
ual learner and the second related to the learner
group as a social unit. Let us take a closer look
at these three clusters (vision, individual learner
experience, and learner group experience).
Motivational strategies focusing on the learner’s
future vision. While virtually every successful
athlete in the world applies some sort of im-
agery enhancement technique during training
and competition, having the students in the area
of language learning focus on vision is a relatively
recent development. Dornyei (2009b) has pro-
posed a multicomponential framework to devel-
op in the learners an attractive vision of their
futurelanguage _selves and thus to-establish effective
motivational self-guides for learning. This vision-
ary program consists of six components. Moreover,
Hadfield and Dornyei (2013) have recently com-
piled a teachers’ resource hook that offers 100
practical classroom activities centered around the
six stages.
Creating the vision. The first step in a motivational
intervention that follows the self approach is to
help learners to construct their ideal L2 self, that
is, to create an L2-related vision. The verb construct
here is, in fact, not entirely accurate because it is
highly unlikely that any motivational intervention
will lead students to generate an ideal self out of
nothing. Realistically, the process is more likely to
involve awareness raising about, and guided selec-
tion from, the multiple aspirations, dreams, and
desires that the students have already entertained
in the past while also presenting powerful role
models to illustrate potential future selves.
Strengthening the vision. Even if a desired language
self-image exists, it may not have a sufficient
degree of elaborateness and vividness to act as an
effective motivator. Methods of imagery enhancement
have been explored in several areas of psychological,
educational, and sports research, and the techniques
of visualization and guided imagery can be used to
promote the students’ ideal L2 self-images.
Substantiating the vision. Effective visions share a
mixture of imagination and reality; therefore, to go
beyond mere fantasizing, learners need to anchor
their future self-guides in a sense of realistic expecta-
tions. This substantiating process requires honest and
down-to-earth reality checks as well as a consideration
of any potential obstacles and difficulties that might
stand in the way of learners’ realizing the vision.
Operationalizing the vision. Future self-guides need
to be part of a package consisting of an imagery
component and a repertoire of appropriate plans,
scripts, and specific learning strategies. This is
clearly an area where L2 motivation research and
language teaching methodology overlap.
Keeping the vision alive. Warm-up activities or ice-
breakers and other classroom activities can all be
turned into effective ways of reminding students
of their vision and thus to keep the enthusiastic
students going and the less-than-enthusiastic ones
Counterbalancing the vision. People do something
both because they want to do it and because not
doing it would lead to undesired results. Regular
Chapter 33 525
reminders of the limitations of not knowing foreign
languages and highlighting the ditties and obliga-
tions the learners have committed themselves to as
part of their ought-to selves trill help to counterbal-
ance the vision with a feared self.
Motivational strategies focusing on the learning
experience: Individual learner level. How can the
L2 learning experience he made more attractive to
individual learners? The following I() strategies
offer a representative selection of the techniques
and approaches available to the teacher.
Whetting the students’ appetite. The key in gener-
ating interest in learning is to whet the students’
appetite, that is, to arouse the learners’ curios-
ity and attention to create an attractive image for
the L2 course. This is very much a “selling” task
in which the teacher may point out challenging,
exotic, or satisfying aspects of L2 learning; connect
1,2 learning with activities that students already
find interesting or hold in esteem (e.g., computer-
assisted learning); highlight the variety of activities
that 1,2 learning may involve; and provide a
demonstration of some particularly enjoyable tasks
(e.g., games, simulations, or competitions).
Increasing the learners’ expectancy of success. The
notion of expectancy of success has been one
of the most researched factors in motivational
psychology for the past four decades. This is due
to the undeniable fact that people do things hest
if they believe they can succeed in them. Whether
a student expects success in a given task is a rather
subjective matter; therefore an effective way of
motivating learners is to put them in a more posi-
tive or optimistic mood. Of course, the best way of
ensuring that students expect success is to make
sure that they achieve it consistently; in addition,
it also helps if the success criteria are clear,
the students are provided with sufficient advance
preparation, and they are aware that they can rely
on ongoing assistance both from the teacher and
their peers.
Making the teaching materials relevant to the learn-
ers. One of the most &motivating factors for
learners is to have to learn something that has no
apparent relevance to their lives. This experience
is, unfortunately, more common than many of us
would think. Accordingly, much of the motivational
advice offered to teachers in the educational litera-
ture boils down to the ft ‘flowing general principle:
find out what students’ goals are and what topics
‘ant to learn about; then build these into the
ilum as much as possible.
