Datum 2022-09-21
Artikeltyp Portrait

Professor's portrait: Olcay Sert

Olcay Sert, Professor of English Language Education is one of the professors to be installed at the Academic Ceremony on 7 October 2022.

Olcay Sert, Professor of English Language Education. School of Education, Culture and Communication, Division of Language and Literature.

Please tell us briefly about your academic career – what choices have brought you to where you are today?

I have had the privilege to work in 4 different countries and at 5 different universities, including Hacettepe University, Newcastle University, University of Sunderland, and Luxembourg University. I completed my BA in English Linguistics and MA in English language teaching (both at Hacettepe University) while working as a teacher and research assistant.

My teaching and early research experience resulted in a motivation and ambition to study classroom discourse and interaction, and I knew that there was only one place where I wanted to do a PhD: Newcastle University, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences. It was the best place to study classroom interaction, and I was lucky to work with scholars like Paul Seedhouse, Steve Walsh, and Vivian Cook in Newcastle. My international experience contributed significantly to my development as a researcher. It is thanks to this intense focus on research that the monograph I wrote (Social Interaction and L2 Classroom Discourse, Edinburgh University Press) was nominated as the best research book in my field in the UK and US in 2016 and 2017.

My book reflected my research on English language classroom interaction, with an applied perspective in the sense that I wanted to give tips to teachers and contribute to teacher education and development. My years as a teacher educator in Turkey have given me rich insights as a researcher – I have studied hundreds of hours of video-recorded teaching and learning activities over the years. To teach the research methods I learned in Newcastle and Luxembourg, I founded a research group that focuses on micro-analytic research at Hacettepe University. Being the editor of Classroom Discourse (Routledge) required me a holistic approach to the field, and also fuelled my curiosity. I wanted to work in a northern European country like Sweden (to also explore another teacher education setting), wanted to spread my practical and theoretical knowledge on pedagogical interaction, and wanted to grow as a researcher, teacher educator, and university educator. This brought me to Mälardalen University in 2018.

Mälardalen University provided me with opportunities to work collaboratively with schools, build partnerships, carry out classroom interaction and teacher education research, develop BA and PhD courses, supervise novice researchers, and work collaboratively with my colleagues at various departments to run research groups. In 2019, I co-founded the Mälardalen INteraction & Didactics (MIND) research group, and I have been leading the SOLD research environment since 2020. I have been awarded the title “Distinguished University Teacher” (Excellent lärare) in 2022. MDU’s institutional goals reflect my research and teaching ambitions and I look forward to serving this university, our region, and the international research community over the years to promote data-driven, reflective, and sustainable teaching, learning, and teacher education practices.

What is the driving force in your research?

My curiosity to understand the interactional dynamics of teaching and learning is the main driving force in my research. I have a never-ending thirst to explore how educators and learners interact to create opportunities for (language) learning.

Which research topics are particularly important for you?

I put research on interaction (using discursive methods like conversation analysis and corpus linguistics) and interactional competence at the heart of my broader professional and scientific investigations. I explore how students learn in groups, from each other; how teachers manage learning environments through delicate use of interaction; and how the material world and technologies we use are mediated to serve our teaching and learning purposes. I pay close attention to interactional practices in teacher education: how can we help student-teachers and teachers-in-practice? I use a micro-analytic lens to ask my research questions and reveal how we co-construct learning and teaching through the type of questions we ask, the responses we give, the assessments we make. How do we embody our teaching and learning experiences? The broader fields my research contributes to include educational and applied linguistics, TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), conversation analysis, and language teacher education.

How would you describe your research environment at MDU?

I am the co-founder of the Mälardalen INteraction & Didactics (MIND) research group. We investigate discursive practices of teachers, students, and teacher educators in our projects. We organize data sessions, work with teachers and mentors, and try to produce data-driven research that aims to contribute to education. We hosted national and international researchers to develop our horizons and collaborate to share and create knowledge together.

I am also a member of SOLD, which is the research environment of the Division of Language and Literature. SOLD represents literary studies, (applied) linguistics, literacy studies and language didactics (mainly English and Swedish). SOLD is going to improve its impact gradually: despite the problems the humanities are facing at the national and international level, we are growing as a dynamic research group that aims to extend the boundaries of research at the intersection of humanities and social sciences. We organise regular data sessions, workshops, and events that bring together researchers as well as practitioners.

How do you feel about becoming a professor given that MDU has just become a University?

Exciting is the first word that comes to my mind when we think about the transition from MDH to MDU. I feel that it is important to take part in this transition period as a new professor. One of the reasons is that innovation is encouraged and we can take initiatives for development. It is true that a heavy “teaching” mentality that our unit had in the past had negative implications for some researchers here. There are, however, many things we learned when it comes to teaching quality during the MDH years and it is now time to take that experience with us and merge it with excellence in research.