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Beliefs and emotions in foreign language learning

Rodrigo Aragao
*
Department of Languages and Arts, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Rodovia Ilheus-Itabuna, Km 16, Ilheus, CEP 45.662.000 Bahia, Brazil
Received 15 January 2011; accepted 25 May 2011
Abstract
From the argument that in languaging worlds are created (Aragao, 2005; Kalaja, 1995, 2003; Maturana and Varela, 2001;
Nunez, 1997), this article aims at reecting about the relationship between emotions and beliefs in foreign language learning. It is
argued that beliefs and emotions in language learning/teaching are inter-related and can be observed in the way students conceive
their classroom environment as they disclose feelings and core beliefs about themselves as students of English as a Foreign
Language. Framed by the concepts of languaging, emotions and beliefs in a contextual and discursive approach, results of
a qualitative study are presented in which data comes from narrative research documents and visual representations of students
shedding light on the historical and situated interplay of beliefs and emotions.
2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Emotions; Beliefs; Language learning; English
1. Introduction
In languaging, or linguistic activity, students construct realities and articulate how they feel and think about
learning a new language (Kalaja, 2003; Maturana, 1998; Nunez, 1997; Rajagopalan, 2004). Therefore, students as
humans exist in language and in emotions. Rudimentarily, emotions imply movement (Booth and Pennebaker, 2000;
Maturana, 1998) while beliefs tend to guide the ways in which humans move in the world. Emotion and beliefs,
fundamental in life, play an important role in foreign language learning. In spite of this, the study of the relationship
between beliefs and emotions in language learning has not been directly investigated in Applied Linguistics.
According to Barcelos (2009b, p. 2) The few studies about affective factors or emotions in Applied Linguistics
(Arnold, 1999; So and Dominguez, 2005; Aragao, 2007) do not mention the role of beliefs in the emotional processes
of teachers and learners. This paper aims to start lling this gap.
On the one hand, emotions here are dened as bodily dispositions for situated action (Aragao, 2005; Booth and
Pennebaker, 2000; Maturana, 1998). Emotions represent various ways of being in relation to the dynamics of the
immediate environment. For example, in emotions like happiness, physiology is modulated to the environment in
a disposition that is different under emotions of fear or shyness. Emotions change as physiology changes, just like
* Tel.: 55 5 71 9301 1563.
E-mail address: aragaorc@gmail.com.
0346-251X/$ - see front matter 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.system.2011.07.003
Available online at www.sciencedirect.com
System 39 (2011) 302e313
www.elsevier.com/locate/system
physiology changes as emotional dynamics alter (Maturana, 1998). Likewise, changes of emotions alter the domains
of possible actions ea transformative ow distinguished as emotioning (Maturana, 2001; Maturana and Block, 1996).
On the other hand, beliefs as dynamic and contextualized cognition shape understandings and inuence actions
(Barcelos, 2000, 2001, 2004). Beliefs are articulated in discourse (Kalaja, 2003) whereas core beliefs are related to
a persons self-concept, emotions and actions (Barcelos, 2007).
In this article, I argue that embarrassment and self-esteem are emotions inuenced by beliefs associated with
a students self-concept and that this relationship plays a fundamental role in the way students see themselves in class
and how they behave in their learning environment. Awareness of this relationship discloses one of the roles played by
beliefs in students emotions while learning a foreign language in classroom settings. Therefore, this study tries to
answer the broad question: What is the interaction of beliefs and emotions in foreign language learning? In order to
answer this broad question, this article is oriented by two other research questions: How can core beliefs inuence
emotions? How does reection in languaging play a role in transformative processes associated with the students
learning experiences?
Data comes from a doctoral study that documented the foreign language learning experiences of seven students
through diverse qualitative procedures (Aragao, 2007). In this article, three case studies of those students are discussed
in order to strengthen the understanding of the interactive nature of beliefs, emotions and actions in classroom foreign
language learning. To do so, I begin with the theoretical background and the methodological procedures that frame
this study followed by a discussion on the interplay among emotions and beliefs illuminated by qualitative research
observations. I conclude with pedagogical and epistemological reections.
