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Alastair Henry

Alastair Henry


Professor i ämnesdidaktik I414


Staff member at Division of Educational Science and Languages.

Research area

Conducts research in social sciences, educational sciences/pedagogy/didactics.



2019 - 2022


A four-year project funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) Grant no 2018-03559. The purpose of the project is to examine the language choices of migrants to Sweden who speak English.


University West
Alastair Henry (PI)


Cape Breton University, Canada

Peter MacIntyre 


For many immigrants arriving in Sweden, English is the default language of communication. An important asset in social interaction, English can also be a barrier to developing fluency and comprehensibility in Swedish. These ‘soft language skills’ are of crucial importance for successful integration. However, they cannot be adequately acquired in formal learning (Derwing & Munro, 2013). Consequently, each time English is used in social interaction, an opportunity to develop communicative competence in Swedish is lost. Taking a transdisciplinary approach, and using a longitudinal, qualitative design, the project will examine factors influencing the language choices of immigrants with prior knowledge of English. In addition to providing insights into the influences of English on communication in a host-county language, the project extends the research frontier by taking a multilingual perspective.




A four-year project funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) (Grant no 2013-785, 7.4 mkr). The purpose of the project was to examine the practice of teachers who were successful motivators, to develop conceptual understandings, and to disseminate examples of good practice to language teachers in Sweden and abroad.


University West
Alastair Henry (PI)
Cecilia Thorsen

Karlstad University
Pia Sundqvist


In Sweden, students have extensive encounters with English outside the classroom. The major motivational challenge facing teachers is therefore to create goal-directed learning opportunities that connect with students’ out-of-school experiences. With the purpose of investigating the practice of teachers who are successful in meeting this challenge, ethnographic research was carried out in the classrooms of 16 “successful motivators” (Lamb, 2017). These teachers were identified in a survey were a randomly drawn sample of English teachers in grades 6–9 had been asked about beliefs and practices. The research took place during 2015 and 2016. Three types of data were collected: (a) field data: observations of lessons, including informal conversations with teachers and students, (b) interview data: semi-structured interviews with teachers and focus group interviews with students, and (c) documentary data: lesson plans, teaching materials, and artifacts produced by students. 

Investigations of the following topic areas have been carried out:

• Teachers’ motivational strategies 
• Digital media creation and L2 motivation
• Culturally-responsive teaching and L2 motivation
• Teacher–student relationships and the influences on students’ motivation
• Teachers’ self-disclosure practices and the influences on students’ motivation
• Teacher empathy and students’ motivation
• Students’ engagement and disaffection
• Motivation and project work 


Henry, A., Sundqvist, P. & Thorsen, C., (2019). Motivational Practice: Insights from the Classroom. Lund: Studentlitteratur.
First chapter:  PDF


My research involves the psychology of language learning and teaching, and falls into six main areas.


(i) Second Language Motivation

Much of my work has focused on motivation to learn English. As well as empirical studies with an emphasis on motivational dynamics. I have also examined L2 motivation and student engagement in language classrooms.


Henry, A. & Cliffordson, C. (2017). The impact of out-of-school factors on motivation to learn English: Self-discrepancies, beliefs, and experiences of self-authenticity. Applied Linguistics 38 (5)688-712.


Thorsen, C., Henry, A. & Cliffordson, C. (2020). The case of a missing person? The current L2 self and the L2 Motivational Self System. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.


Henry, A. (2021). Motivational connections in language classrooms: A research agenda. Language Teaching, 1-15.


(ii) Multilingualism

Following on from my thesis work, I have continued to examine the motivational effects of parallel language learning, and the influences – positive and negative – of the simultaneous acquisition of two or more foreign languages. In particular, I have examined the relationship between motivation and multilingual identity development. 


Henry, A. (2017). L2 motivation and multilingual identities. Modern Language Journal 101 (3) 548-565.


Henry, A. & Thorsen, C. (2018). The ideal multilingual self: Validity, influences on motivation, and role in a multilingual education. International Journal of Multilingualism.


Henry, A. (2020, advance access). Learner–environment adaptations in multiple language learning: casing the ideal multilingual self as a system functioning in context. International Journal of Multilingualism, 1-18.


(iii) Directed Motivational Currents and Long-Term Motivation (DMCs)

A directed motivational current is a novel construct that captures high-intensity motivation that endures over time. My work has involved the development and empirical validation of the DMC construct, and the investigation of long-term motivational processes.


Henry, A., Davydenko, S. & Dörnyei, Z. (2015). The anatomy of directed motivational currents: Exploring intense and enduring periods of L2 motivation. Modern Language Journal 99 (2) 329-345.


Dörnyei, Z., Henry, A. & Muir, C. (2016). Motivational Currents in Language Learning: Frameworks for Focused Interventions. New York: Routledge.


Henry, A. (2019). Directed motivational currents: Extending the theory of L2 vision. In M. Lamb, K. Csizér, A. Henry, & S. Ryan (Eds), The Palgrave handbook of motivation for language learning (pp. 139-161). Palgrave Macmillan.


Henry, A. (2020). Possible selves and personal goals: What can we learn from episodic future thinking?. Eurasian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 6(3), 481-500.