Breaking the monotony of learning. Even in classes
characterized by a mixture of interesting teach-
ing approaches, there is a danger of settling into x
familiar routines, which then can easily i
a monotonous daily grind. To prevent mo notony,
teachers need to vary as many aspects of the l earn-
ing process as possible (e.g., the focus and nature
e tasks, the type of student involvement, the
ng materials, and even the arrangement of’
finite). Of course, trying to continuously
change all the aspects of teaching becomes the per-
fect recipe for teacher burn-out; rather, teachers
should look at these factors as cooking ingredients
and make sore that they do not serve exactly the
same meal every day.
Making the learning tasks more interesting. Not even
the richest variety of tasks will motivate students
if their content is not attractive, that is, if the
students find the activities boring. The literature
contains an abundance of suggestions on how
to make tasks interesting; for example, tasks that
offer some challenge, contain interesting topics,
or include novel, intriguing, exotic, humorous, or
fantasy elements are always welcomed by learners.
Increasing the learners’ self-confidence. Learning a
new language is to a large extent a “confidence
game.” Confident learners can communicate using
surprisingly limited 1,2 resources, whereas no
amount of vocabulary and grammatical knowledge
will help someone to speak if his or her confidence
is lacking. Two key aspects of confidence building
are providing regular encouragement and reduc-
in g language anxiety. Teachers should never for-
get that the language classroom is an inherently
face-threatening environment where saying even a
simple sentence carries the danger of making big
mistakes. Helping learners to accept that mistakes
are a natural part of the learning process is already
half the battle.
Allowing learners to maintain a positive social
image. For most schoolchildren, the main social
arena in life is their school and their most important
reference group is their peers. Adult learners can be
similarly self-conscious. Therefi ire. it is unlikely that
students will be keen to do a task that puts them in a
situation where they are made to look small in
526 Unit V

of their classmates. This might involve performances
that require free, unscripted speech in front of
the others; learners in some cultures might be
particularly self-conscious about their accented pro-
nunciation in such situations. On the other hand,
if teachers provide an opportunity for everybody to
play the protagonist’s role in one way or another
(e.g., by creating situations in which students can
demonstrate their particular strengths), the “positive
hero” image might work as a stimulant.
Creating learner autonomy. Students are more
motivated to pursue tasks when they feel some sort
of ownership. This can be achieved by teachers’
allowing them to make real choices about as many
aspects of the learning process as possible, hand-
ing over various leadership/teaching roles, and
adopting the role of facilitator rather than drill ser-
geant. Autonomy and motivation go hand in hand.
Increasing learner satisfaction. I have noticed
in myself, and also in many other teachers, a
tendency to show far less emotion when something
goes right than when it goes wrong. The problem
with acknowledging accomplishments in such a
cool manner, but making failures or difficulties
tangible, is that teachers miss out on the celebra-
tory part of learning and reduce the amount of
satisfaction they may feel. Celebrations and satis-
faction are crucial motivational building blocks
because they validate past effort, affirm the entire
learning process, and in general provide the
bright spots along the road toward the ultimate
(foal So teachers should take the time to celebrate
any student victory.
Offering grades in a motivational manner. Although
many teachers and researchers would love to get rid
of assessment, realistically speaking, grades are likely
to remain a fact of life for the foreseeable future.
Therefore, an important task for teachers is to find
ways of offering grades and rewards in a motivating
manner. The following guidelines may take teachers
some way toward this end: (1) make the assessment
system completely transparent, with clear success cri-
teria, and create opportunities for the students to also
express their views; (2) make sure that grades reflect
effort and improvement, and not just objective levels
of achievement; (3) apply continuous assessment
that does- not – rely – solely on pencil-and-paper tests;
and (4) encourage accurate student self-assessment
by providing a variety of self-evaluation tools.
Motivational strategies focusing on the learning
experience: Learner group level. When a teacher
faces a motivationally challenging classroom
situation (like Erin Gruwell did in Long Beach
in the 1990s), it is usually evident that trying to cater to
the individual learners’ motivational needs is not
enough because the learner group as a whole has
such a powerful influence over the members that
it can, and often does, override the individual
students’ personal preferences. Therefore, moti-
vation also needs to be tackled at the group level.
This is where lessons from group dynamics become
invaluable (see Dornyei & Murphey, 2003).
In the social sciences, group dynamics con-
cerns the scientific analysis of the behavior of
small groups and involves overlapping disciplines
such as social, industrial, organizational, and clin-
ical psychology; psychiatry; anthropology; sociol-
ogy; and social work since all these fields involve
groups as the focal points around which human
relationships are organized. Because in instruc-
tional contexts most organized learning occurs
in some kind of group (classes, seminars, work-
shops, discussion groups, etc.), group dynamics
is highly relevant in education, including lan-
guage education. An awareness of the principles
of group dynamics can make classroom events
less threatening to teachers and can help them
develop more efficient methods of classroom
management and thus consciously facilitate the
development of creative, well-balanced, and cohe-
sive groups. All this, of course, has a significant
motivational impact.
