Amerstorfer, Carmen M., and Clara Freiin von Münster-Kistner. In preparation. “Student-teacher Relationships and Academic Engagement in Problem-based Learning.” Frontiers in Psychology.

Students’ academic engagement depends on a variety of intertwined factors that are related to personal learner characteristics (e.g., learner motivation) and external features in the learning environment (e.g., learning materials). The interaction between the various factors is complex, constantly fluctuating, and hence difficult to explore. What seems to be particularly influential on the engagement in academic undertakings are the positive relationships students cultivate with teachers and peers. Positive interpersonal relationships enhance individuals’ enthusiasm for learning, which further benefits other aspects like sustainable learning success and self-confidence.
Problem-based learning (PBL), a teaching approach suitable for tertiary education, involves students in authentic problem-solving processes and fosters students’ self-regulation and teamwork. Intensive relationship-building is but one of its many advantages for students and teachers.
The study reported in this article explores the connection between the academic engagement of 34 students and their interpersonal relationships with three instructors in a teacher education program for pre-service English teachers in Austria. An anonymous online questionnaire was used to investigate the participants’ perceived engagement, dedication, and learning success in a university course that implements PBL as its underlying teaching methodology. The study specifically examines how the course instructors’ credibility, communication style, and feedback influence students’ academic engagement, and how PBL fosters student-teacher relationships.


Amerstorfer, Carmen M. In preparation. “Developing Global Skills through Problem-based Learning.” In Training Social Actors in ELT, edited by Ahmed Acar.

Rapid developments regarding digital technologies, growing economic competition, and increased mobility are but three characteristics of our time. In order to prepare young people for a life in the 21st century, teachers are expected to acknowledge such developments and adjust their teaching accordingly. English as a foreign language (EFL) seems to be a particularly suitable subject to accomplish this. Hence, EFL teachers are expected to cultivate in their learners’ skills for intercultural competence, digital literacies, collaboration, and critical thinking, as well as the ability to solve problems. The mastery of these and other “global skills” (Oxford University Press, n.d.) or “life competencies” (Cambridge University Press, n.d.) is taken for granted in many professions today. Their development has thus become a central aim in EFL teaching.
Problem-based learning (PBL) provides appropriate conditions for preservice English teachers to learn and practice global skills. Rooted in real-life classroom situations, authentic problem scenarios are the basis for critical analyses, group discussions, literature research, syntheses of findings, and, eventually, collaborative problem solving. This chapter exemplifies how PBL can push forward the idea of global skills learning in education. Specifically, it demonstrates how PBL fosters the communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills of preservice EFL teachers. It furthermore emphasises how teacher education students must transform their own global skills in the transition from students to teachers and how PBL equips them with the attitudes, knowledge, and abilities global skills teachers should possess.


Amerstorfer, Carmen M., and Christopher B. Shedd. In preparation. “Positive Relationships and Teacher Well-being in Cooperative Learning: Contentment, Confidence, and Motivation.” In Activating and Engaging Learners and Teachers: Perspectives for English Language Education, edited by Carmen M. Amerstorfer, Max von Blanckenburg, and Christopher Blake Shedd. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto.

Recent literature on language teacher psychology (e.g., Mercer and Kostoulas 2018) describes a variety of areas in which the well-being of teachers manifests itself, such as job satisfaction, positive morale, health, happiness, enthusiasm, confidence, commitment to teaching, instructional effort, and persistence. The most frequently mentioned qualities that seem to define the components of teacher well-being are self-efficacy and motivation. Furthermore, positive relationships with learners and fellow teachers characterise the contentment teachers experience in their jobs. Mutual respect and trust appear to be fundamental in establishing and maintaining such positive relationships, as the current study shows. The study analyses the experiences of three EFL teachers who work at a vocational secondary school that uses cooperative learning as a central teaching approach. Beside learner cooperation the methodology fosters learner self-regulation and autonomy as well as an increased level of teacher cooperation in comparison with more traditional teaching approaches. In semi-structured interviews, the teachers reported on different aspects of self-perception and motivation as well as on their relationships with learners and other teachers. The results of the study show that while there may be short-term disadvantages, cooperative learning supports teachers’ well-being and the relationships teachers have with others.


