USF Libraries
USF Digital Collections

Contradictions in a distance content-based English as a foreign language course

MISSING IMAGE

Material Information

Title:
Contradictions in a distance content-based English as a foreign language course activity theoretical perspective
Physical Description:
Book
Language:
English
Creator:
Madyarov, Irshat
Publisher:
University of South Florida
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publication Date:

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Cultural historical activity theory
Online education
Iran
Middle East
Postsecondary education
Dissertations, Academic -- World Language Education -- Doctoral -- USF   ( lcsh )
Genre:
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

Notes

Abstract:
ABSTRACT: This study explores six English as a foreign language students in an English content-based course of critical thinking delivered via distance at the Bahá'í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) in Iran. Framed within cultural-historical activity theory, the study seeks to shed light on the complex nature of students' course-related activities with a particular focus on contradictions that underlie any human activity. The construct of contradictions provides a theoretical lens to understand the complex web of relationships among a number of elements in the course taking activity situated in a cultural-historical setting beset with political controversies, technological challenges, and demands of the bilingual curriculum of the university. To capture the complex nature of contradictions, the study employed a naturalistic methodology and relied primarily on in-depth interviews with the participants, observations of their online behaviors, and the artifacts that student participants produced by the end of the semester. The findings indicate that most participants had multiple activity systems within the course environment, some of which were oriented towards academic and others non-academic objects. According to the data and theoretical interpretations, most participants had primary, secondary, and quaternary contradictions. Most primary contradictions had the nature of use and exchange value, which in practical terms indicates the orientation towards genuine learning or earning a grade. Primary and quaternary contradictions led to many secondary contradictions. Furthermore, it transpired that content-based instruction pushed the participants to engage actively in actions oriented towards improving English even for the participants who did not have the object of improving English. Among many other findings are detrimental consequences of contradictions that are traced back to the persecutions of BIHE students, faculty, and staff.
Thesis:
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System Details:
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Irshat Madyarov.
General Note:
Title from PDF of title page.
General Note:
Document formatted into pages; contains 407 pages.
General Note:
Includes vita.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 002004827
oclc - 352812678
usfldc doi - E14-SFE0002672
usfldc handle - e14.2672
System ID:
SFS0026989:00001


This item is only available as the following downloads:


Full Text
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 standalone no
record xmlns http:www.loc.govMARC21slim xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.loc.govstandardsmarcxmlschemaMARC21slim.xsd
leader nam Ka
controlfield tag 001 002004827
003 fts
005 20090527082235.0
006 m||||e|||d||||||||
007 cr mnu|||uuuuu
008 090527s2008 flu s 000 0 eng d
datafield ind1 8 ind2 024
subfield code a E14-SFE0002672
035
(OCoLC)352812678
040
FHM
c FHM
049
FHMM
090
PE1128 (Online)
1 100
Madyarov, Irshat.
0 245
Contradictions in a distance content-based English as a foreign language course :
b activity theoretical perspective
h [electronic resource] /
by Irshat Madyarov.
260
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
2008.
500
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 407 pages.
Includes vita.
502
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
504
Includes bibliographical references.
516
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
3 520
ABSTRACT: This study explores six English as a foreign language students in an English content-based course of critical thinking delivered via distance at the Bah' Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) in Iran. Framed within cultural-historical activity theory, the study seeks to shed light on the complex nature of students' course-related activities with a particular focus on contradictions that underlie any human activity. The construct of contradictions provides a theoretical lens to understand the complex web of relationships among a number of elements in the course taking activity situated in a cultural-historical setting beset with political controversies, technological challenges, and demands of the bilingual curriculum of the university. To capture the complex nature of contradictions, the study employed a naturalistic methodology and relied primarily on in-depth interviews with the participants, observations of their online behaviors, and the artifacts that student participants produced by the end of the semester. The findings indicate that most participants had multiple activity systems within the course environment, some of which were oriented towards academic and others non-academic objects. According to the data and theoretical interpretations, most participants had primary, secondary, and quaternary contradictions. Most primary contradictions had the nature of use and exchange value, which in practical terms indicates the orientation towards genuine learning or earning a grade. Primary and quaternary contradictions led to many secondary contradictions. Furthermore, it transpired that content-based instruction pushed the participants to engage actively in actions oriented towards improving English even for the participants who did not have the object of improving English. Among many other findings are detrimental consequences of contradictions that are traced back to the persecutions of BIHE students, faculty, and staff.
538
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
590
Co-advisor: Wei Zhu, Ph.D.
Co-advisor: Linda Evans, Ph.D.
653
Cultural historical activity theory
Online education
Iran
Middle East
Postsecondary education
690
Dissertations, Academic
z USF
x World Language Education
Doctoral.
773
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856
u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?e14.2672



