Living Reference Work Entry

Discourse and Education

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Language and Education pp 1-11

Date: Latest Version

Researching Learners’ and Teachers’ Beliefs About Language Learning Using Metaphor


Due to the potentially powerful influence of beliefs on actions, research in SLA has focused increasingly on the beliefs of language learners and teachers and, more recently, on how such beliefs develop over time in particular contexts and as a result of social interaction. However, not least because they are mutable and because we are often not aware of the ways in which they influence us, belief has been recognized as a complex construct for investigation. In offering a way to expose thinking that may otherwise be difficult to articulate, metaphor also entails social and affective dimensions, which makes it apposite for beliefs research. Either by analyzing the metaphors that people use in naturally occurring oral or written discourse, or by eliciting metaphors from them through task completion exercises, researchers have been able to examine the ways in which people conceptualize themselves as language learners, the language learning experience, and their understanding of the role of the languages teacher. The chapter presents beliefs research that has employed metaphor in a variety of second language educational settings and explores the methodological problems that metaphor studies must address. Future research directions are explored, namely, further work on how metaphor develops in social settings, and research into how it might be used to shape beliefs to improve language learning outcomes.


Beliefs Cognition Emotion Language learning Learners Metaphor Teachers