Amerstorfer, Carmen M. 2021. “How Increased Self-regulation, Learner Autonomy and Learner Cooperation Raise Self-esteem and Consequently Inner Peace and Interpersonal Peace: Insights from an Innovative School Context.” In Peacebuilding in Language Education: Innovations in Theory and Practice, edited by Rebecca L. Oxford, María Matilde Olivero, Melinda Harrison, and Tammy Gregersen. pp. 80-95. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Living in peace is a privilege. Since the end of World War II in 1945, Austria has enjoyed this privilege, which is nowadays taken for granted. Peace is, however, more than an absence of war (Write, 1942) and does not only involve conflict between nation states. Peace exists in many arenas of life, and in foreign language (L2) education peace is complex and takes multiple forms. For example, learners who encourage each other contribute to an atmosphere of peace in the classroom. Such scenarios form the basis of this chapter, which focuses on peace within a person (inner peace) and peace in relationships with others (interpersonal peace). A learning environment that supports these types of peace in L2 education requires, among other features, a learner-centred and forward-thinking teaching approach. Cooperative open learning (COOL) promotes learner autonomy and collaboration and provides a learning atmosphere that fosters learners' inner and interpersonal peace.


Amerstorfer, Carmen M. 2020. Problem-based Learning for Preservice Teachers of English as a Foreign Language.Colloquium New Philologies 5(1). pp. 75-90. DOI: 

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an appropriate teaching approach for university courses with a strong foundation in reality. It merges theory with practice, cultivates students’ sense of agency, encourages self-regulation and teamwork, and leads to the sustainable acquisition of a multitude of relevant skills. This article demonstrates how PBL is used in a teacher education course for preservice English teachers at a university in Austria. It explains how the problem-solving process underlying the approach is applied, analyses the roles of the students and the teacher in a PBL classroom, and highlights the advantages of PBL in teacher education.


Amerstorfer, Carmen M. 2020. “The Dynamism of Strategic Learning: Complexity Theory in Strategic L2 Development.” Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 10 (1). pp. 21-44. DOI:

Learners of foreign languages (L2) apply strategies to support learning processes and L2 development. They select strategies according to their individual needs and preferences and adjust their strategic actions to suit situational circumstances and contextual conditions. A holistic investigation of strategic L2 learning processes requires the integration of numerous interconnected, flexibly interacting influences, which are at constant interplay with each other and whose development is difficult to predict.
Validated as effective in other fields of applied linguistics, complex dynamic systems theory (CDST) can also provide an appropriate frame for researching strategic L2 learning. Based on state-of-the-art methodological guidance for complexity research, this article presents the re-analysis of empirical data from a previous study through a complexity lens. It further examines the suitability of CDST in strategy research, explores its practical value, and demonstrates that a complexity perspective can generate new, profound information about strategic learning.


Amerstorfer, Carmen M. 2018. “Past its Expiry Date? The SILL in Modern Mixed-methods Strategy Research.” Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 8(2). pp. 497-523. DOI:

Has the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) passed its expiry date? The SILL (Oxford, 1990) was designed as a self-evaluation tool to measure the frequency of language learning strategies used by foreign and second language (L2) learners. With simple mathematics, learners can analyze their strategy preferences overall and in six categories (i.e., memory, cognitive, compensation, metacognitive, affective, and social strategies). Diverging from its original purpose, the SILL became the most popular instrument in LLS research, which brought widespread acclaim but also criticism. This article explains what makes the SILL an extraordinary tool for learners, teachers, and researchers and how it can be adapted to suit specific contexts and the demands of a modern world. An example of how the SILL can be integrated into mixed-methods research demonstrates how the instrument can fulfil additional purposes to those originally intended. Despite its naturally quantitative orientation, the SILL contributed to the acquisition of rich qualitative information, which enabled a holistic view of five individual L2 learners. In addition to new insights about strategic L2 learning, the study attests that the SILL has not expired yet, but perhaps needs a modern touch, for instance, in the form of adaptation or combination with other research methods and the inclusion of strategies for learning language with technology.


Oxford, Rebecca L., and Carmen M. Amerstorfer. eds. 2018. Language Learning Strategies and Individual Learner Characteristics: Situating Strategy Use in Diverse Contexts. London: Bloomsbury.