PAGE 1

Contradictions in a Distance Content Based English as a Foreign Language Course: Activity Theoretical Perspective by Irshat Madyarov Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Depa rtment of World Languages College of Arts and Sciences and Department of Secondary Education College of Education University of South Florida Co Major Professor: Wei Zhu, Ph.D. Co Major Professor: Linda Evans, Ph.D. Steve Downey, Ph.D. Tony Erben, Ph. D. James Paul, Ed .D. Date of Approval: November 7 2008 Keywords: Cultural historical activity theory, online education, Iran, Middle East, postsecondary education Copyright 2008, Irshat Madyarov

PAGE 2

DEDICATION To my wife Liliya, my son Marcel, and my parents Mavliya and Yusup Madyarov and Venera and Jamil Zaydulin

PAGE 3

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First and foremost I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to my committee members I am indebted to my esteemed major professors Drs. Wei Zhu and Linda Evans for their dedication to my work, genuine interest, and insightful guidance, for encouraging me to go beyond my limits always supporting me along the way. I was tremendously encouraged by their unfailing understanding, and their ability to listen and hear I offer my appreciation to Dr. Tony Erben for being available whenever I sought his ad vice and for being a sounding board for my ideas. I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks to Dr. James Paul for his wisdom philosophical insigh ts, and inspiration. He might not be aware of the important part he played in my decision to undertake this dissertation in the first place. I am also sincerely grateful to Dr. Steve Downey for his attention to detail, generous feedback and his effort to inspire me to work towards perfection. I thank my SLAIT community who supported me in small and encouraging ways with this project. My special thanks go to Iona Sarieva and Jane Harvey for their help in making sense of my findings, as well as Ruth Ban, Rob ert Summers, and Jin Li for being stepping stones in times of intellectual struggle I would also like to take this opportunity to convey my gratitude to SCC Soft Computer in particular, its Corporate Officers Gilbert and Jean Hakim for their generous fi nancial support. I thank M r Iraj Gheysari and Mr. Bob Harris for their effort in facilitating the decision making process. Without this sponsorship, I would not have been able to achieve the results that I have. Th e Institute for Higher Education was critical in my study. I am grateful to all local and affiliated faculty and staff who have been involved in my study. In particular, I appreciate the time and effort of my participants: student s and i nstructor s of the online

PAGE 4

Critical Thinking course, a s well as the support of Aida Taef who coordinated the logistics of the study in Iran. Most importantly, I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to my wife for her patience, support, and care, and my three old son who was always around to share hi s infinite joy with me during t he long hours of intellectual labor I thank my many friends and community who continuously sustained my strengths in many ways throughout the past year. In particular, I would like to mention the names of Dara Shaw, James Coburn, Nancy McKeand, Norma Hemmat, and Sandy Miller who provided me with their generous and valuable feedback during my revision process.

