Going Deeper: Broadening the Perspectives of an Advisee Through Metaphor and a Learning Advising Tool

Philip Cardiff, Kanda University of International Studies

Cardiff, P. (2021). Going deeper: Broadening the perspectives of an advisee through metaphor and a learning advising tool. Relay Journal, 4(1), 16-22. https://doi.org/10.37237/relay/040103

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This reflective paper outlines an advising session conducted online as part of the assessment for an advising in language learning certification at Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS). Specifically, the author focuses on the use of an advising tool (Wheel of Language Learning) combined with metaphor in an attempt to deepen a learner’s reflection process. In addition to reflecting on their performance and continuing development as an advisor, the author discusses how the advising course has broadened his teaching perspectives.

Keywords: professional development, metaphor, reflective practice, advising tool, Wheel of Language Learning

While learner autonomy is a well-established concept in language education, advising in language learning (ALL), which strives to help learners become more effective and autonomous language learners is still considered an emerging field (Carson & Mynard, 2012). In addition, ALL is said to be markedly different to language teaching, “in terms of the practical skills required and in the discourse employed” (Morrison & Navarro, 2012, p. 351). The Research Institute for Learner Autonomy Education at KUIS offers a series of online courses aimed at teaching participants how to become learning advisors. In this paper, I analyze and reflect on an advising session I conducted with a Freshman student, as part of the assessment for the second course of the learning advisor certification. Building on a range of basic advising strategies learned in the first course, trainees were introduced to the approach of “Broadening Perspectives”, whereby an advisor “challenges a learner’s existing beliefs and assumptions” by using more complex strategies in an attempt to stimulate “deeper critical reflection” (Kato & Mynard 2016, p. 10). The trainee advisors were encouraged to expand on the strategies learned in the first course and to utilize different advising approaches. Through the use of metaphor and an advising tool, I aimed to facilitate a learner’s reflective process in order to help them clarify their learning issues.

Advisee profile

The advisee in this session is Mia (pseudonym) who at the time was a Freshman university student majoring in Spanish. Prior to this advising session, I had been meeting Mia twice a week as part of an English support service provided outside of the classroom. During our animated conversations I learned that Mia had never studied Spanish before beginning her degree, although she was passionate about Flamenco dancing as well as other elements of Spanish and Latin American culture. She was also very interested to hear about my own experiences living in Spain and expressed her desire to study there in the future. Having spent several weeks meeting with Mia, I found her to be an extremely motivated language learner although she would often express feelings of frustration about her progress in Spanish. Furthermore, she seemed to be comparing this lack of progress with her ability and confidence in English. Due to feeling that we had established a strong rapport and developed an element of trust, I invited her to take part in a 30-minute recorded advising session—an idea that she was very enthusiastic about. Before we began, Mia signed a form giving consent for her data from the advising session to be published.

The advising session

Early in the session we discussed an assignment Mia had been working on before I switched the focus onto her experiences as a Freshman student of Spanish so far.

Philip: So…what is it like to study Spanish?

Mia: Studying Spanish is too difficult for me because …(pause)..sometimes like English, similar to English, but sometimes different meanings….and sometimes I make mistakes. And when I talk to my friends Espan…no Spanish, I make mistakes and she didn’t understand so it is difficult for me.

P: And how did you feel when your exchange partner didn’t understand?

M: Mmm I’m sorry for them…and I should study more! Because sometimes I make mistakes and sometimes……it’s bad for them.

P: It’s bad for them? 

M: Because I want to say something, but they understand different meanings so…I sometimes I make it hard for them. 

P: How do you feel when you can communicate successfully in Spanish?

M: If I can…If I can communicate in Spanish to them, I feel so happy. 


P: What do you find most difficult about studying Spanish? 

M: Most difficult?…hmmm….I think..grammar. But my effort…I can overcome grammar with my effort I think.

This excerpt demonstrates a familiar pattern to our conversations. Speaking with Spanish exchange students is one of the most enjoyable aspects of her course, yet Mia often feels frustrated and that she “should study more.” I wanted to encourage Mia to reflect on what was so difficult about studying Spanish, and to perhaps challenge her perspective about this. The repeated phrase (“I think”) demonstrates that she is beginning to use more reflective language while also questioning her existing belief that grammar is the most difficult aspect of her learning. From my prior knowledge of Mia, I knew that she was extremely motivated and I wanted to help her recognize the progress she was making in spite of the challenges she was experiencing. I decided to intentionally structure the dialogue to help Mia clarify what her language learning issues were, and felt that an advising tool could be an effective way to achieve this. 