Can second and foreign language (L2) learners become more strategic, self-regulated, and effective? If so, with what kind of assistance and in which contexts? Addressing such questions, this book deftly and engagingly synthesizes decades of language learning strategy (LLS) research, theory, and practice and presents an array of new, cutting-edge investigations and ideas. Chapters are written by well-known scholars and rising young stars from around the world.
Part A presents core theoretical concepts, such as situatedness, individual differences, self-regulation, cultural values, complexity, imagination, strategy awareness, strategy instruction, and diversity. It questions rigid strategy classification systems and presents refreshing evidence on the flexibility and fluidity of LLS in action. Part B concerns research methods for LLS and individual learner characteristics in diverse contexts. It honors certain traditional quantitative research methods, overturns some L2-field myths about questionnaire statistics, demonstrates excellent uses of mixed methods and qualitative methods for LLS research, and introduces some excitingly new methodological options. Part C emphasizes the diversity of L2 learning contexts. It empirically investigates individual differences of L2 learners, such as age and gender, in relation to LLS use. Additionally, it powerfully underscores the need for LLS research to be useful, practical, and context-relevant. Part D offers hands-on strategy instruction activities and related research. Authors from different countries address the necessity of strategy instruction for effective L2 learning in varied age groups. The conclusion synthesizes lessons learned and raises some white-hot questions for future LLS research.


Amerstorfer, Carmen M. 2018. “Mixing Methods: Investigating Self-regulated Strategies in a Cooperative EFL Learning Environment.” In Language Learning Strategies and Individual Learner Characteristics: Situating Strategy Use in Diverse Contexts, edited by Rebecca L. Oxford and Carmen M. Amerstorfer. pp. 123-140. London: Bloomsbury.

Self-regulated foreign language learners use strategies to support learning processes and to achieve learning outcomes. The study reported in this chapter combined quantitative and qualitative research methods to analyze the preferences in strategy choice of five English as a foreign language (EFL) learners at an Austrian school. The study showed that learning strategies were mainly used in combination with other learning strategies and that the same strategy may fulfil different purposes if applied in different learning situations. The learning environment and individual learner preferences play an important role in self-regulated, strategic foreign language learning because they are part of a complex and flexible context.


Oxford, Rebecca L., Roberta Z. Lavine, and Carmen M. Amerstorfer. 2018. “Understanding Language Learning Strategies in Context: An Innovative Complexity-based Approach.” In Language Learning Strategies and Individual Learner Characteristics: Situating Strategy Use in Diverse Contexts, edited by Rebecca L. Oxford and Carmen M. Amerstorfer. pp. 5-29. London: Bloomsbury.

Some language learners see learning strategies merely as tricks for learning and miss the depth and meaning of these strategies. This chapter overturns any such limited views. It opens with characteristics of language learning strategies, explains contexts and complexity in relation to strategies, and discusses the value of imagination for understanding strategies. It offers procedures and guiding questions for helping language learners imaginatively grasp learning strategies via visually captivating photographs (e.g., a person on the moon, building blocks, a flower). The authors describe the strategy-awareness sessions they conducted in Poland, Turkey, Austria, and the U.S. Qualitative findings indicated positive participant responses and meaningful growth in strategy awareness. Interested teachers and researchers can use the same procedures, questions, and photographs, all of which are included on the homepage related to this book, and can add new images as well. The chapter ends with creative ideas for related research and for additional strategy awareness activities.


Amerstorfer, Carmen M. 2018. “Englischunterricht im Spannungsfeld zwischen Struktur, Abwechslung, Kooperation und Selbstständigkeit.” In Wirksamer Englischunterricht, edited by Barbara Prusse and Michael C. Prusse. S. 31-41. Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Verlag Hohengehren.