PAGE 5

i TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. VII LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. IX ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ X I CHAPTER ONE: INTROD UCTION ................................ ................................ ..................... 1 Overview ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 1 Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 3 Statement of the Problem ................................ ................................ ................................ 7 Purpose ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 9 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 10 Operational Definitions of Terms ................................ ................................ .................... 12 Delimitations and Limitations ................................ ................................ ......................... 14 Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ ................................ 17 CHAPTER T WO: LITERATURE REVIE W ................................ ................................ ......... 18 Introduction to Chapter Two ................................ ................................ ........................... 18 Theoretical Framework: Cultural Historical Activity Theory ................................ ............. 20 Introduction to the Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ .. 20 First Generation of Cultural Historical Activity Theory ................................ ................. 21 Second Generation of Cultural Historical Activity Theory ................................ ............ 25 Third Generation of Cultural Historical Activity Theory ................................ ................ 30 More on Contradictions ................................ ................................ .............................. 35 Cultural Historical Activity Theory and Second Language Acquisition ......................... 39 Sociocultural Studies in Sec ond Language Acquisition ................................ ........... 39 Cultural Historical Activity Theory Studies in Second Language Acquisition ............ 42 Summary of the Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ ..... 46 Content Based Language Instruction ................................ ................................ ............. 47 Introduction to Content Based Language Instruction ................................ .................. 47 Types of Content Based Language Instruction ................................ ........................... 49 Content Based Instruction Cases ................................ ................................ ............... 51 English as a S econd Language Cases ................................ ................................ .... 51 English as a Foreign Language Cases ................................ ................................ .... 52 Foreign Language Cases ................................ ................................ ........................ 53 Summary of Content Based Language Instruction ................................ ..................... 55 Distance Education and Language Instruction ................................ ............................... 56 Introduction to D istance Learning and Language Instruction ................................ ...... 56 History and Concepts of Distance Education ................................ .............................. 57 Issues in Distance Education ................................ ................................ ...................... 59 Language Instruction in Distance Education ................................ ............................... 68

PAGE 6

ii Evaluation Studies ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 70 Summary of Distance Education and Language Instruction ................................ ........ 73 Conclusion to Chapter Two ................................ ................................ ............................ 75 Interpretation of Reported Challenges in Terms of Contra dictions .............................. 75 CHAPTER THREE: METHO DOLOGY ................................ ................................ .............. 80 Introduction to Chapter Three ................................ ................................ ........................ 80 The Setting and Participants of the Study ................................ ................................ ...... 81 The Setting ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 81 The Bridge Course ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 82 The Instructors and Teaching Assistant ................................ ................................ ...... 89 The Students ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 90 Research Design ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 93 Research Method ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 94 Recruitment and Sampling of Participants ................................ ................................ ...... 98 Data Collection ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 100 Background Survey ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 104 Analysis Papers ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 105 Problem Solution Forums ................................ ................................ ......................... 107 Questions and Answers Forum ................................ ................................ ................ 108 Moodle Tracked Logs ................................ ................................ ............................... 108 Conference Calls between Instructors and Students ................................ ................ 109 Message and Email Interactions ................................ ................................ ............... 110 Interviews ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 110 Field Notes ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 113 Ethical Aspects of Data Collection Procedures ................................ ......................... 114 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 115 Stage1: Recruitment and Selection of Participants ................................ ................... 118 Stage 2: Data Analysis during Collection ................................ ................................ .. 118 Stage 3: Finalizing Resul ts ................................ ................................ ....................... 123 ATLAS.ti Coding and Memos ................................ ................................ ................ 123 Technique for Operationalizing Contradictions and Consequences ...................... 125 Trustworthiness ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 131 Summary of Data Collection and Analysis ................................ ................................ ... 133 My Role as Researcher ................................ ................................ ................................ 138 CHAPTER FOUR: RESULT S ................................ ................................ .......................... 142 Overview ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 142 Azita ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 146 ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 146 ................................ ................................ ............................ 149 ................................ .......................... 154 ................................ ................................ ........... 159 Image ................................ ................. 161 ................................ ........................ 163 ................................ ....................... 164 Primary Con ................................ ................ 164 Primary contradictions in objects. ................................ ................................ ...... 165 Primary contradiction in technological instrument s. ................................ ........... 168 Primary contradiction in classmates as a community. ................................ ........ 169