Wheel of Language Learning (WLL)

According to Kato and Mynard (2016, p. 29), advising tools used in conjunction with dialogue can facilitate learning while also providing “alternative ways of discussing a problem.” The ‘Wheel of Language Learning’ (Kato & Sugawara 2009; Yamashita & Kato 2012) is a simple visual aid which prompts learners to rank their present level of satisfaction for six areas of their language learning: goal-setting, learning materials, time-management, reflection and self-evaluation, learning strategies and motivation (figure 1 shows Mia’s completed WLL). After explaining the WLL and allowing time for Mia to complete the task, I asked her to choose two areas to focus on in the session. Mia chose to discuss her current level of satisfaction for time-management (3/10) and goal-setting (5/10). 

Figure 1.
Mia’s completed Wheel of Language Learning 

P: Can I ask. Why did you choose time management?

M: So time management is not good, for me because I… I waste my time too long so I cannot do effectively.

P: You can’t do what effectively?

M: Hmmm…I think….(long pause)

P: Do you mean you can’t manage your time effectively?

M: Yes yes yes. So I spend too much time.

P: So…when you say your time management is bad, do you mean for everything? Or just for Spanish? 

M: Maybe just for Spanish. 


Yamashita and Kato (2012) suggest that the reflective processes of advisees can be deepened by helping them to see how the different elements of the WLL are inter-linked and can impact each other. As we used the WLL to engage in intentional reflective dialogue, I felt that Mia’s problems with time-management were likely due to an absence of clear goals. When reflecting back on the session, I could have made this more transparent by asking “How do goal-setting and time-management relate with each other?” However, in that moment as Mia had chosen goal-setting as the second area to discuss, I decided to try using a metaphor to gain some insight into how she perceived her long term goal of being “fluent” in Spanish. Rather than relying on language, metaphors can help learners to “visualize and express their thoughts and feelings in different ways” (Kato & Mynard, 2016, p. 24) while also providing a point of reference to return to in future advising sessions. 

P: If you imagine you are swimming in the ocean, and you imagine your goal of speaking Spanish is an island, does it feel like you can swim towards it? 

M: I feel…my goal is too far now.

P: Mmm

M: So…that’s why I study…but English I can speak to you (laughter) but I have knowledge of English…but Spanish I don’t have many words.

P: So, do you think you are comparing your Spanish level to your English level? 

M: Ah yes yes yes exactly.

P: So maybe…because you have more experience in English…English feels easier for you?

M: Yes yes.

P: But you started English in primary school? You started Spanish three months ago.

M: Mmmm…(silence).

P: You said before when you are swimming towards your goal of speaking Spanish it feels far away.

M: Mhmm.

P: Is it possible to change your goal? To something closer?

M: (very enthusiastically)  Mmmm hmmm yeah!

P: Because the other area you mentioned was goal setting…Do you think your goal to be “fluent” in Spanish after three months? Is it possible right now?

M: Nooooo! (Laughter)

P: (Laughter).What if you changed your goal? That could be your goal for the future, but could you make a more possible goal now?

M: Mm mm yes.

The metaphor of swimming in the ocean was something that came to me spontaneously and on reflection, perhaps asking Mia to think of her own metaphor would have been more meaningful. Nevertheless, I believe it helped Mia to reflect more deeply about her goals and begin questioning her beliefs and assumptions about what was achievable after only three months of studying. Furthermore, her reaction to my question (“Do you think you are comparing your Spanish level to your English level?”) suggests that Mia was beginning to become more self-aware and marked a turning point in the dialogue. 

Post-session reflection

Throughout the advising session I felt positive about how the dialogue was developing and immediately after finishing, I watched the recording again to analyze the session in more detail. Upon reflection, as previously noted I believe the metaphor would have been more insightful if Mia had come up with her own example rather than my suggestion. Furthermore, I could have illustrated the links between the different elements of the WLL more clearly. However, despite these issues, overall I think that this was a successful advising session. First and foremost, because I feel that it enabled Mia to broaden her perspective and reconsider her language learning issues. This was the first opportunity for me to see the benefits of continuous advising for both advisor and advisee. Specifically, how advising sessions enable a level of rapport and trust to be established and from an advising perspective, how this provides an environment to implement more complex strategies and advising approaches. As McCarthy (2012, p. 120) notes, having some knowledge of a learner’s history “can play a critical role in the decision-making process” during an advising session, and I believe my previous meetings with Mia helped to make this session a success. 