Dieser Artikel beantwortet folgende Fragen:
Welches fachwissenschaftliche und fachdidaktische Wissen und Können der Lehrperson sind aus Ihrer Sicht für die Qualität des Englisch-Unterrichts besonders wichtig?
Welche Qualitätsmerkmale halten Sie für den Englisch-Unterricht für essenziell?
Welche Lernumgebungen und Lehr-/Lernformen halten Sie für einen wirksamen Englisch-Unterricht als besonders bedeutsam?
Wie sieht eine gute Differenzierung/Individualisierung Ihrer Meinung nach im Englisch-Unterricht aus? Welche immer wiederkehrenden fachspezifischen Herausforderungen im Unterrichtshandeln müssen Ihrer Meinung nach die Lehrpersonen beherrschen, um im Englisch-Unterricht eine angemessene Unterrichtsqualität garantieren zu können?
Worauf gilt es bei der Entwicklung und dem Einsatz von Aufgaben bzw. Aufgabensets im kompetenzorientierten Englisch-Unterricht besonders zu achten?
Welche Schritte empfehlen Sie aufgrund Ihrer wissenschaftlichen bzw. erfahrungsbasierten Expertise als „first steps“ für angehende Englischlehrer/-innen, die sie für guten Englisch-Unterricht umsetzen können?
Was ist Ihrer Ansicht nach das Besondere am Englisch-Unterricht?
Welche Faktoren sind aufgrund Ihrer Expertise besonders wichtig für eine wirksame Vermittlung von interkultureller kommunikativer Kompetenz mit Fokus auf die Kulturen der englischsprachigen Welt?
Welchen Beitrag können aufgrund Ihrer wissenschaftlichen bzw. erfahrungsbasierten Expertise Methoden wie CLIL, Immersion, usw. zum Gelingen eines wirksamen Englischunterrichts leisten?


Amerstorfer, Carmen M. 2017. “Keep up the Good Work.” In The Polyphony of English Studies: A Festschrift for Allan James, edited by Alexander Onysko, Eva-Maria Graf, Werner Delanoy, Guenther Sigott and Nikola Dobrić. pp. 15-21. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag.

In this non-academic contribution to the Festschrift for Professor Emeritus Allan James I reflect on my personal journey from the initial wish to become a teacher via several stages in my career to writing a PhD thesis. I report on some experiences I made in a variety of educational settings, touch upon cultural differences, language barriers, and other issues. I emphasise insecurities as an inexperienced researcher and academic writer and highlight the importance of perseverance, support from others, and keeping a positive attitude.


Amerstorfer, Carmen M. 2017. “Research on the Periphery: CoOperative Open Learning as a Research Environment for a Case Study on Language Learning Strategies.” In Exploring the Periphery, edited by Stefanie Quakernack, Till Meister, Diana Fulger, and Nathan Devos. Vol 28,  S. 169 - 190. Bielefeld: Aisthesis Verlag.

This contribution describes the research setting of a case study on language learning strategies. The study explores the differences in the frequency and quality of language learning strategies applied by high-level and low-level achievers when collaboratively working on English as a foreign language (EFL) tasks. In mainstream EFL lessons, language learning strategies are often used covertly, which means they are virtually unobservable. Based on recent observations, a learning environment in which pupils are encouraged to communicate and collaborate with each other, for example, when negotiating procedures or jointly producing language output, elicits observablestrategic behaviour. Such learning situations are common practice in a small number of Austrian schools that employ CoOperative Open Learning (COOL). Based on the pedagogical principle of the Dalton Plan, this teaching approach emphasises learner cooperation and fosters pupils’ self-regulation. By outlining a currently ongoing case study, this contribution demonstrates how EFL learners’ strategic behaviour becomes more easily observable as COOL facilitates supportive conditions for a research project on language learning strategies.


Amerstorfer, Carmen M. 2016. “Investigating Learner Preferences in the Application of Language Learning Strategies: A Comparison between Two Studies.” Colloquium New Philologies 1(1). pp. 119-135. DOI:

The general topic of this article is language learning strategies, i.e. activities that foreign language learners purposefully choose to improve their skills in a foreign language and to reach desired learning outcomes. To highlight the importance of combining quantitative and qualitative information in a study about strategic language learning, the article uncovers some weaknesses that may be created by a one-sided perception. It hence looks exclusively at the quantitative data gained in a mixed-methods study (Amerstorfer 2016) that used a popular strategy inventory (SILL; Oxford 1990) to collect numerical information about the language learning strategies of five English as a foreign language (EFL) learners. The core of the article is a comparison of the quantitative data with three strategy categories that resulted from a previous study (Griffiths 2013). The article closes with the statement that a one-sided perception is not appropriate for a study about strategic foreign language learning.