PAGE 7

iii ................................ ........... 173 ................................ .............................. 173 ................................ .............. 175 ....................... 176 ................................ ................................ ...... 178 illness versus her objects. ................................ ................................ ...... 179 ................................ ................... 179 ................................ .................... 180 ................................ .......... 186 ................................ ...... 186 ................................ ..................... 188 Azad ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 193 ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 193 ................................ ................................ ............................ 194 ................................ ................................ 197 A ................................ .......................... 199 ................................ ........................ 203 equences ................................ ...................... 204 ................................ ................ 204 Primary contradiction in objects. ................................ ................................ ........ 204 Primary contradiction in technological instruments. ................................ ........... 20 5 Primary contradiction in classmates as community. ................................ ........... 207 ................................ ........... 207 ................................ ............................. 207 t ....................... 209 ................................ ................................ ...... 210 ................................ ................................ ... 211 ................................ ................................ ..... 212 ................................ ................................ ............. 214 Qua ................................ .......... 216 ................................ ......... 216 versus course activities. ................................ ..................... 217 ................................ .................. 217 s. ................................ ..... 218 Noushin ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 222 ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 222 ................................ ................................ ....................... 224 improvement. ...................... 229 ................................ ................................ ...... 231 ................................ ................................ ............ 233 ................................ ................... 235 ................................ ................. 236 ................................ ........... 236 Primary contradiction i n objects. ................................ ................................ ........ 236 Primary contradiction in technological instruments. ................................ ........... 237 Primary contradiction in community. ................................ ................................ .. 241 ................................ ...... 241 ................................ ......................... 242 .................. 243 ................................ ............. 243

PAGE 8

iv Due dates versus Articles as Instruments. ................................ ......................... 245 ................................ ................................ .... 246 Problem Solution Forum 3 versus Noushin ................................ ........ 247 ................................ ..... 255 ivities. ........................... 255 ................................ ............. 255 ................................ 258 Nazanin ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 260 ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 260 ................................ ................................ ....................... 261 ................................ ................................ .... 264 ................................ ................................ 265 ................................ ................... 266 ................................ ................. 268 Primary Contradictions ................................ ........... 268 Primary contradiction in objects. ................................ ................................ ........ 268 Primary contradiction in technological instruments. ................................ ........... 269 Primary contradiction in rules. ................................ ................................ ........... 272 ................................ ...... 272 ................................ .......................... 272 .................... 273 ................................ ......... 274 Due dates versus objects. ................................ ................................ ................. 274 ................................ ................................ .... 275 ................................ ..... 278 ........................... 278 ................................ .... 278 ................................ 280 Shahin ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 282 ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 283 ................................ ................................ ......................... 284 improvement ................................ ................. 286 ................................ ................................ ... 287 ................................ ..................... 288 ................................ ................... 290 Primary Contradictions in Sha ................................ ............. 290 Primary contradiction in objects. ................................ ................................ ........ 290 Primary contradiction in technological instruments. ................................ ........... 291 Primary contradiction in rules. ................................ ................................ ........... 291 ................................ ........ 293 ................................ ............................ 293 ................................ ........... 294 Due dates versus ob jects. ................................ ................................ ................. 295 ................................ ................................ .......... 296 ................................ ....... 298 ................................ ......... 298 ................................ ...... 299 ................................ .............. 300 ................................ .. 301 Amir ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 303