Group dynamics
The two areas of group dynamics that most con-
cern the motivational state of group members
are group cohesiveness and group norms. Group
cohesiveness is the strength of the relationships
linking group members to one another and to
the group itself; group norms are the implicit and
explicit rules of conduct that regulate the life of
the learner group and that make joint learning
Group cohesiveness. The motivational significance
of a cohesive_classrcx}m- heroines obvious irwe con-
sider its opposite, a classroom with cliques and a
lack of proper communication among students. So,
how can we avoid such a situation and consciously
Chapter 33 527
promote a cohesive classroom climate? Here are
sonic relevant points to consider.
Learning about each other. This is the most crucial
and most general factor to foster inter-member
relationships; it involves the students’ sharing gen-
uine personal information with each other. People
do not accept others without knowing the other
people well enough; images of others as enemies
or a lack of tolerance very often stems from insuf-
ficient knowledge about the other people.
Proximity, contact, and interaction. Proximity is the
physical distance between people., a contact is a
situation where learners can meet and communi-
cate spontaneously, and an interaction is a special
contact situation in which the behavior of each
person influences the behavior of others. These
three factors are effective natural gelling agents
that highlight the importance of classroom issues
such as the seating plan, small-group work, and
independent student projects.
Shared group history. The amount of time people
have spent together and statements such as
“Remember when we . . .” usually have a strong
bonding effect.
The rewarding nature of group activities. Rewards
may involve the joy of performing the activities,
approval of the goals, success in achieving these
goals, and personal benefits (such as grades or
Group legend. Successful groups often create a
kind of group mythology that includes giving the
group a name; inventing special group character-
istics (e.g., a dress code) and group rituals; and
creating group mottos, logos, and other symbols
such as flags or coats of arms.
Public commitment to the group. Group agreements
and contracts spelling out the common goals and
rules of the group are types of such public commit-
ment; wearing school colors or T-shirts is another
way of achieving this.
Investing in the group. When members spend a con-
siderable amount of time and effort contributing to
the group goals, this increases their commitment.
toward these goals and, subsequently, to the group.
Extracurricular activities. These represent pow-
erful experiences—indeed, even one successful
outing may be sufficient to create the group,
partly because during outings students lower their
“school filter” and relate to each other as civilians
rather than students. A positive experience will
prevail in students memories, adding a fresh per-
ception to their school relationships.
Cooperation toward common goals. Superordinate
goals that require the cooperation of everybody to
achieve them have been found to be an effective
means of bringing together even openly hostile
Intergroup competition. Games in which small
groups compete with each other within a class can
produce a powerful type of cooperation; people
will unite in an effort to win. Teachers can group
students together who would not normally make
friends easily and mix up the subteams regularly.
Defining the group against another. Emphasizing
the differences between “us” and “them” is a
powerful but obviously dangerous aspect of group
cohesiveness. While stirring up emotions against
an out-group to strengthen in-group ties is defi-
nitely to be avoided, teachers might occasionally
allow students to reflect on how special their class
and the time spent together are compared to the
experiences of other groups.
Joint hardship and common threat. Strangely
enough, going through sonic difficulty or calamity
together (e.g., carrying out some tough physical
task together or being in a common predicament,
such as having to take an exam) can have a benefi-
cial group effect.
Teacher as role model. Friendly and supportive
behavior by the teacher is infectious, and students
are likely to follow suit.
Group norms. The best way to illustrate the moti-
vational role of group norms is to consider a
situation where things have gone wrong. In many
contemporary classrooms, we conic across the
norm of mediocrity, that is, there is often peer
pressure on fellow students not to excel academi-
cally; if they do excel, they will be made fun of
and called names such as “nerd” or “brain.” This
is a clear-cut illustration of group norms directly
affecting students’ individual levels of motivation,
sometimes in a dramatic way. So, how can we make
sure that the nouns in our classroom promote
rather than hinder learning? The key is that real
group norms are inherently social products; for a
528 Unit V
norm to be long-lasting and constrictive, it needs
to be explicitly discussed with and accepted by
the students as right and proper. Therefore, it is
beneficial for teachers to include an explicit norm-
building procedure early in the group’s life by:
formulating potential norms
justifying their purpose to enlist support for
the norms
having the nouns discussed by the whole group
eliciting further potential norms from the
learners and subjecting these to discussion too
explicitly addressing unproductive norms
and changing them by consensus
agreeing as a group on a mutually acceptable
set of class rules that can be displayed on a
wall chart
Norm-building efforts will really pay off for
the teacher when someone breaks the norms,
for example, by behaving inappropriately or not
doing something expected. The more time a
group spends setting, negotiating, and modeling
the norms, the fewer people in the group will go
astray; and when group members do break the
norms, it is usually the group that brings them
back in line. Having the group on the teacher’s
side when coping with deviations and maintain-
ing discipline is a major help. Members can usu-
ally bring considerable group pressure to bear on
errant members and enforce conformity with the
group’s norms. Teachers should never underesti-
mate the potential power of the group.
