• Sofia De Stefani

Student thesis: Phd


This action research study explores the role of blended learning as a tool for the professional empowerment of teachers of English as a foreign language in provincial and rural areas of Uruguay. Specifically, a three-year blended teacher development programme designed to facilitate professional empowerment by integrating face-to-face and online learning opportunities is examined through Garrison, Anderson and Archer's (2000) Community of Inquiry framework as well as through Kumaravadivelu's (2001, 2006b) Postmethod parameters of particularity, practicality and possibility. Findings suggest that blended learning can facilitate the professional empowerment of teachers in geographically-removed areas by fostering their movement towards higher levels of cognitive thinking. The teaching, social and cognitive activity in a blended setting is distributed over the face-to-face and online learning arenas, with the teaching and cognitive 'presences' being embedded in the social. While the highest levels of cognitive activity are rarely visible in participants' virtual discourse, this discourse refers to other environments where cognitive activity is more clearly evidenced, such as participants' assessed work and classroom practices. In short, the Community of Inquiry parameters offer a lens through which to visualise effective course design and pedagogy for teacher education in this context, by providing a language to articulate what is particular about the setting, what participants perceive as practical and ultimately what is possible for them to achieve in terms of empowerment and emancipation. These parameters are explored through the examination of the whole-group processes as well as the in-depth analysis of two participants' individual journeys. This study also foregrounds the complexity and richness of action research, especially in terms of the multiplicity of roles determined by the researcher's immersion in the field, and highlights the need for extensive reflexivity. The academic, professional and situated contributions indicated above are identified, as is the potential for further research in this and other similar settings.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJulian Edge (Supervisor) & Diane Slaouti (Supervisor)


  • Teacher Development
  • Blended Learning

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