Chapters and journal articles

Kostoulas, A. & Mercer, S. (2018, to appear). TESOL researchers reflecting on complexity. Theory and Practice in Second Language Acquisition 4(2). 

  • This article synthesises reflective narratives from eight researchers and educators (including the authors), who take stock of the impact of Complex Dynamics Systems Theory in language education.
  • Written on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the publication of Dianne Larsen-Freeman and Lynne Cameron’s seminal volume Complex Systems in Applied Linguistics, the article explores how complexity thinking evolved in the field of language education, the challenges it poses and the opportunities it affords us.

Mercer, S. and Kostoulas, A. (2018). ‘Introduction to Language Teacher Psychology’. In Mercer S. and Kostoulas, A. (eds) Language Teacher Psychology (pp. 1-17). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Kostoulas, A. and Mercer, S. (2018). ‘Conclusion: Lessons learned, promising perspectives’. In Mercer S. and Kostoulas, A. (eds) Language Teacher Psychology (pp. 330-337). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Kostoulas, A. and Lämmerer, A. (2018). ‘Making the transition into teacher education: Resilience as a process of growth’. In Mercer S. and Kostoulas, A. (eds) Language Teacher Psychology. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

  • In this chapter, which also appears in Language Teacher Psychology, Anita Lämmerer and I look into the construct of resilience, i.e. the ability people have to bounce back after adversity.
  • In the chapter, we put forward a conceptualisation of resilience as an emergent process, which comes into being from the interaction of trait-like characteristics, relationships and learned coping strategies.
  • We then use a case study of a teacher educator, who was going through a transition phase in her career, in order to illustrate how resilience functions in the face of low-level but persistent stressors.

Kostoulas, A., Stelma, J., Mercer, S., Cameron, L., and Dawson, S. (2018). Complex Systems Theory as a Shared Discourse Space for TESOLTESOL Journal, 9(2), 246-260. doi: 10.1002/tesj.317

  • In this article, we explore how insights from complex systems theory might resonate with the experience of TESOL practitioners and argue that complexity can function as a shared discourse space where connections might be drawn between research and practice.
  • The article grew out of a meeting between TESOL practitioners and researchers at the Manchester Roundtable on Complexity Theory and English Language Teaching.
  • It builds on that discussion by exploring how language education practices and processes that are familiar to education practitioners and researchers can be understood in complexity-informed terms. To that end, we outline elements of complex systems theory that can be shown to resonate with what TESOL educators already know. These include a discussion of what complex systems are, how they operate, and how they evolve, all of which are illustrated with examples from research and language education experiences.
  • We show that the complexity-informed perspective they outline can provide teachers and researchers alike with an interpretive frame that may make more accessible the interconnected, sometimes unpredictable, invariably creative, and intuitively recognisable nature of language education.

Kostoulas, A. and Stelma, J. (2017). Understanding curriculum change in an ELT school in GreeceELT Journal 71(3), 354-363. doi: 10.1093/elt/ccw087

  • This article reports on a case study of a language school in Greece, with a view to putting forward an understanding of the drivers that sustain or delay curricular innovation. Key to this understanding is the construct of intentionality, defined as ‘purposes’ that drive teaching and learning activity. In the article, we describe three main intentionalities that were present in the language school: (1) ‘credentialism’, an imperative to provide learners with certification; (2) ‘supplementation’, a drive to attain learning outcomes that students failed to attain in the state school system; and (3) ‘protectionism’, an unstated agenda of maintaining the status of local Greek L1 ELT practitioners. We describe how these intentionalities generated fluctuating dynamics, from which different pedagogical patterns emerged. Finally, we discuss the implications of this perspective for understanding and managing change and innovation in ELT settings.
  • The article builds on previous work that was presented at the Manchester Roundtable and 7th BAAL LLT SIG conference, and draws on data that were originally published in my thesis.

Kostoulas, A. and Mercer, S. (2016). Fifteen years of research on self & identity in System. System, 60,  128-134. doi: 10.1016/j.system.2016.04.002

This is the second in a series of Virtual Special Issues published by System, which showcase selected articles that have appeared in the journal. In this issue, we focus on the psychological construct of the self in language teaching and learning, as viewed from diverse theoretical perspectives. Forty articles published in the last 15 years were reviewed, of which ten were selected for inclusion in this issue, taking into account their impact, their conceptual salience or their potential to exemplify theoretical developments in the field.

Kostoulas, A., and Stelma, J. (2016). Intentionality and Complex Systems Theory: a New Direction for Language Learning Psychology. In Gkonou, C., Tatzl, D., and Mercer, S. (eds.) New Directions in Language Learning Psychology. Cham: Springer.

  • This chapter examines the combined potential of the concept of ‘intentionality’ and ‘complex systems theory’ as a new theoretical direction for language learning psychology. The explanatory and predictive utility of the combined constructs for language learning psychology is then illustrated by juxtaposing two case studies, from Norway and Greece.
  • A copy of the chapter can be downloaded by clicking here.

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.

  • This paper puts forward a conceptual model of intentionality, which builds on previous work on ecological psychology. A re-analysis of previously published data is used to demonstrate the relevance of the model to TESOL.
  • The article has been published under a CC-BY Creative Commons license and is free to download.

Kostoulas, A. (2014). A Greek Tragedy: Understanding and Challenging ‘the Known’ From a Complexity Perspective. In Rivers, D. (ed.) Resistance to the Known: Counter-Conduct in Foreign Language EducationHoundmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • This chapter synthesises empirical data and post-modern theorisations in order to describe English Language Teaching (ELT) as a locally embedded global phenomenon. The overall aims of the chapter are to encourage teaching professionals to reflect on how established practice (the ‘Known’) sustains and is sustained by vested interests, and to encourage them to move beyond (or ‘resist’) it through pedagogically and politically appropriate praxis.
  • If you are interested in getting a copy of the book, please consider following this link to
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Kostoulas, A. (2011). From applying Theory to theorising practice: constructing small-t theories in Greek ELT. Aspects Today 32, 14-21.

  • This invited article builds on the talk delivered at ‘Empowering Language Teaching’ professional development day, organised by the Panhellenic [Greek National] Association of State School Teachers of English.
  • A postprint of the article can be downloaded here.

Breen. P.B., De Stefani, M. and Kostoulas, A. (2011). ‘Navigating a pathway to partnership through turbulent seas of adversity.’ In Tripathi, P. and Mukerji, S. (eds.). Cases on Innovations in Educational Marketing (pp. 273-294). Hershey PA.: IGI Global.

  • This chapter was short-listed for The University of Manchester Student Partnership Awards 2010. All authors contributed equally to the publication and are listed in alphabetical order.

Kostoulas, A. (2010). English as a Lingua Franca & methodological tension in a language school in Greece. in esse 1(1), 91-112.

  • This article is a revised and expanded version of the paper presented at the ‘Said and Unsaid’ conference at the University of Vlorë in September 2011.

Image: Inside view of the Stockholm Public Library, Wikipedia