Contemporary research on L2 motivation is
moving into a new phase characterized by a con-
cern with the situated complexity of the L2 moti-
vation process and its dynamic interaction with
a multiplicity of internal, social, and contextual
factors in our modern and increasingly globalized
world. Indeed, over the past decades the world
of the L2 learner has changed dramatically—it is
now characterized by linguistic and sociocultural
diversity and fluidity, where language use, ethnic-
ity, and identity have become complex topical
issues and the subjects of sociolinguistic and social
psychological – research. TO address this changing
global reality and, in particular, to account for
the motivation to learn global English as a target
language of people aspiring to acquire a global
identity, L2 motivation is currently being radically
reconceptualized in the context of contemporary
notions of self and identity. The first part of this
chapter provided a sense of the emerging new
theoretical focus.
With regard to practical developments con-
cerning the methods of increasing learner motiva-
tion, I believe that the concepts of vision and future
self-guide will play a key role in the next decades.
Techniques are currently being developed to use
self-enhancing activities, visualization, and guided
imagery in the language classroom (e.g., Arnold,
Puchta, & Rinvolucri, 2007; Hadfield & Dornyei,
2013; Magid & Chan, 2012), and the initial positive
perception of the self-based approach by teachers
in many settings suggests that this is a direction that
may activate considerable creative energy at the
classroom level. This will be very welcome because,
as every reader of this chapter will probably agree,
the way we currently approach classroom processes
and events—and more generally, the psychological
reality of the language classroom—has for some
time been due for a major overhaul.
In an inherently social process such as language
acquisition, the learner cannot be meaning-
fully separated from the social environment within
which he or she operates, and therefore the
challenge for future research on motivation is
to adopt a dynamic perspective that allows us to
consider simultaneously the ongoing multiple
influences between environmental and learner
factors in all their componential complexity.
Erin Gruwell’s response to the challenges she
faced involved taking exactly such an integrated
approach; she addressed motivational issues,
at both the individual learner and group lev-
els, that ranged from designing creative learn-
ing tasks and ensuring adequate resources to
developing a classroom climate characterized
by cohesiveness and a norm of tolerance. But
she also knew that to turn around such hard-to-
reach students (or “unteachables”) she needed
to impact the leaTners’ whale –iderntifies by offer-
ing them a new, attractive vision. The Freedom
Writers project showed that such goals are not
merely idealistic fantasies but can actually work;
Chapter 33 529
the L2 motivational self system described in this
chapter offers a useful theoretical framework to
pull together a wide range of issues concerning
the internal desires of the learner, the social
pressures exercised by significant or authorita-
tive people in the learner’s environment, and the
learner’s actual experience of being engaged in
the learning process.
On a more practical level, my experience is
that motivational issues still do not receive their
due importance in language teacher education.
One consequence of this is that teachers are
expected to meet the challenging demands of
managing complex classrooms without sufficient
awareness and training to tackle the psychologi-
cal level—this is a little hit like sending soldiers
to war without enough ammunition. It is hoped
that this situation will change, and this chapter
has outlined a wealth of strategies and approaches
that language teachers have at their disposal to
motivate their learners. However, let me reiterate
here that striving to achieve super-motivator status
can easily lead a teacher to burnout; instead, it is
sufficient for teachers to choose a few strategies
that suit both them and their learners to create
a positive motivational climate in the classroom.
Some of the most motivating teachers rely on only
a handfill of techniques.
)1. Motivation concerns the fundamental ques-
tion of ‘yh’ people behave as they do, that is,
the choice of a particular action, the persis-
tence with it, and the effort expended on it.
With a long-term learning process such as
the mastery of a second language, learners’
ultimate success will depend heavily on their
level of motivation.
)10- Because motivation always manifests itself
in a dynamic interplay with other personal
and contextual factors, a particularly fruitful
approach to conceptualizing motivation is
by focusing on motivational conglomerates
of various motivational, cognitive, and emo-
tional variables that form coherent patterns
and, as such, act as wholes.
)10- One motivational conglomerate that offers
a particularly usefill framework for language
educators is the learners’ future vision of
Language-specific vision is operationalized
within the broader construct of the 1.2
motivational self system, which highlights
three primary sources of 1.2 motivation: the
learners’ vision of themselves as effective 122
speakers; the social pressure coining from
the learner’s environment; and the learners .
positive learning experiences.