2. Theoretical background
2.1. Emotions in second language acquisition
Different researchers argue that the role of emotions in language learning has not received much attention in
Second Language Acquisition (SLA), a eld that emphasizes the role of cognition in language learning and teaching
(Arnold, 1999; Garrett and Young, 2009; Imai, 2010; Macintyre, 2002; Pavlenko, 2005; Scovel, 2000; van Lier, 2004).
In western history emotion has been second to cognition and is often thought of as a threat to reason (Oatley and
Jenkins, 1996; Solomon, 2000). Reason characterizes the human species and, as such, deserves scientic treatment.
From that point of view, detrimental effects on reason may be due to emotions (Aragao, 2007; Lewis and Haviland-
Jones, 2000; Oatley and Jenkins, 1996). This historical tradition has restrained the understanding of the interplay
between emotions and cognition, in which beliefs are at stake.
In SLA, research on emotions has been referred to as affect. The term affect, dened as broadly aspects of
emotion, feeling, mood or attitude which can condition behavior and inuence language learning (Arnold and
Brown, 1999, p. 1), constitutes an umbrella term, subsuming a list of other concepts (feeling, mood, attitude,
value, judgment, personality factor, learner variables). Research on affective factors has been primarily quantitative,
by means of surveys or correlational analyses between affective factors, mostly anxiety and motivation, and learning
outcomes (Horwitz at al., 1986; Macintyre, 2002). These studies sustain a causeeeffect relationship between affective
variables and learning products (see Ganschow and Sparks, 2001; Horwitz, 2001), which due to their individualistic
and product-oriented nature limit the understanding of interactional and dialogic dynamics of classroom language
learning (Aragao, 2005; Barcelos and Kalaja, 2003; Imai, 2010; van Lier, 2004).In addition to the studies under the
term affect, other researchers have sought to understand the role of emotions in bilingualism and how emotions are
expressed in different languages (Pavlenko, 2005, 2006).
Differently from studies that use the term affect, emotions in this article are understood as dispositions for actions
in relational dynamics (Maturana, 2001), a process radically distinct from the usual conception of individual
psychological states at the cost of neglecting the learners relation to the context, as if the only process took place in
individual minds, bodies or individual contexts, such as the classroom(Norton, 2000). What will be shown through the
qualitative data during the discussion section is that emotions are dynamic processes related to beliefs and actions that
can be observed in relation to the context of the classroom.
A distinction is made here between emotions and feelings. As feelings are articulated in discourse (Kalaja, 2003),
they are part of the domain of language by which people construct their worlds, coordinate actions with other people
and are able to reach self-awareness (Maturana and Varela, 2001; Nunez, 1997). Therefore, when the word feeling is
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used, a linguistic distinction is made from an observation of emotional dynamics in a particular context. Thus, feelings
belong to the domain of interpretation and explanation in languaging, constituting discursive reection. Moreover, it is
in languaging, specially, that beliefs become entangled with emotions when students reect about the inuence of
their beliefs and emotions in their actions.
2.2. Core beliefs and emotions
In SLA, the interest in students language learning beliefs has ourished in the last 15 years (see Barcelos, 2003;
Kalaja and Barcelos, 2003). Similarly to research on affective variables, interest in the inuence of beliefs in language
learning started with a research movement in the eighties focused on learners individual processes and strategies
(Barcelos, 2001, 2003, 2004).
From the many approaches to the study of beliefs in the literature, the choice of this paper is for a contextual and
discursive approach to research language learning beliefs (Barcelos, 2000, 2001, 2004; Kalaja, 1995, 2003). Relying
on Deweys (1933) philosophy, Barcelos (2000) argues that belief is a way of perceiving the world that generates
condence to act upon matters accepted as true, but which may be questioned in the future. Beliefs in such a contextual
approach are dynamic, socially constructed, situated, paradoxical and related to action. Learning beliefs tend to shape
students and teachers perceptions as well as inuence what students do in the classroom (Barcelos, 2000, 2003).
