Achilleas Kostoulas

Applied Linguistics & Language Teacher Education

Fractal patterns against a blue background

Intentional Dynamics in TESOL: An Ecological Perspective

I am happy to announce that Juup Stelma, Zeynep Onat-Stelma, Woojoo Lee, and I have just published an article, entitled Intentional Dynamics in TESOL: An Ecological Perspective. The article appears in Vol. 15, Issue 1 of Working Papers in TESOL and Applied Linguistics (now called Studies in Applied Linguistics and TESOL).

What is this article about

In our article, we describe three TESOL settings in different places in the world. These are:

  • a Norwegian EFL classroom;
  • Teaching English to Young Learners in Turkey; and
  • TESOL in Korea.

This is not our first attempt to describe these settings. In fact, Juup, Zeynep, and WooJoo each described one of these settings in their doctoral dissertations.

What is new in this article is that we add another layer of understanding to our descriptions, by using a new concept, intentionality. This concept, which we have taken from ecological psychology and ‘nativised’ to TESOL, means – roughly speaking – ‘purpose’. In the article we show how such intentionality is generated in the contexts, sometimes without a central organising force, and how it then goes on to shape TESOL activity.


For those among you who are more technically minded, here the abstract of the article:

This paper presents an ecological perspective on meaning-making, conceptualised as developing intentionality and exemplified with reference to three international TESOL settings. The paper draws on philosophical and folk-psychological perspectives on intentionality, including Searle’s (1983) distinction between intrinsic (individual) and derived (social) forms of intentionality and Young, DePalma and Garrett’s (2002) modelling of intentional dynamics in educational settings. The paper illustrates the analytical affordances of the perspective through sample analyses of intentional dynamics found in three international TESOL settings. This includes: (i) young learners’ interpretations of love and marriage in a joint writing task in a Norwegian primary L2 classroom, (ii) a Turkish teacher’s first experience of teaching English to young learners, and (iii) the impact of the English as the global language phenomenon on the teaching of English to young learners in South Korea. The paper concludes that explorations of intentional dynamics on different levels of language education activities can enhance our ecological understanding of the cognitive, social and political dimensions of TESOL.

How to access the article

The paper, incidentally, is Open Access, which means that you can read, download and share it without going through a paywall. We hope that you find the article interesting and useful. You can download it by clicking on the button below:

As hinted by the scope of the journal, the model that we are developing is very much a work in progress, so if you want to find out more about what we are doing, or if you have any feedback, do get in touch. Oh, by the way, we are also happy to be cited. ;)

How to reference this article

The full APA citation is:

Stelma, J., Onat-Stelma, Z., Lee, W., and Kostoulas, A. (2015). Intentional Dynamics in TESOL: An Ecological Perspective. Teachers College, Columbia University Working Papers in TESOL and Applied Linguistics, 15(1) 14-32.

About this post: This post was originally published in June 2015. It was last revised in March 2020 (updated journal name). The featured image is called “Fractal flame” and it is shared by Wikipedia with a Creative Commons CC BY-SA license.


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