Skills in motivating learners are central u
effective teaching; relevant motivational strat-
egies can be divided into three main clusters.
focusing on: (I) the learner’s future vision;
(2) the individual’s learning experience; and
(3) the group’s learning experience.
1. Is it meaningful to use the term motivation to
refer to such divergent purposes as learning
an L2: (a) to he able to make more money
and (b) to be able to read a sacred text in the
original? Or (c) to get good grades and (d) to
expand one’s mental horizon?
2. What happens to a learner’s overall motivation
when the ideal language self and the ought-
to language self come into conflict (e.g., the
learner experiences conflict between personal
and family plans, or faces negative peer pres-
sure at school)? How can such a conflict be
handled in a constructive way?
3. Why are most motivational strategies underuti-
lized and most language teachers not overly con-
cerned about motivating their students? What is
your personal experience with this issue?
4. How universal are motivational strategies? Can
some strategies be effective in one learning envi-
ronment and counterproductive in another?
1. The following four strategies arc part of the
vision-building sequence described earlier in
the chapter. Think of your past experiences as
a language learner and/or teacher, and imag-
ine how von might he able to apply some of
these strategies:
a. construction of the ideal L2 self: creating
the vision
b. imagery enhancement: strengthening the
530 Unit V
C. developing an action plan: operationaliz-
ig the vision
d. activating the ideal L2 self: keeping the
vision alive
2. You to give your students controlled
practice of a grammar point (e.g., ,cimr/for +
present perfect tense). Think of ways to make
the inherently boring drill task more interest-
in g by exploiting the f011owing elements:
a. sonic kind of a challe nge
b. interesting content (i.e., related stu-
dents’ interest)
c. some novelty element
d. some exotic/ fan ement
e. some personal e ersol g
the content)
Learning about
each other
Proximity (physical
Social contact and
The rewarding
nature of group
Joint hardship
The teacher’s role
in modeling
Investing in the
Defining one’s
group compared to
another group
3. The chart on this page contains a list of factors
that can positively contribute to group cohe-
siveness. Using a scale from 1 to 5 (where
1 = not relevant/applicable/practical and
highly relevant/applicable/practical), mark
how relevant/practical/applicable each facto! –
is: (a) in the learner group you are currently
a member of; and (b) in the context you have
coitne from and/or where you are planning
to teach in the future. Summarize the results
together in class on the hoard and discuss them.
4. Watch the film Freedom Writeis (2007, Paramount
Pictures), and write down two examples of
each of the following instructional strategies
used by the teacher, Erin Gruwell:
a. group-building activities
b. vision-building activities and practices
c. creative learning techniques
DOrnyei, Z. (2009). The L2 motivational self
system. In Z. DOrnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.),
Motivation, language ideraitT and the L2 self (pp.
9-42). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
This is the most detailed description of the L2
motivational self system to date, discussing its gen-
esis, theoretical validity, and main features.
Diirnyei, Z., & Ushioda, E. (2011). Teaching and research-
ing motivation (2nd ed.). Flarlow, UK: Longman.
This hook offers an accessible overview of every-
thing teachers want to know about motivation,
from theory and research to applications and moti-
vational strategies.
Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves.
American. Psychologist, 41, 054969.
If you want to read one psychological work on pos-
sible selves and future self-guides, this is the one.
Ushioda, E. (2008). Motivation and good language
learners. In C. Griffiths (Ed.), Lessons from good
la nguage learners (pp. 19-34). Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press.
This is a concise overview in a very tsefUl volume.
Chapter 33 53 I
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Journal of Education and Educational Development
Vol. 2 No. 2 (December 2015) 191 – 201
John Dewey and His Philosophy of Education
Aliya Sikandar
Institute of Business Management
This review paper on John Dewey, the pioneering educationist of
the 20th century, discusses his educational thoughts, and writings,
which gave a new direction to education at the turn of the century.
Dewey’s contributions are immense and overwhelming in the fields
of education, politics, humanism, logic, and aesthetics. This discussion
will focus on Dewey and his philosophy related to educational approaches,
pedagogical issues, and the linkages that he made between education,
democracy, experience, and society. At the heart of his educational
thought is the child. Dewey’s idea on humanism springs from his
democratic bent and his quest for freedom, equity, and the value of
child’s experiences.