Barcelos (2004, p. 143) suggests that we should understand beliefs as resources the students use to make sense of
their context and to deal with it. In addition, it is through language that our realities are created and beliefs are
constructed and articulated in discourse (Kalaja, 1995, 2003; Maturana, 1998).
Barcelos (2007, p. 118), citing Rokeach (1968), a social psychologist whose interest in human behavior led him to
understand the role of beliefs and attitudes in human actions, argues that core beliefs are related to emotions and to
a persons identity. Rokeach (1968) used the idea of an atom to compare the structure of beliefs. Core beliefs are
related to self-concepts and are more resistant to change. When I refer to self, I do it from Maturanas (1998)
perspective, by which an observer, in linguistic activity, distinguishes its observation from itself and becomes
a distinction in its own right (Aragao, 2007; Maturana and Varela, 2001; Nunez, 1997). After that, in linguistic activity,
the person becomes another object in relation to the others that can be articulated in discourse. Maturana and Varela
(2001) conceptualize this process as self-observation or self-consciousness e when one distinguishes ones own
observation and creates a new object in relation to ones immediate context. Therefore, reection about oneself is
considered to play a fundamental role in understanding ones learning beliefs, emotions and actions (Aragao, 2005;
Barcelos, 2007; Miccoli, 2003).
An interface of core beliefs and emotions is self-conscious emotions (Lewis and Haviland-Jones, 2000; Oatley and
Jenkins, 1996; Parkinson et al., 2004). Emotions like shyness, embarrassment, pride, self-esteem, inhibition can be
related to beliefs one has about oneself and the surrounding environment, such as the fear of feeling embarrassed when
speaking in class may be due to a belief that a classmate will criticize or laugh at the students performance. Self-
conscious emotions come with experience and with the emergence of certain beliefs about ones relationship to the
foreign language classroom. The object of fear and embarrassment in this case, be it the teacher or a classmate, tends
to occur with the belief that the other is superior and this ultimately requires the student to feel and think inferior
(Aragao, 2005; Barcelos, 2006; Miccoli, 2003).
Miccoli (1997, 2000, 2003) has documented how students avoid speaking in class because of fear of criticism of
other classmates along with conceiving the class as a judgmental environment that restrains students oral partici-
pation (Garrett and Young, 2009; Price, 1991; So and Dominguez, 2004). Barcelos (2009a) suggests that these feelings
are caused by beliefs such as other people know more than I do. Self-conscious emotions involve distinctions and
evaluations about the self vis-a`-vis believed standards or idealized models (Lewis, 2000). These idealized models are
related with beliefs students create about themselves and their learning environment.
3. Methodological background
Emotions and beliefs can be appropriately researched through narrative research methodology (Aragao, 2005;
Barcelos, 2006; So and Dominguez, 2005). Narrative research in foreign language learning has advanced under-
standing of learners qualitative perspectives in diverse contexts (Barcelos, 2006; Benson and Nunan, 2004; Kalaja
et al., 2008; Murphey, 2006; Paiva, 2007). In addition, narrative research expands knowledge of students language
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learning processes through reection in languaging and promotes an increase in self-esteem (Aragao, 2005, 2007;
Miccoli, 2000; Murphey, 2006; Swain and Miccoli, 1994). Through reection, students are able to identify beliefs,
emotions, challenges and how to deal with them. Clandinin and Connelly (2000) argue that narrative research is at the
same time a studied phenomenon and a research method. When narrating, narrated experience becomes the object of
study promoting reection about narrated phenomena and new meaning making. In addition, narrating is a way to
access the experience as a phenomenon of study but it is also a method of researching practice (Aragao, 2005;
Barcelos, 2006; Johnson and Golombeck, 2002). The researcher, as author and investigator of language learning
narratives, is part of a joint enterprise among researcher and participants, who together live through a process of co-
authoring of joint narratives. In this study, through the collection of diverse documents, an individual narrative for
each student was written and systematic comparisons among the participants emotions and beliefs were drawn.
