A Cultural-Historical Activity Theory Exploration into the use of social media in women’s English language education in Saudi Arabia: Possibilities and challenges

  • Khloud Al Khader

Student thesis: Phd


This research explores the possibilities and challenges of using social media as a tool in English language education in Saudi women’s higher education via teachers’ perceptions and practices. Research on social media in English language education in the Western context has demonstrated its benefits in language learning, yet limited research exists in the Saudi context. Among the scant research on social media in the EFL context, quantitative approaches through surveys have sought to elicit teachers’ and students’ perceptions of using social media in language education (Allam and Elyas 2016; Ahmed and Hassan 2017). However, such research has not investigated how social media is actually implemented and the factors and barriers that were observed from study in this area. This research examines implementation of social media by adopting case study design to understand in depth a particular community of teachers. The primary research methods used are interviews and classroom observations to understand teachers’ perspectives, practices and any potential for transformation. The study also investigates the contradictions that may occur as a result of introducing social media in Saudi women’s context. The participants are six female novice teachers who work together to implement technologies in their classrooms. Cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) is used in the study as an interpretative framework, to explore and investigate the entire activity system of implementing social media (Engeström 2001). Looking at the system as a whole contributes to our understanding of teachers’ belief within the activity system. It also helps to explain how the cultural history of the participants comes to the activity system and the significance of its role in achieving the object of the activity. A number of historically accumulated contradictions are evident from the research that frequently prevents teachers from using social media in their teaching. Nevertheless, the study also reveals different types of transformations that occur as a result of the use of social media. These are individual (e.g. changes in value belief), collective (e.g. sharing one object) and systemic transformations (e.g. changes in the University rules). This research therefore makes a significant contribution to knowledge in three different areas. It enriches the literature on the use of CHAT to investigate the factors that support and hinder the implementation of social media in English language education, specifically in regard to women’s teaching practices. The study also reveals how teachers’ beliefs can take into account the broader sociocultural context by bringing cultural history into the activity system. The research similarly contributes methodologically by which an approach (abduction, deduction and induction) is used towards data analysis. A number of practical implications are addressed and limitations together with the potential for future research are identified.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorGary Motteram (Supervisor) & Diane Slaouti (Supervisor)

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