{New Book} The Intentional Dynamics of TESOL by Juup Stelma and Achilleas Kostoulas

“The central idea of the book is that there is an ‘ecology of ideas’ in TESOL, which consists of established practices, rules, expectations and more. We (Juup and I) call this an intentional ecology  and examine how shapes activity and meaning-making in TESOL; we also discuss how this activity comes back to recursively shape the intentional ecology.

The book consists of three parts: one where we develop our model and connect it to its theoretical antecedents: ecological theory, complex dynamics systems theory, intentionality; one where we provide examples drawn from multiple case studies; and one where we take the model further and tackle with the question “so what does it all mean?” for teaching, learning, research and professional development.”

-From Achilleas’ Facebook post about this new book


This book will published in mid 2021. Here’s the beautiful cover of this new book!


  • Looks like you beat me to it, Jing! On behalf of Juup and me, many thanks 🙂

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to take this opportunity to say a few more words about the book.

    A central idea that underpins the book is that everything we do in TESOL (teaching and learning languages, writing books, preparing for class, training to be a teacher, and more) is an act of meaning-making. It takes place in an ‘ecology of ideas’, or what we call an ‘intentional ecology’. The intentional evology consists of a complex web of rules, expectations, collective beliefs, established practices of our communities, and ‘intentional activity’ emerges from it in ways that are (not quite so) unpredictable. Once it has emerged, activity re-shapes the intentional ecology, so that is it never exactly the same.

    Another central idea is that the intentional ecology and the intentional activity are not two different ‘things’; they are different aspects of the same phenomenon. This is not very unlike a sea wave, which is at the same time both motion and a body of water. We call this the ‘intentional dynamics’ of TESOL, and this is what we tried to illustrate with the picture on the cover page.

    We also suggest that there are different configurations of dynamics which are associated with being contingent, normative, creative and purposeful. We are quite happy with this insight, because it helps us to side-step a thorny problem in a lot of empirical work about TESOL: Why is it that we can predict outcomes in TESOL with some certainty (e.g., reduced funding will almost certainly see a decline in learning) but we cannot fine-tune predictions (e.g., there’s no way of knowing which individual students will fail). This may not sound like a big deal, but such a minor bump in the foundations of any empirical account has the potential to do a lot of damange, once you start looking. There are a couple of rather clever things in the book, but this is the one that I think is the most important one.

    We make out argument in three moves: We begin by describing a theoretical model, which we put together by fusing elements of ecological theory (everything is connected), complex dynamic systems theory (everything is dynamic) and -from philosophy of mind- intentionality (everything is about meaning). To show how the model works, we present several case studies that illustrate different parts of the model. To do this, we revisited some earlier work we had done, including Juup’s thesis, my own thesis, and a study that involved a cohort of MA TESOL students here in Manchester. Finally, we examine the ‘so what’ question: what does this mean for teaching and learning, for researching, for making change happen in TESOL.

    The book cover gives credit for this book to Juup and me. But happy as we are to take credit for the pages we wrote, a book is never just its contents; it is also a story, and this story began here. It is a story told in our voice, but echoing the many voices of this place. This is perhaps most evident in the appearances that Richard and the students of the MA TESOL cohort make in Chapter 7; or in the reference list, which dutifully traces many of our ideas to insights made, and shared, here. Less evident, but just as important, is the origin of our thinking in a series of formative discussions that began in Manchester (usually in cafes around the University), involving us – the authors – and the many friends who generously shared their time, intellect, support, and friendship as we found our way.

    • Pleasure to post this little spoiler! Thank you so much for this insightful comment! Very helpful for me to know this book more! Looking forward to getting this physical book!:-)