Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Language, Innovation, Culture & Education 2018

Implications for Language Learning and Teaching of “Psychological Comfort” in Relation to Complexity Theory

Kevin Mark

Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan


A sound theoretical framework for language teaching should be one that helps teachers and learners to be comfortable in their roles: enabling them to think clearly by seeing simplicity in complexity, to be effective and self-aware, and to enjoy their work. The conditions for the elaboration of such a framework appear to be emerging, with scholars talking about how the notion of “complexity” is paradigmatically remapping applied linguistics. This paper describes the practical ramifications of the holistic or “integrational” thinking that underlies the new theoretical approach, and points to its potential helpfulness for curriculum designers, practitioners and learners. One reason for the notorious gap between theory and practice is that for roughly the past forty years the field of applied linguistics has been dominated by ever-increasing momentum in the direction of specialization, with sub-fields constantly being split into further sub-fields. Referring to work on complexity theory, SLA, psychology, autonomy and general educational theory, the main features of complexity and its applicability to the practical concerns of language teaching are outlined. It is argued that no individual teacher can hope to grasp all the complex realities of the language learning / teaching situation, let alone know what learners should be learning at a given moment. Rather, teachers can function best as “managers” of learning by knowing how to accept and be “comfortable” with their limitations, all the while supported by database infrastructure with multidimensional materials easily on hand. Holistic, complex or dynamic theoretical thinking has the potential to help practitioners to free themselves of practical and psychological burdens, and to provide them with new practical possibilities. The partnering of “psychological comfort” with a multidimensional approach to materials design enables us to transcend the unidimensional, linear and additive mindset that has until now been dominating materials design, teaching praxis and language learning research.


Complexity theory, curriculum, holistic education, language teaching, learner corpus, materials design

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