The education domain project

Within the education domain project we explore communicative patterns in interactions taking place at Swedish-speaking universities in Sweden and Finland. The aim is to compare how university employees and students interact with each other in Swedish in the two countries. The education domain project is based at Stockholm University (Sweden) and the University of Turku (Finland). The research is conducted by the postdocs Marie Nelson and Sofie Henricson in collaboration with the chief investigators Catrin Norrby and Camilla Wide.

The main approach of the study is variational pragmatics and the methods we use are inductive, including conversation analysis and the ethnography of communication. Conversation analytic tools are used for a detailed analysis of naturally occurring interactions at four universities in Sweden and three universities in Finland. In all, about 90 hours of interactional data have been recorded, including e.g. seminars, supervision meetings and study counselling meetings. Within the ethnographic approach, we study the educational environments through fieldwork, photos, written documentation, interviews, focus groups and questionnaires.

Analytical foci so far include use of pronouns, verbs of cognition, turn-taking and back-channelling behaviour, as well as advice-giving patterns. We have paid special attention to these phenomena in the supervision meetings recorded in comparable settings in Sweden and Finland. In addition, we have conducted smaller studies on opening sequences in study counselling, the word tack (‘thank you’) and its functions in educational interaction, and written guidelines for university supervisors.

As a spin-off from the education domain project, Marie Nelson has collected data on the language situation on the Åland islands, by means of a written questionnaire. This research will be followed up by further questionnaires and focus group recordings. The language situation on the Åland islands and the attitudes of Åland residents to both national varieties of Swedish will also offer useful information for the contextual project.


For publications from the education domain project, see Publications IVIP.