Peer reflection

Kato (2012, p. 78) makes the valid point that in order to “activate learner’s reflective learning processes,” it is “worthwhile for advisors to experience reflective learning processes for themselves.” After several weeks, I was able to reflect on the session further with another trainee learning advisor. As I reflected on my advising session, I reiterated my feeling that knowing our learners’ histories and being able to engage in continuous reflective dialogue with them had significant merits. However, due to the time restraints of a full-time teaching schedule we both questioned how practical it would be to have this level of continuous one to one contact with our own students. Nevertheless, when I consider the “Broadening Perspectives” approach, I am aware that my own perspectives towards teaching and supporting my students have changed. By participating in this advising course, I have seen how deeper, meaningful reflection can help students to become more self-directed and autonomous in their learning. As Kato and Mynard (2016, p. 5) highlight, many language learning contexts “do not provide opportunities for learners to reach a deep enough level of reflection in order to understand and take charge of their own language learning.” With this in mind, I intend to incorporate more reflection based activities into my future classes as well as continue to examine my beliefs and values as a teacher through reflective dialogue.

Notes on the contributor

Philip Cardiff is an English Lecturer for the English Language Institute (ELI) at Kanda University of International Studies. He holds an MA in Applied Linguistics & TESOL from Newcastle University in the UK, and the Cambridge DELTA. His research interests include corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, and learner autonomy.


Kato, S. (2019). Wheel of Language Learning. In Ludwig. C. & Mynard, J. (Eds) Autonomy in Language Learning: Advising in Action. Hong Kong: Candlin & Mynard ePublishing Limited.

Kato, S. (2012). Professional development for learning advisors: Facilitating the intentional reflective dialogue. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 3(1), 74-92.

Kato, S., & Mynard, J. (2016). Reflective dialogue: Advising in language learning. Routledge.

Kato, S., & Sugawara, H. (2009). Action-oriented language learning advising: A new approach to promote independent learning. The Journal of Kanda University of International Studies, 21, 455-475. 

McCarthy, T. (2012). Advising-in-action: Exploring the inner dialogue of the learning advisor. In  Mynard, J. & Carson, L (Eds) Advising in Language Learning: Dialogue, Tools and Context. Routledge

Morrison, B. R., & Navarro, D. (2012). Shifting roles: From language teachers to learning advisors. System 40(3), 349-359.

Yamashita, H., & Kato, S. (2012). The Wheel of Language Learning: A tool to facilitate awareness, reflection and action. In Mynard, J. & Carson, L (Eds) Advising in Language Learning: Dialogue, Tools and Context. Routledge

2 thoughts on “Going Deeper: Broadening the Perspectives of an Advisee Through Metaphor and a Learning Advising Tool”

  1. Dear Phillip,

    I really enjoyed reading about your experience on the learner advisor training course and how you benefitted from this experience as a language teacher, educator, and aspiring learning advisor. The power of reflection as a tool for awareness-raising and related action is very evident in your own insightful analysis and meaning-making exercise, while looking back at the ways the reading, relevant coursework, and hands-on advisor experience broadened your own perspectives. And, it is clear to see when we look at how Mia was able to progressively deepen her own understanding of herself as a language learner as she began to view with more self-empathy the expectations she has placed on herself. It is clearly exciting (for her and for you) to be present as she begins to glimpse for herself some of the inner-workings of the process involved in untangling these conflicts of time, self-pressure, comparison with others, high expectations and her desire to learn. Your sharing of some of the dialogue from your advising session helps to show how her own perspective is widening through the caring and intentionally placed questions you ask, to help lead her towards a deeper self-awareness of where she is currently on her present learning journey.

    I agree with you very strongly that the use of tools in advising practice can potentially add increased depth of reflection and an enhanced awareness of a range of subtleties linked to not only the learner’s own perspective of the learning process and the important role their decision making and action taking play within in it – but also in their affective response to their situation and condition as language learners (often within a pressure cooker of socially and culturally embedded expectations and demands). The Wheel of language learning (Yamashita & Kato, 2012, p. 165) is often a wonderful place to start, and your analysis of part of your conversation with Mia shows how it can be useful to direct the focus on the personal challenges and successes the learner is experiencing, while using appropriate advising strategies to deepen reflection and aid in prompting change from within. However, when appropriate, the feelings expressed or emotions hinted at when discussing the larger topic areas (goal setting, time-management, etc.) may also benefit the learner when they can be explored further together in the advising dialogue. This can open up an opportunity for the learner to begin to come to terms with these emotions and feelings, some of which may be underpinning the difficulties they are experiencing, but are at present covered up by the time issue, or the perceived lack of something more tangible. There seemed to be several moments when Mia expressed or hinted at emotions and feelings connected to her learning experience.

