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Sarah Mercer

Current Functions and Responsibilities

  • Head of ELT at the University of Graz
  • Head of the Fachdidaktik Research Network at the University of Graz
  • Head of the Doctorate Programme for language teaching research.
  • Staff member in the English Department
  • Joint coordinator of IATEFL’s Research SIG.
  • Member of Oxford University Press ELT Expert Panel
  • Courses in SS 2023: MA SE Current Developments in the Research of Foreign Language Learning and Teaching, MA SE Researching Foreign Language Learning and Teaching, VU Spezielle Methodik 3: Fächerübergreifend (Developing skills in language and sports), DQ Doktoratskolloquium für Fremdsprachendidaktik und Sprachlehrforschung.




  • Venia Legendi: Sprachlehr- und lernforschung und Fachdidaktik (Applied Linguistics), University of Graz.


  • Ph.D in Applied Linguistics, Lancaster University. Master of Arts. MA (Hons) in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, University of Reading
  • Master of Science (MSc) in Psychology, Roehampton University
  • Bachelor of Arts. BA (Hons) in European Studies (French, German & politics), Royal Holloway, University of London.
  • Master of Arts. MA (Hons) in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

Other qualifications:

  • Certificate in TESOL from Trinity College
  • Certificate in Information Technology Skills from the University of London

Projects and Main Areas of Interest

I am interested in all aspects of language learning psychology (teacher and learner perspectives), in particular self-related constructs, motivation, strategies, agency, affect, attributions, and belief systems. In my research, I prefer to employ qualitatively-oriented approaches and Grounded Theory forms of analysis. I have a special interest in considering aspects of language learner and teacher psychology from the perspective of dynamic systems theory. My current research explores teacher psychology, trainee teacher identity development, socio-emotional intelligence, wellbeing, positive language education as well as interdisciplinary approaches to self.

Additional information

I am a member of the following professional organisations: AAAL, BAAL, IAPLL, IATEFL, ILASP, ÖGSD, TESOL & VERBAL.

I served for many years as a committee member for the IATEFL Research Special Interest Group and the AILA Research Network on Learner Autonomy.

I am a regular reviewer for several international journals.

I have teaching experience in the private and public sectors in secondary, tertiary and further education contexts in UK, Germany and Austria.

I have presented at conferences and workshops throughout Europe and in the United States.

I am an invited member of Oxford University Press' Expert Advisory Panel. This is a core group of selected experts from across the field of ELT who work together in writing a number of 'Perspective Papers' for OUP on a range of contemporary topics in the field and also provide OUP with expert advice as required.

I am a joint series editor together with Stephen Ryan for Multilingual Matters' book series, ‘Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching’.

Selected publications

(See Performance Record on UGO for full list)