Keywords: Dewey, educational approaches, humanism,
pedagogical issues
This discussion is based on John Dewey’s (1859-1952)
contribution to education and educational philosophy. He remains
the most influential American philosopher and educationist of the
20th Century, who gave a new direction to educational thought and
processes. With his firm democratic belief in civil societies and
education, Dewey rejected authoritarian structures and subsequently
the traditional teaching methods in schools. He believed in progressive
education and advocated for reforms in pedagogical aspects of
teaching and school curricula; most importantly, Dewey believed
that at the centre of the whole academia was the child, and Dewey’s
educational philosophy and reforms were concerned primarily with
the child. Today, Dewey’s philosophy of education and its relation to
Sikandar John Dewey and His Philosophy of Education
experience, democracy, humanism, and pragmatism have largely
affected the modern system of education all over the world.

This discussion will look at three areas of contribution of this
great educationist’s philosophy of education. These aspects are, in
different sections united by a thread of continuity to his great philosophy
of education.
1. Dewey’s philosophy of education
2. Dewey’s philosophy of education and experience
3. The role of the teacher and the child
Dewey’s philosophy of education
Dewey’s ideas mirror the affects of new the industrialized
colonized society, fraught with the problems and aftermaths of two
World Wars. Dewey was largely inspired by Marx’s theory of social
struggle and conflict between classes. Marx’s theory of conflict is
that the society is stratified and layered with different strata and
there is a competition within these different classes. Marx stresses
that social analysis should focus on class structure and relations.
Dewey had an inspiration from Habermas’s thoughts, which are in
the traditions of Kant, and emphasize the role of education to transform
the world into a more humane, just, and egalitarian society.
His writings on democracy and education express his philosophy of
education as a way of social reform. He saw education as a means of
serving the democratic process through making corrections in the economic
evils and by obtaining political ends that would lead to progression of a
society. Hence, education for Dewey is the culmination of his political
ideas. The shaping of a society in which the common goods, among
which are the knowledge and social intelligence, are distributed fairly
among all who participate in that society (Berding, 1997).
Establishment of progressive schools in the 18th century was an
effort to liberate traditional schools’ system of education, and mainly
to facilitate the intellectual growth of a child. However, Dewey was
critical about these progressive schools on the premise that freedom
Vol. 2 No. 2 (December 2015)192
alone was no solution; learning needs, a structure and order must be
based on a clear theory of experience, not simply the whim of teachers or
students. On the other hand, Rousseau, and later Pestalozzi, Froebel
and other educational theorists believed that a child was like a seed
and if they were left to nourish and nurture naturally, they would
naturally bear flowers and fruits.
In Democracy and Education (1916), Dewey clearly states that the
methodology of teaching leads to the purpose of teaching. As teaching
and learning is pedagogical; therefore, the subject matter should be planned
in effective ways. He clearly states, “The subject matter of the learner
is not … identical with the formulated, the crystallized, and systematized
subject matter of the adult” (p. 190). The subject matter alone is not a
guarantee of learning and development; rather, the teacher should plan
and connect the subject matter to the students, keeping in consideration
the needs, desires, interests, and cognitive development of the
students, as he shows in ‘How We Think’.
Dewey’s main concern was a disparity between the experiences of
child and the kind of concepts imposed upon him. He believed that
this gap curbs a child’s natural experiences and abilities, forcing him
to follow the dictates of a formal education. Dewey is equally critical
of the progressive education which imposes concepts, such as the
right of free expression or free activity as these tenets of education also
impose ideas upon a child. Dewey was deeply inspired by the vision
of a liberal free society and realized the pressing need of freedom
and equality, emancipation from social bounds to liberate individual
and society from the structures of power.
Dewey’s philosophy of education and experience
In Dewey’s philosophy of education, we see a close link between a
child’s life and his experiences as a continuous process, which he regards
as the aim of education. In this way, education has the scope of
equipping a child with social competence. Unless this link is made,
education is useless. Dewey sees a strong correlation between
interaction and continuity of experiences. It is through interaction
that a child brings in experiences from society. Because of such
Vol. 2 No. 2 (December 2015) 193

John Dewey and His Philosophy of Education
continuous interactions, environments are created. These
environments are the fields in which situations and conditions interact
with personal needs and purposes, and create life-long experiences.
These experiences are given value and direction by the teachers;
therefore, there should be order and direction of a child’s experiences,
which will give him a composed and integrated personality.Hegives
example of the games children play, in which they follow rules of
the game willingly to continue the game. Similarly, students are
involved in class activities in groups and the moving force is to get
the activity done. This learning process allows students the freedomof
thought, judgment, and power to execute decisions. These learning
experiences should have a clear purpose, an understanding of the
surrounding conditions, knowledge of what occurred before, so
that it could allow reflection and analysis of issues and experiences.
Such structured interactions turn an impulse into a plan of action.