3.1. Setting
The study here reported was part of a doctoral study conducted in the Institute of Languages at the Federal
University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), at Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The course chosen for this study was Integrated Skills
I: English because this is the rst contact students have with English in their Language teacher education course.
1
Therefore, it could offer a contrastive observation with the language learning experiences of the students before
teacher education, allowing students to recall previous language learning experiences. The overall goal of Integrated
Skills I is to develop communication in the four skills, at a pre-intermediate level.
2
3.2. Research documents and procedures
During the study multiple procedures were used to collect the qualitative data and the following research docu-
ments were used in order to produce the individual learners narratives during the semester and to triangulate the data:
a) a written language learning narrative at the beginning of the research project; b) videotaped scenes from 19 classes
out of a total of 30; c) notes from students language learning journals; d) three transcribed semi-structured interviews;
e) notes from informal conversations with the research participants; f) notes from participant observation in the
classroom; g) a visual representation of students emotional dynamics which are focused on this paper; h) a ques-
tionnaire evaluating the participation in the research project (see Appendix 1). Visual representations were used as
a means to express the emotions felt by the students and to reect on their relation to the students actions in class.
They turned out to be productive as in psychotherapies and language learning narratives (see Kalaja et al., 2008;
Oatley and Jenkins, 1996; Paiva, 2007 for examples).
Participants were interviewed individually. At the rst interview, the written language learning narrative was the
focus, expanding on the students language learning beliefs and milestones in their learning trajectories. The second
interview focused on a stimulated recall session where some scenes from their interactions in class were presented in
order to reect about themselves in class. At the last interview, visual representations of their emotional dynamics
were linked to their language learning beliefs. In the end, an evaluation of their participation on the research project
was done. In the classroom, the way they participated in class activities was observed continuously and notes were
taken of their behavior in class were taken. The individual learner narratives were written in a chronological sequence
using the data from the interviews as well as other data in order to see the ow of interactions between emotions and
beliefs during the semesters course. Due to the space available for this article and the focus on the visual repre-
sentations, full quotations from the interviews and other research documents are kept to a minimum.
3.3. Participants
The research project was presented to the students at the beginning of the semester. Before that, the study design
and objectives were presented to the teacher who authorized the research project. Out of the 24 students enrolled in the
1
At UFMG the Language teacher education course lasts for 4 years and covers language, didactics, applied linguistics and other components of
the human sciences. For more information about the curriculum of the course: www.letras.ufmg.br.
2
At the time of the research project the book used by the teacher was Hutchinson, T., 1997. Lifelines Intermediate. Oxford University Press,
Oxford.
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class, seven volunteered to participate in the research project, with pseudonyms of their own choice: Arwen, Sollylove,
Julia, Carlos, Nathy, Faily and Cheguevara. In this paper, I focus on the beliefs and emotions of Arwen, Sollylove and
Julia (Aragao, 2007).
Arwen was 21 and lived in Belo Horizonte. Of the participants, she was the one who most talked about feeling shy
in the classroom. She did not expect to become a teacher because she considered herself shy and believed that she had
to keep quiet in class. Sollylove was 22 and came fromthe countryside to study ELTin UFMGthat semester. She loved
singing in English and wanted to be a teacher in the near future. Julia was raised in Belo Horizonte and said I come
from a simple family that has struggled hard to get where it is today. She described her family and her learning of
English as a struggle. She was 23 at that time and had taken the same class with the same teacher the previous
semester. The image she had of herself in class was that of a student stepping on eggs (Fig. 4), being cautious of what
she would say.
4. Results and discussion
4.1. Interplay of beliefs and emotions in the foreign language classroom
Speaking English in class was the most reported challenge for the participants. They believed that classmates they
were not acquainted with spoke better English and this made them feel embarrassed, restraining their use of spoken
English, corroborating other studies (Barcelos, 2006, 2009b; Garrett and Young, 2009; Imai, 2010; Miccoli, 1997,
2001, 2003; Price, 1991; So and Dominguez, 2005). They also reported feeling shy or ashamed due to the
teachers perceived perfect English or due to the students they thought knew more English. These students reports
were inhibited by what those superior strangers could think of them before they said anything.
Findings reveal that students beliefs about their speech, classmates and teacher inuenced their feelings of
embarrassment, shyness and class inhibition. This interplay in turn modulated the way they behaved in class. Arwen,
Sollylove and Julia felt as if they were condemned to embarrassment in front of their classmates, teacher and ulti-
mately by what they believed to be their performance. The three of them thought that their speaking skills were worse
than they actually were, as observations and videotaped class scenes showed. This belief was put in check when they
saw their oral presentations during the stimulated recall interview. Thus, the classroom was, at rst, construed as
a place of discomfort. However, after a stimulated recall interview, this discomfort and this belief seemed to have
changed.
Next, I present images that represent the predominant feelings of Sollylove when she tried to speak English. In
Fig. 1, Sollylove reveals she feels happy going to classes, but once she is there, she was afraid of speaking.
In Fig. 2 she referred to having her mouth stitched, because she felt ashamed of speaking English in front of the
teacher that she believed to have perfect English and of the girls who had beautiful pronunciation and, as
a consequence, her speech was blocked.
Fig. 1. Sollylove happy in class and afraid of speaking English.
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Arwen believed herself to be a shy person and was afraid of speaking English in class. At the second interview she
reported that she had failed her rst university entrance exam. Thus, she decided not to speak in class in order to
succeed in her second attempt at the Vestibular.
3
Already at the University, she heard that English classes were hard,
which led her to fear not passing Integrated Skills I. This fear associated to her previous school experiences seemed to
have construed the belief that silence in class would lead to a successful learning environment. In addition, Arwen was
constantly inhibited by what others might think when she spoke English in class. Arwen said that her voice expressed
the kind of student and person she was. She repeated that girls who speak English well were observing her in
a judgmental way. In Fig. 3, the image to the right, that illustrates her shyness, lacks a mouth. In addition, the image
may be representing lack of voice in class. In fact, Arwen spoke very little in class, although she would speak quite
a lot outside. Her shyness was situated, i.e. restricted to the classroom, in which she was learning to express herself in
English. She used to sit next to the door with her back bag on her lap, as if she would leave the room at any moment.
Julia was the student who felt with greater intensity the negative evaluation of her classmates and teacher. Unlike
Arwen and Sollylove, who had just started their course, Julia was retaking Integrated Skills I. Julias most recurrent
phrase during interviews was: Am I speaking right or wrong? What will they think of me when I speak? Julia
explained that she was afraid of making mistakes and being laughed at by her classmates, an experience she had had in
adolescence, a negative milestone in her language learning history. Outside class Julia had to demonstrate her
knowledge of English to friends and in kindergarten school where she had started teaching. She represented this
feeling by being assaulted in the street. Julia dened her learning as an enduring struggle; a painful task, corroborating
a study by Barcelos (2006). Thus, according to Fig. 4, in class Julia stepped on eggs and outside she felt assaulted
when she had to reveal her knowledge of the language.
As these results suggest, there is a tight relationship between beliefs and emotions in foreign language learning.
Observing and researching this interplay is important for understanding students actions in class. Feelings like shame,
fear and inhibition are strongly associated with beliefs about students self-concepts in the foreign language class-
room. They believed themselves to be inferior to idealized models. Therefore, in addition to conceiving their class
a judgmental environment (Garrett and Young, 2009; Miccoli, 2003; Price, 1991; So and Dominguez, 2005) these
students emotions were inuenced by their idealized models of speakers and learners of English. Through reection
about these inuences, Arwen, unlike Julia, resisted changing her core belief. On the other hand, by changing her
belief from an inferior student to a superior student Julia convinced herself that she needed to overcome obstacles
that restrained her development. Next, their cases are contrasted in order to show how reection in languaging plays
a role in the belief/emotion interplay.
Fig. 2. Sollylove felt as if her mouth had been stitched.
3
Vestibular refers to the university entrance exams in Brazil.
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4.2. Believing,
4
feeling and languaging: the case of Arwen and Julia
Through participating in the study, Arwen was able to notice how her shyness affected her oral skills. In our last
interview she stated that although she had not destroyed her weaknesses she was now aware of them. Furthermore,
she was also conscious that it was up to her to change her actions towards reaching her goals. In her words: I think I
did not change much in practice. Now I can reect about my actions in the classroom, but I did not put much effort to
change and I feel discouraged. By seeing herself on video during the stimulated recall sessions, she realized that her
performance was not as bad as she had imagined. But by the end of our encounters she kept referring to herself as shy
in class. Thus, while maintaining her self-concept as shy, she maintained her previous actions and the dynamics of
discouragement, which reinforced her dispositions of class inhibition. In Fig. 5, which represents her learning
narrative throughout Integrated Skills I that semester, being shy (the word timidez in Portuguese) is present throughout
the semester. In fact, changing this feeling about herself would not be easy (Barcelos, 2007).
Like Arwen and Sollylove, Julia had the opportunity to reect about her learning. During the study, she improved
her relationship with herself, her classmates and, especially, with the teacher who had been her teacher the previous
term. Her self-esteem had increased. Like Sollylove, Julia turned out to be more self-assured and able to deal with her
challenges. She managed to identify where the eggs were and how to overcome her obstacles (Fig. 4), but in contrast
to Arwen and Sollylove, half way through the semester Julia experienced other emotions that changed the relationship
with the classroom through different experiences with the language and her classmates. From the second interview
onwards Julia decided she needed to change and started believing in the things she needed to do to change. One day,
she sat with two students she considered superior and started talking to them in English. That same day, she took two
turns in class and answered the teachers questions in English. In the representation of her language learning narrative
in Fig. 6 she ends the termsmiling, standing up, describing herself as feeling big and self-assured, differently from
the image at the beginning of that semester, in which she is discouraged and sad (see Appendix 2 for a translation of
the text in Fig. 6). Her beliefs about herself had been transformed as had her emotions and her relationship with
context and environment. This suggests a course of changes from the beginning of her studies in the course, feeling
inferior and losing the battle as she referred to learning English at the beginning of the course. On the self-evaluation
questionnaire she stated that the major impact of participating in the study was being able to change my relationship
with the teacher and improving my learning process.
Julia altered emotions but changing beliefs about herself was fundamental for her transformative process and of
self-esteem strengthening. Emotions here seemed to incline her to have expanded the possibility of changing her
Fig. 3. Arwen expresses her feelings in the classroom.
4
In order to contrast belief resistance to change and its interplay with emotions and self-concepts, only the cases of Julia and Arwen were chosen
to be discussed in this section. When compared, their cases suggest clearly how emotions and core beliefs interact with classroom actions and the
role of languaging in possible changes in foreign language learning dynamics.
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beliefs about herself and intensifying the transformational process she was going through. From a quiet and
inhibited student, Julia nishes the term taking long conversational turns in class. Also, by relating differently to her
classmates she started having different experiences that strengthened changes in her beliefs about her classmates as
well as herself. Therefore, in her case by dealing directly with the objects of her beliefs she was able to experience
different emotions and actions that in turn enabled her to construe different beliefs about her classroom
environment.
5. Some pedagogical reections
The participants in this study report how important it is to be immersed in a learning context where they feel
open to speak English without the feeling of being judged by their peers or teacher. When learners subscribe to
idealized models about language learning or to idealized classmates and teacher, they may erroneously interpret
Fig. 5. Arwen and her feelings throughout the semester.
Fig. 4. Julia and her feelings when speaking English.
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their performance and tend to think they cannot speak the language they are learning. Reecting on beliefs is
considered one the major aspects that create optimal conditions for change in the process of language learning
(Aragao, 2008; Barcelos, 2000, 2006, 2007; Miccoli, 2003), with the emergence of alternative ways of thinking and
believing.
Some classroom implications can be drawn here. Teaching practice may improve with a) activities that
encourage students to learn the names of their classmates and to talk to different students in order to help them
question idealized models and fear of being criticized through getting to know their classmates (Murphey, 2006); b)
students reections on their learning process, experiences and beliefs; c) language learning narratives to be read by
classmates that would later interview their student-author in order to share their learning experiences and under-
stand their common feelings about the classroom; d) promoting debates about language learning beliefs, styles and
strategies that are revealed in the language learning narratives; f) activities in which students can hear their voice in
English (voice or video recorders could be used for this purpose) so that they can feel potential speakers and
question idealized models; g) the use of visual representation of emotions and beliefs followed by discussions that
could lead students to devise plans of action to reach their language learning goals; h) oral presentations as means to
overcome inhibition; initially unpleasant but gradually promoting change in students physiology and the
psychological perceptions that it triggers; i) praising small efforts and experiences of success and stimulating
students to overcome problems as challenges.
Fig. 6. Julia, a narrative with a happy ending.
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6. Conclusion
In languaging about their learning beliefs and emotions, Arwen, Sollylove and Julia went through changes in their
self-perceptions. As has been argued, shyness, embarrassment and self-esteem are emotions that interact with core
beliefs and this relationship plays a fundamental role in the way students behave in their learning environment.
Arwens self-concept as a shy student made her resist greater changes. As Barcelos (2007) has suggested, core beliefs
are more resistant to changes. Nonetheless, joint reection during the study allowed these participants to become more
self-assured as well as to believe that change is possible, provided they put enough effort in achieving their desires of
speaking English uently. Julia was able to move beyond her self-awareness as well as to question the core beliefs that
enabled her to experience other emotions. Students, beliefs, emotions and contexts change in unison as the images
representing students experiences show. It is through this process that reection in languaging plays a fundamental
role in empowering learners as leading gures in their own language learning trajectories. By identifying self-
conscious emotions and their beliefs in reection, the data allowed for distinguishing and observing the emotions
participants were embedded in and, therefore, in the interpretation of events and their ultimate consequences.
However, actions that emerge modulated by self-awareness of what is believed depend on the emotional dynamics
individuals are embedded in after the generation of a certain consciousness. Students actions are not conditioned to
the emotion present in reection, but the student can move on to a new emotion under which other aspects present in
the context can play a role in the learning dynamics. The interplay of emotions and beliefs in learners actions is
complex and it involves an intertwined system.
Acknowledgements
The author wishes to thank Zelina Beato for proofreading the rst version of this article, and to Laura Miccoli and
Mark Neumann for proofreading the nal version of the article. The author also wishes to thank the anonymous
reviewers for their comments, questions and suggestions during the revision process. The author is grateful to
FAPESB for nancing my research in UESC, Bahia, Brazil (grant: PET 0056/2008).
Appendix 1.
Questionnaire evaluating students participation in the research project.
1) How do you assess this opportunity to reect about your EFL learning?
2) Describe an aspect that you consider positive or negative about reecting about your learning process.
3) Have you ever done anything similar in your EFL classes?
4) Do you believe that participation in this research project had a positive impact on your learning process? How?
5) Compare yourself before and after having nished the research project. How have you changed? If possible,
describe the changes you felt.
6) Do you believe that your learning performance can improve by reecting about your activities in class? Why?
7) Do you have any suggestions how to integrate reection into regular EFL teaching/learning activities?
Appendix 2.
The student said: Oh damn it! English class. I thought I knew some English! Im a loser! Days went by and the
student felt unworthy. Everything he had learned was unimportant and unworthy. Waking up early to go to English
class was boring. And the student said: Oh gosh! That teacher will keep correcting me and pretending to teach while I
pretend that Im learning. But time went by.And the student kept on studying, having private tutoring and working
by himself to improve as much as he could. But time does not only go by but it also becomes mature. And the student
becomes aware that he is capable and he can handle it independently of what the others say, and.He starts feeling big
and self-assured. He raised his shoulders and believed in himself and nally he could win the battle!!! (Its a shame
that this is not the story of everybody, many remained on the ground.)
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