  • Mercer, S. (2003). The role of self-revelation in strategy training for the teaching of reading. Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Amerikanistik 28 (2): 329 - 348.
  • Mercer, S. (2006). Using journals to investigate the learners' emotional experience of the language classroom. Estudios de linguistica Inglesa Aplicada (ELIA) 6: 63 - 91.
  • Reitbauer, M., Campbell, N., Mercer, S. & Vaupetitsch, R. (Eds.) (2007). Contexts of English in Use: Past and Present. Wien: Braumüller.
  • Mercer, S. (2008). Key concepts in ELT: Learner self-beliefs. ELT Journal 62(2): 182 - 183.
  • Schwarz, E. & Mercer, S. (Eds.) (2009). Das Spiel der Sprachen: Impulse zu einer translationsbezogenen Sprachdidaktik. Working with Language: Insights into Language Teaching for Translators. GTS Band 12. Graz: ITAT.
  • Vaupetitsch, R., Campbell, N., Mercer, S. Reitbauer, M. & Schumm, J. (Eds.) (2009). The Materials Generator: Developing Innovative Materials for Advanced Language Production. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
  • Mercer, S. & Ryan, S. (2010). A mindset for EFL: Learners' beliefs about the role of natural talent. ELT Journal 64(4): 436 - 444.
  • Mercer, S. (2011). Towards an Understanding of Language Learner Self-Concept. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Mercer, S. (2011). The beliefs of two expert EFL learners. Language Learning Journal 39 (1): 57 - 74.
  • Ryan, S. & Mercer, S. (2011). Natural talent, natural acquisition and abroad: Learner attributions of agency in language learning. In: Murray, G., Lamb, T. & Gao. X. (Eds.). Identity, Motivation & Autonomy: Exploring their Links. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. pp. 160 - 176.
  • Mercer, S. (2011). The self as a complex dynamic system. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 1(1): 57 - 82.
  • Mercer, S. (2011). Language learner self-concept: Complexity, continuity and change. System 39(3): 335 - 346.
  • Mercer, S. (2011). Understanding learner agency as a complex dynamic system. System 39(4): 427 - 436. Mercer, S. (2012). Dispelling the myth of the natural-born linguist. ELT Journal 66(1): 22 - 29.
  • Mercer, S. (2012). The dynamic nature of a tertiary learner's foreign language self-concepts. In: M. Pawlak (ed.), New Perspectives on Individual Differences in Language Learning and Teaching, Second Language Learning and Teaching. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. pp. 201 - 215. Chapter 14.
  • Mercer, S., Ryan, S. & Williams, M. (Eds.) (2012). Psychology for Language Learning: Insights from Research, Theory & Practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Mercer, S., Ryan, S. & Williams, M. (2015). Exploring Psychology in Language Learning and Teaching. Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Winner of the 2015 IH Ben Warren prize].
  • Mercer, S & Gkonou, C. (2017). Understanding Emotional and Social Intelligence among English language Teachers. London: British Council. [Research report]
  • Mercer, S. & Kostoulas, A. (Eds.) (2017). Teacher Psychology in SLA. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  • Dewaele, J.-M., Mercer, S., & Gkonou, C. (2018). Do ESL/EFL teachers´ emotional intelligence, teaching experience, proficiency and gender, affect their classroom  practice? In J. de Dios Martínez Agudo (Ed.), Emotions in Second Language Teaching. Theory, Research and Teacher Education (pp. 125-141). Berlin: Springer.
  • Mercer, S., & Xerri, D. (2018). Doing research to find answers to your questions. In R. Bicknell, L. Nikannen, & C. Hart (Eds.), Malta Conference Selections (pp. 7-11). Canterbury: IATEFL.
  • Mercer, S. (2018). Human connection: socio-emotional competences in business English teaching. In R. Bicknell, L. Nikannen, & C. Hart (Eds.), Malta Conference Selections (pp. 15-19). Canterbury: IATEFL.
  • Mercer, S., & Xerri, D. (2018). Doing research to find answers to your questions. In R. Bicknell, & L. Nikannen (Eds.), IATEFL BESIG Conference Selections 2012-2018 (pp. 40-46). Canterbury: IATEFL
  • Mercer, S. (2019). Language learner engagement: Setting the scene. In Gao, X., Davison, C., & Leung, C. (Eds.), International Handbook of English Language Teaching (pp. 643-660). Cham: Springer.
  • Mercer, S. (2019). Language teacher psychology research in LTE. In G. Barkhuizen (Ed.) Qualitative Research Topics in Language Education. London: Routledge.
  • Mercer, S., & Gkonou, C. (2020). Relationships and the good language teacher. In C. Griffiths (Ed.). The good language teacher (pp. 164-174). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hofstadler, N., Talbot, K., Mercer, S., & Lämmerer, A. (2020). The thrills and ills of CLIL. In C. Gkonou, J.-M. Dewaele, & J. King (Eds.), Language Teaching: An Emotional Roller Coaster (pp. 13-30). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  • Talbot, K., & Mercer, S. (2021). Language teacher well-being. In H. Mohebbi & C. Coombe (Eds.), Research Questions in Language Education and Applied Linguistics (pp. 567-572). Heidelberg: Springer.
  • MacIntyre, P., Mercer, S., & Gregersen, T. (2021). Reflections on researching dynamics in language learning psychology. In R. Pinner, & R. Sampson (Eds.), Complexity methodology in researching the psychology of language learning and teaching (pp. 15-34). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Institute of English Studies

ELT Research and Methodology

Liebiggasse 9/HP

Office hour: by appointment

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