This brings forth Dewey’s philosophy of humanism. As a child
discovers by doing, the child is explicitly realized as the main actor
of the entire learning process. The child’s role is no longer vulnerableor
a subject of imposition. Rather, a child is a free individual with his
aptitude and interests.As he is actively involved in the learning
process, the child is an active social actor who participates in social
An experience for him involves a dual process of understanding
and influencing the world around us, as well as being influenced
and changed by that experience. Therefore, education should be
concerned about the child’s experiences in school and in natural
environments outside the school. Particular experiences should
beassessed to the degree that they contribute to the growth or to
gettingmore experience. “Growth in Dewey’s context means that the
individualis gaining the ability to understand the relationships and
interconnections between various experiences between one learning
experienceandanother” (Gutek, 1997, p.105). According to Dewey
(1934),“Experienceoccurscontinuously, because the interaction of
livecreatureandenvironingconditions is involved in the very process
ofliving”(p.1).Dewey’s method of teaching was based on his
Vol. 2 No. 2 (December 2015)194
pragmatic philosophy-the Pragmatism, and he is of the opinion that
direct experience is the basis of all methods. Any relevant knowledge
or information is in some sense experiential as it relates directly to
the lived experience of the individuals concerned (Dewey 1916).
For him, knowledge takes place in concrete and meaningful situations,
through spontaneous activities of children. Dewey’s methods of
teaching were based on the principles of learning by doing activities in
connection with life of a child. Such approaches to teaching and learning
follow strategies like project based or problem based method of learning.
Curriculum, Dewey demanded was not imposed upon the students,
rather it had the capacity to allow individual differences among the
students and value their experiences. Dewey’s curriculum theory is
based on anthropological, psychological, and social-philosophical
(political) perspectives that hold a child to be like an organism and
this organism is searching for stimuli in order to grow (Berding,
Dewey strongly supported experiential learning, as it offers
students a hands-on, collaborative learning experience, which helps
them to “fully learn new skills and knowledge” (Haynes, Sakai,
Rees, Gilbert, Frith & Passingham, 2007). Eyler and Giles (1999)
asserted that Dewey described service-learning as experiential learning
and that such learning has a “continual spiral of events starting with
direct experience, followed by periods of reflection where hypotheses
are generated about immediate and future meaning, and then tested
through experiences and actions” (p. 184). Toulmin (1984) argues,
that Dewey in his work was able to dismantle the epistemological
tradition and was able to display farsightedness and originality,
which was at his time could not be recognized. To Dewey (1916),
“Development means transformation,… that reconstruction
or reorganization of experience which adds to the meaning of experience,
and which increases ability to direct the course of subsequent
experience” (p. 76). Such experiences raise the child’s curiosity and
hope, and gives him a purpose to carry out school activities. This
participation moulds his views and perceptions about the world,
education, and also his attitude about participation in school activities.
Dewey’s philosophy of pragmatism is his premise on education as a
Vol. 2 No. 2 (December 2015)195
Sikandar John Dewey and His Philosophy of Education

lived-experience, that is, a person experiences learning with others.
This approach of learning combines theory and experience into mutual
accommodation and adaptation. Dewey used both philosophical and
psychological perspectives to build his theory of education (McDermott,
1981). He saw that education’s purpose is to make students’ imagination
strong and he regarded it an important goal of education (Cunningham,
1994). The role of the teacher is to guide students, especially adolescents
on the verge of adulthood, “To make choices among desirable alternatives,
is vitally important in the building of character” (Cunningham, 1994,
However, as one studies Dewey’s educational philosophy, there
appears to be a gap in the operational plan of learning through
experiences. Firstly, in Dewey’s work, we do not find any objectives
or criteria based experiences. We do not get to know how to evaluate the
experiences that help a child grow, so that in accordance, the growth
of child could be geared in measurable terms. Also, how do we know
that the child is getting more knowledgeable, mature or intellectual
through the experiences given by the school? What the learning
objectives are and where the learners are expected to reach at the
end of experiential learning. For this, the teachers would find
themselves without direction. If the learning is heavily dependent
upon experiences, then how many experiences are to be planned in
a term? How would teachers handle various responses, reactions,
feedback on a similar experience? I guess it can very soon lead to
the teacher burnout. We do not find any pilot study of experiential
learning or how are the experiences of a child then incorporated into
the objectives of learning. Next, no guidelines are given on
the processes of application in a structured manner; who are the
agents of change: school management, teachers, parents, curriculum
designers or association of schools? In this whole process of
democratization of education, what would be the role of community
or the society? What would be the role of the parents? Dewey has
not given any clear guidelines for these aspects.
The role of the teacher and the child
Dewey stresses the sensitivity of educationists towards learners’
Vol. 2 No. 2 (December 2015)196
needs and their individual differences. For Dewey, teachers should
realize that there is no one-for-all concept of teaching and learning.