(iv) Teacher Identities and Professional Development

As a teacher educator, I am interested in all aspects of identity development during preservice education. My work has involved the application of complexity theories, and the theory of the Dialogical Self. 


Henry, A. (2016). Conceptualizing teacher identity as a complex dynamic system: Tensions during the practicum. Journal of Teacher Education 67 (4), 291-305.


Henry, A. & Tynkkinen, M. (2017). Becoming a process researcher of one’s own development: Using an identity mapping model to make sense of transformation dynamics during the practicum. In T. Gregersen & P. D. MacIntyre (Eds.). Innovative Practices in Language Teacher Education (pp. 295-228). New York: Springer.


Henry, A. (2019). A drama of selves: Investigating teacher identity development from dialogical and complexity perspectives. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 9(2), 263-285.


Henry, A. (2020). A collection of contradictory selves: The Dialogical Self and the dynamics of teacher identity transformation. In R. J. Sampson & R. S. Pinner (Eds), Complexity perspectives on researching language learner and teacher psychology, 234-251.


(v) Language Learning and Migration

Globalization and increased transnational migration mean that growing numbers of adults find themselves learning additional languages, either by choice or through circumstances not of their choosing. My work has focused on language choices in communication events, motivation, and the effects of lingua franca English on willingness to communicate in Swedish.  


Henry, A. (2016). Swedish or English? Migrants’ experiences of the exchangeability of language resources. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 19 (4) 442-463.


Henry, A. (2016). Enablements and constraints: Inventorying affordances associated with lingua franca English. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 19 (5) 488-510.


Henry, A., & Davydenko, S. (2020). Thriving? Or surviving? An approach–avoidance perspective on adult language learners’ motivation. The Modern Language Journal, 104(2), 363-380. 


(vi) Digital Technologies and Students’ Motivation

Digital technologies constitute an important dimension of language learning, both within and beyond the classroom. My work has focused on the influences of digitally-mediated experiences on motivation to learn English.


Henry, A. (2019). Online media creation and L2 motivation: A socially situated perspective. TESOL Quarterly, 53(2), 372-404.


Adolphs, S., Clark, L., Dörnyei, Z., Glover, T. Henry, A. Muir, C., Sánchez-Lovano, E., & Valstar, M. (2018). Digital innovations in L2 motivation: Harnessing the power of the Ideal L2 Self.


Henry, A., & Lamb, M. (2019). L2 motivation and digital technologies. In M. Lamb, K. Csizér, A. Henry, & S. Ryan (Eds), The Palgrave handbook of motivation for language learning (pp. 599-619). London: Palgrave Macmillan. The Palgrave Handbook of Motivation for Language Learning | Martin Lamb | Palgrave Macmillan


Henry, A., & Thorsen, C. (2019). Engagement with technology: Gaming, immersion and sub-optimal experiences. Technology in Language Teaching & Learning, 1(2), 52-67.


As well as individual studies, I have collaborated on book and anthology projects with leading researchers in the UK, Hungary, Canada and Japan.  


Dörnyei, Z., MacIntyre, P. D. & Henry, A. (2014). Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning. Bristol, England: Multilingual Matters.


Dörnyei, Z., Henry, A., & Muir, C. (2015). Motivational currents in language learning: Frameworks for focused interventions. Routledge. Motivational Currents in Language Learning: Frameworks for Focused Int ( 


Lamb, M., Csizér, K., Henry, A. & Ryan, S. (2019). The Palgrave handbook of motivation for language learning. London: Palgrave Macmillan. The Palgrave Handbook of Motivation for Language Learning | Martin Lamb | Palgrave Macmillan


I collaborate with a number of colleagues at University West. In a recent project led by myself and Åke Persson (Professor of English Literature), seven members of the English Department and 3 student alumni contributed to an anthology exploring work in English Studies.


Henry, A, & Persson, Å. (in press). Engaging with work in English Studies: An issue-based approach. London: Palgrave Macmillan.


In carrying out research into the psychology of language learning and teaching, and important aim has been to provide accessible and useable guidance and materials to practitioners. In addition to regularly speaking at language teacher conferences, I have written a number of textbooks and collaborated in the development of course syllabi, and production of materials for teachers as part of the ‘Språksprånget’ program (Lärarlyft för Moderna Språk, Skolverket).


Henry, A. (2008). Upside Down A: Stories from the English-speaking world. Stockholm: Natur & Kultur.


Henry, A. (2009). Upside Down B: More stories from the English-speaking world. Stockholm: Natur & Kultur.  


Henry, A. (2010). Listen Up! Stockholm: Natur och Kultur.


Henry, A. (2012). Echo Stories (English 5). Stockholm: Natur och Kultur.


Henry, A. (2013). Turning Points. Århus: Systime.


Henry, A. (2013). Upside Down. Århus: Systime.


Henry, A. & Persson Å. (2014). Echo Stories (English 6). Stockholm: Natur och Kultur.


In 2015 the ’Echo’ books were shortlisted for the BELMA (Best European Learning Materials Award). (Aim: to recognise “high quality educational materials that have been produced in any country in Europe”).


I teach language education on programs for primary, secondary and upper secondary teachers. In addition I teach on courses in general education, and supervise and examine undergraduate degree projects.