PAGE 9

v ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 303 ................................ ................................ .............................. 304 dictions and Their Consequences ................................ ....................... 308 ................................ ................. 308 Primary contradiction in the object. ................................ ................................ .... 308 Primary contradiction in technological instruments. ................................ ........... 308 ................................ .............. 309 ................................ ................................ 309 ................................ ............... 310 ................................ ................................ ............ 311 ................................ ...... 313 Conclusion to Chapter Four ................................ ................................ ......................... 314 CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUS SION AND IMPLICATION S ................................ .................... 315 Introduction to Chapter Five ................................ ................................ ......................... 315 Summary of the Results ................................ ................................ ............................... 315 ................................ ................................ ................................ 316 Primary Contradictions and Their Consequences ................................ ..................... 317 Secondary Contradictions and Their Consequences ................................ ................ 320 Two Types of Consequences ................................ ................................ ................ 326 Instructor Feed back as a Disturbance in Secondary Contradictions ...................... 326 Tertiary Contradictions and their Consequences ................................ ...................... 327 Quaternary Contradictions a nd their Consequences ................................ ................. 327 Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ .............................. 329 Revisiting the Purpose of the Study ................................ ................................ ............. 331 Pedagogical Implications ................................ ................................ ............................. 333 Future Directions ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 335 Theoretical Issues ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 337 Identifying Mediators in Activity Systems ................................ ................................ .. 337 Methodological Distinction Between Objects and Goals ................................ ........... 338 Contradictory Contradictions ................................ ................................ .................... 339 Possible Solutions to Theoretical Issues ................................ ................................ ... 341 On the Activity Systems in Schooling ................................ ................................ ........... 342 Nature of Primary Contradiction in Subjects ................................ ................................ 344 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 348 APPENDICES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 361 Appendix A: Excerpt from Critical Thinking Course Readings ................................ ...... 362 Appendix B: Guide for Analysis Papers ................................ ................................ ........ 364 Appendix C: Grading Rubric for Analysis Papers ................................ ......................... 369 Appendix D: Grading Rubric for Forum Discussions ................................ .................... 371 Appendix E: Problem Solution Forum #1 ................................ ................................ ..... 372 Appendix F: Problem Solution Forum #2 ................................ ................................ ...... 374 Appendix G: Problem Solution Forum #3 (Proble m 1) ................................ ................. 376 Appendix H: Problem Solution Forum #3 (Problem 2) ................................ .................. 377 Appendix I: Pre writing Activity Rubric ................................ ................................ .......... 378 Appendix J: Grading Rubric for Conference Calls ................................ ........................ 379 Appendix K: Course Assignments, Due Dates, and Weights ................................ ........ 380 Appendix L: A Letter to Course Instructors ................................ ................................ ... 381

PAGE 10

vi Appendix M: Email Recruitment Letter to Students ................................ ...................... 384 Appendix N: Info rmed Consent for Student Participants ................................ ............... 386 Appendix O: Informed Consent for Instructor Participants ................................ ............ 391 Appendix P: Informed Consent for the Teaching Assistant ................................ ........... 395 Appendix Q: Informed Consent for the BIHE Administrator ................................ .......... 399 Appendix R: Coding Definitions ................................ ................................ .................... 403 Appendix S: The Elimination Approach Form ................................ ............................... 407 ABOUT THE AUTHOR ................................ ................................ .......................... End P age

PAGE 11

vii LIST OF TABLES Table 1 Hierarchy of A ctivity ................................ ................................ .......................... 26 Table 2 Challenges and Recommendations from Literature on CBLI Courses ............... 55 Table 3 Challenges and Recommendations from Literature on Distance Education and Language Learning and Teaching ................................ ....... 73 Table 4 The Eight step Model adapted fr om Mwanza (2002, p. 128) ............................. 97 Table 5 Procedures, Data Collected, and Corresponding Dates ................................ .. 102 Table 6 Three Stages of Data Ana lysis with Corresponding Dates .............................. 115 Table 7 Sample of Operationalized Contradictions and Consequences ....................... 129 Table 8 Summary of the Research Stages ................................ ................................ .. 133 Table 9 ................................ .......... 171 Table 10 Secondary Contradictions in Az ................................ ..... 182 Table 11 ................................ .... 190 Table 12 ubmissions ................................ ............................. 202 Table 13 ................................ .......... 206 Table 14 ty Systems ................................ ..... 215 Table 15 ................................ .... 218 Table 16 tivity Systems ................................ ..... 239 Table 17 ................................ 251 Table 18 Quaternary Contradictions in Nou ............................... 257 Table 19 ................................ ..... 271

PAGE 12

viii Table 20 Secondary Contradictions ................................ 277 Table 21 ............................... 279 Table 22 Primary Contradi ................................ ....... 292 Table 23 ................................ .. 297 Table 25 Quaternary C ................................ 309 Table 26 ................................ .......... 313 Table 2 7 Summary o f Primary Contradictions and Their Consequences ....................... 318 Table 2 8 Summary of Secondary Contradictions and Their Consequences .................. 323 Table 2 9 Summary of Quaternary Contradictions and Their Consequences .................. 328