Learning processes should be planned considering the aptitude, learners’
former experiences, and their present experiences. The teacher
should observe the interest of the students, observe the directions they
naturally take, and then help them develop problem-solving skills. A
teachers’ primary purpose is to increase freedom of the children to
enable them to explore their environments. He believed in an
interdisciplinary curriculum, or a curriculum that focuses on connecting
multiple subjects, where students are allowed to freely move in and
out of classrooms, as they pursue their interests and construct their
own paths for acquiring and applying knowledge. A teacher is engaged
with the learners through interaction, which is a social process.
Teachers are members of the community of learning, and play a
major role in selecting experiences and to give a proper direction to
these educative experiences.
Dewey argues that the centre of gravity needs to shift whereby he
[the learner] is at the center (Dewey, 1910). Dewey is often referred
to as a child-centered educationist (Bantock, 1963; Darling ,1994;
Entwhistle, 1970; Pring, 2007; Woods & Barrow, 2006). Dewey
(1987) suggests, “Indeed the starting point should be the internal
condition-the child’s own instincts and powers furnish the material
and give the starting point for all education” (p. 44). His conviction was
that the child must not be authoritatively told beforehand what is good
or evil, but should discover these opposite realities for himself.
Dewey was most concerned about the development of the
individuality of child. The child’s voice was nowhere heard, as
curriculum, subject matter, and concepts were imposed on him in
the school. That is why Dewey regarded a child as the most vulnerable
member of the society, who is directly affected by the practices and
attitudes of the members of the academia- those who impose policies
on him, and control him. Dewey was specifically concerned about
the rights of child as an individual, his right to exercise his decisions,
choices in learning and education, and his participation in a democratic
learning process. A child is by nature curious, social, and constructive,
and possesses inherently the raw material to be developed by experienced
Vol. 2 No. 2 (December 2015)197
Sikandar John Dewey and His Philosophy of Education

guide and mentor. It is therefore responsibility of the teacher to plan
positive and constructive environment for the students so as to create
positive educative experiences for them. Such environments are built
in the joint partnership of teachers and students, where together they
try out effective techniques of teaching and learning. The objective is
to make students more self-reliant. In this way, Dewey considered
his school a community where the students become active members.
Although Dewey’s innumerable works and contributions are in
education, politics, humanism, logic, and aesthetics, given the limited
scope of this paper the focus has been Dewey’s educational
philosophy related to experience and democracy, for the growth and
development of a child. Summing up the salient works and concepts
of John Dewey was a very challenging task. In his long satisfying career
in education, Dewey brought about revolutionary reformations in
educational philosophy, approaches, and pedagogies. Essentially,
with the child as the centre of education, Dewey’s philosophical
creed focuses on the development of child who is a valuable member
of society; a society which believes in equity and freedom, practices
democratic qualities and ideals.
There have been pedagogical and practical challenges faced
by the practitioners in applying Dewey’ approach to education. The
most important criticism is his lack of clarity as to how to set up
systems that can see through the inception of ideas to the conclusion
of the experiences, to gauge the growth and development, and to design,
and plan curriculum clearly. However, given all these objections it
cannot be denied that John Dewey remains one of the pioneering
figures of contemporary educationists, who left a rich trail of
researchers and educationists, who continually study the methods
and theories of education presented by him and add invaluably to his body
of knowledge.
Likewise, there are various operational challenges experienced
in a developing country like Pakistan. In the implementation of
Vol. 2 No. 2 (December 2015) 198
Dewey’s system of education, the administration is usually found
reluctant to set up such a system, as the physical set up is for passive
learners, traditional teaching, and limited financial resources. Another
challenge is the gap in teacher education to make the academia understand
the philosophy, objectives, and methods of offering such educational
systems. Because of this, partners in education such as, the parents,
teachers, administrators, and the child himself usually become critical
of such systems.
The role of teachers in Pakistan is also perceived in a different light.
A teacher is one who is knowledgeable and authoritative. What
would happen if students in such systems find the teacher asking
questions, or asking them to take lead? Students would naturally try
to take advantage of such teachers, and least of all, they would take
teachers less seriously. In Pakistan, students especially of professional
colleges or business schools, are highly geared towards grades and are
marks-oriented. They would be lesser adherent to the process and
would like to find out the end-product. Such system would also put
teachers under a lot of pressure to motivate and involve passive and
shy learners in projects or problem solving discussions.
Vol. 2 No. 2 (December 2015)199
Sikandar John Dewey and His Philosophy of Education

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Cunningham, C. A. (1994). Unique potential: A metaphor for John
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