    Mozzon-McPherson and Tassinari (2020) highlight in a recent paper mapping out the journey from language teachers to language learning advisors that dealing with the affective aspects of learning can be challenging for some, and recognise the need for more specific professional development in this area. Curry (2014) and Curry, Maher and Peeters (2020) offer some ideas for adapting cognitive behaviour therapy techniques (CBT) for use in advising (and in classroom contexts), with Tassinari and Ciekanski (2013) and Tassinari (2016) being among early advocates for the need for advisors to be receptive to and accepting of the challenges learners face when dealing with the affective issues inherent in language learning.

    Because language learning is so connected to feelings and emotions, this is an area of advising practice that you are likely to encounter as you continue to engage in using the techniques learned and practiced on your course, whether in a one-to-one advising context or in the classroom itself. As such, I wonder if you might consider how the next conversations could continue to develop and deepen in advancing self-awareness (should you continue to advise with Mia), if you were to invite her to explore her thoughts and feelings through use of other tools such as the “view-point switching sheet”, “the confidence building diary”, “explaining your situation”, or “coping self-talk”, which are available in the SALC at Kanda University of International Studies? Could a closer look into how feelings and emotions interconnect to language learning affect the way you approach advising, the ways that tools can be introduced, and reasons for suggesting a learner try one out in an advising session?

    The Wheel of language learning once completed can be a springboard for deeper discussion of the issues, for example, such as how each area might be further enhanced (Shelton-Strong & Mynard, 2018) often leading to touching on the affective side of learning. Looking back at your advising session with Mia, would it be possible to identify a moment when a focus on her hints at emotions/feelings might have been appropriate and have helped her to get at the core of her expressions of dissatisfaction or contentment?

    Thank you again for such a well-written reflective piece on your own journey from language teacher to learning advisor, and bringing our focus to the potential of using tools in advising.

    Curry, N. (2014). Using CBT with anxious language learners: The potential role of the learning advisor. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 5(1), 29-41. https://doi.org/10.37237/050103
    Curry, N., Maher, K., & Peeters, W. (2020). Identifying Emotions and Thoughts Related to Speaking Anxiety: Laying the Groundwork for Designing CBT-based Support Materials for Anxious Learners. Journal for the Psychology of Language Learning, 2(1), 57-89. Retrieved from http://jpll.org/index.php/journal/article/view/curryetal
    Mozzon-McPherson, M. & Tassinari, M.G. (2020). From teachers to advisors. A journey map. Philologia Hispalensis 34 (1), 121-139. https://doi.org/10.12795/PH.2020.v34.i01.07
    Shelton-Strong, S. J., & Mynard, J. (2018). Affective factors in self-access learning. Relay Journal, 1(2), 275-292. https://doi.org/10.37237/relay/010204
    Tassinari, M. G. (2016). Emotions and feelings in language advising discourse. In C. Gkonou, D. Tatzl & S. Mercer (Eds.), New directions in language learning psychology (pp. 71-96).
    Tassinari, M. G., & Ciekanski, M., (2013). Accessing the self in self-access learning: Emotions and feelings in language advising. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 4(4), 262-280. https://doi.org/10.37237/040404
    Yamashita, H. & Kato, S. (2012). The Wheel of Language Learning: A tool to facilitate learner awareness, reflection and action. In J. Mynard & L. Carson (Eds). Advising in language learning: Dialogue, tools and context (pp. 164-169). Harlow, UK: Longman.

  2. Dear Scott,

    Thank you for sharing such an in-depth response!

    You raise some thought provoking questions with regard to feelings and affective issues related to language learning and looking back on my advising session, I agree that some of the areas Mia highlighted could have been explored further.

    The resources you shared are also very insightful. While I have some basic understanding of CBT it was interesting to consider how it can be applied in an ALL context to address language learning anxiety, particularly since it has such strong links to reflection and goal-setting. In addition, your study related to raising student awareness of affective filters in order to help them become more self-directed was helpful for me to read.

    I actually did meet with Mia for a follow-up advising session during course three of the Advising in Language Learning certification. This took place several months after our initial advising session and I was incredibly happy to see how positive Mia seemed towards her language learning. I learned that during the summer break Mia had enrolled on an intensive online language course with a Spanish University. We had previously discussed how she might try to maintain her Spanish while there were no classes and this demonstrated that she was really taking ownership of her own learning.

    I am familiar with some of the other learning advising tools you mention and would like to try them out in future advising sessions as well as in my regular classes.

    Once again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and suggestions.

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