PAGE 13

ix LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. Four types of contradictions: 1 primary, 2 s econdary, 3 tertiary, and 4 quaternary. ................................ ................................ ...................... 6 Figure 2. mediated and object directed action. .............. 23 Figure 3. A model of the second generation of the activity theory ................................ .. 30 Figure 4. A model of the third generation of activity theory ................................ ............ 31 Figure 4. Interactions of surrounding activities and potential contradictions within and between them. ................................ ................................ ...................... 32 Figure 5. Continuum of content based instruction. ................................ ........................... 49 Figure 6. Possible contradictions in a CBLI student's activity system based on literature review. ................................ ................................ ......................... 76 Figure 7. Possi ble contradictions in a distance student's activity system based on literature review. ................................ ................................ .................... 77 Figure 8. A print screen of the web browser version of an article that shows a roll over box for a glossed word. ................................ ................................ 88 Figure 10. ATLAS.ti screenshot with codes and a memo window. ................................ 121 Figure 11. Dis tribution of data sources among research questions. ............................... 136 Figure 12. The three stages of the study. ................................ ................................ ...... 137 Figure 13. activity systems in the course taking context. ........................ 151 Figure 15. ................................ 191 Figure 16. taking shell. ............................ 196

PAGE 14

x Figure18. ................................ ............... 220 Figure 19. ................................ .. 226 Figure20. ................................ .. 236 Figure 21. ................................ ......... 258 Figure 22. ................................ .. 263 Figure 23. overtime. ................................ ................................ ................................ 267 Figure 24. ................................ ......... 281 Figure 25. ................................ .... 285 Figure 26. activity systems ............ 289 Figure 27. ................................ ........... 302 Figure 28. tems in the course shell. ................................ ........ 306 Figure 29. ................................ ....... 307 Figure 30. Contradictions in esteem. ................................ 314

PAGE 15

xi Contradictions in a Distance Content Based English as a Foreign Language Course: Activity Theoretical Perspective Irshat Madyarov ABSTRACT This study explores six English as a foreign language students in an English content Education (BIHE) in Iran. Framed within c ultural historical activity theory, the study seeks to shed light on the c related activities with a particular focus on contradictions that underlie any human activity. The construct of contradictions provides a theoretical lens to understand the complex web of relationships among a number of el ements in the course taking activity situated in a cultural historical setting beset with political controversies, technological challenges, and demands of the bilingual curriculum of the university. To capture the complex nature of contradictions, the st udy employed a naturalistic methodology and relied primarily on in depth interviews with the participants, observations of their online behaviors, and the artifacts that student participants produced by the end of the semester. The findings indicate that most participants had multiple activity systems within the course environment, some of which were oriented towards academic and others non academic objects. According to the data and theoretical interpretations, most participants had primary, secondary, an d quaternary contradictions. Most primary contradictions had the nature of use and exchange value, which in practical terms indicates the orientation towards genuine learning or earning a grade Primary and quaternary contradictions led to

PAGE 16

xii many secondary c ontradictions Furthermore it transpired that content based instruction pushed the participants to engage actively in actions oriented towards improving English even for the participants who did not have the object of improving English. Among many other f indings are detrimental consequences of contradictions that are traced back to the persecutions of BIHE students, faculty, and staff.

PAGE 17

1 CHAPTER ONE: INTRODU CTION Overview Distance content based language instruction (CBLI) in higher education is a relati vely new area of inquiry. It is potentially a fertile field given the rapid spread of distance and open education and their capacity to outreach to learners with different language backgrounds across the globe. Among a number of different manifestations of CBLI courses, there are some whose primary goal is to teach the target foreign language (FL), and those whose primary goal is to teach content, such as subject matter of a mainstream university course (e.g., history, anthropology, chemistry, etc.) in FL. While the former type has been used primarily in language schools and programs, the latter are more applicable to courses where the learning of the subject matter is critical. This type of CBLI occupies a unique position in that it prioritizes content lear ning, and, as such, its goals can be closely aligned with the goals of the mainstream curriculum in postsecondary institutions. At the same time, these courses allow the learners to improve their FL, which for many majors, such as FL education, internation al studies or business administration is the key to professional success. The pedagogical soundness of the CBLI approach has been demonstrated consistently both in Snow & Wesche, 2003; Kasper, 2000a; Stryker & