MA Educational Leadership

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Psychology of Language Learning

Unit code EDUC70090
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Education
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit will normally include topics such as the following:

- the contribution of psychology and psycholinguistics, and other parallel disciplines, to the development of recent thinking in language teaching methodology;
- individual differences in language learning, including: age, aptitude, intelligence, personality, cognitive and learning styles, learning strategies;
- motivation in language learning and teaching, including: instrumental and integrative motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic factors, general determinants of motivation in educational settings;
- how language is processed (including: issues of input and intake; the role of declarative, procedural and episodic knowledge in the comprehension and production of language; the role of working and long term memory in language learning);
- second language acquisition (including: models of the language learning process, recent research developments such as the role of formulaic language in language learning and form-focussed instruction); and
- social processes in language development (including: social construction of language; mediation; ZPD; interpersonal and affective factors in language learning; ecological perspectives on language development).


This unit aims to:
- provide an overview of currently relevant research and theory in the area and to examine its implications for the language classroom.
- raise awareness through experiential techniques of participants' own learning processes, preferences and styles.
- provide opportunities for the in-depth study of one specific issue in the field.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of the unit, students should be able to:

Knowledge and Understanding:
On completion of this course unit, successful participants will:
- have developed their understanding of how theory and research in a variety of disciplines related to psychology have contributed to current thinking in language learning;
- be able to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of theory and research in a chosen area of psychology relevant to language learning and teaching;
- have an enhanced awareness of how psychological assumptions, both research and conceptually based, inform classroom practice; and
- have a greater understanding of their own learning processes, preferences and styles.

Intellectual skills:
- critically evaluate the theory and research in the field of language learning, and assess its relevance to teaching and learning;
- synthesise the relative contributions of different, and sometimes contradictory, theories and research findings;

Practical skills:
- identify a concern/puzzle in own practice that may be understood drawing on existing research or theory in psychology and/or psycholinguistics;
- present new understanding through presentation; organise and carry out a presentation of their work.

Transferable skills and personal qualities:
On completion of this course unit, successful participants should have developed:

- enhanced skills in academic literacies including academic presentation, information processing (on- and off-line) and online networking;
- enhanced skills in using information and communication technologies (ICT);
- enhanced skills in interpersonal and intercultural communication;
- enhanced skills in team work and collaborative practice;
- an appreciation of the value of reflection in professional practice; and
- autonomy and enhanced metacognitive strategies with regard to study skills and further professional development.

Teaching and learning methods

The onsite course is based on the methodology of enquiry-based learning, in which participants work in small groups to jointly explore topics and then to do a presentation where they develop their understandings for the other course participants. The presentations are expected to respond in a broad way the topic areas indicated under curriculum content above. The participants' exploration of their specific concern/puzzle will be guided by the tutors acting as facilitators in both the normal sessions as well as through tutorial group meetings.

For distance participants, the methodology still aims to be enquiry-based. However, it may be adapted to suit the particular circumstances of the student group, taking into account the particular challenges of distance/online education.

Assessment methods

Presentation on the EBL work ( 20 minutes) Weighting within unit 40%

A written version of the 'Presentation on the EBL work' (2000 words) weighting within unit 60%

Feedback methods


Recommended reading

For an overview of the EBL pedagogy used by the course unit, see:

The following readings correspond to the topic areas covered by the course unit. We do not recommend that you read all of these books. One of these books would be sufficient for pre-reading before commencing the course unit. More specific readings (mainly articles) will be assigned as part of the course work.

Dornyei, Z. (2010). Teaching and Researching Motivation (2nd edition). Harlow: Longman. [This is a significant update on the 2001 edition; hence, try to avoid the 2001 edition].

Ellis, R. (1997). Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Johnson, K. (1995). Language Teaching and Skill Learning. Wiley-Blackwell.

Lantolf, J.P. and Thorne, S.L. (2006). Sociocultural Theory and the Genesis of Second Language Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lightbown, N. and Spada, N. (2006). How Languages are Learned (3rd Edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Earlier editions should be fine.]

Mitchell, R. and Myles, F. (2004). Second Language Learning Theories (2nd edition) London: Hodder Education.

Williams, M. and Burden, R.L. (1997). Psychology for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 24
Practical classes & workshops 40
Seminars 24
Tutorials 12
Independent study hours
Independent study 50

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Juurd Stelma Unit coordinator

Additional notes

This is an optional course unit for MA Educational Technology and TESOL and MA TESOL students.

NB: It is advised to contact the tutor if you wish to take this unit as an option as availability may be limited.


This is one of a group of three core course units from which MA TESOL participants must select at least two; it is also part of the menu of electives for MA Educational Technology & TESOL participants. It is usually taken early-mid studies on the both programmes.

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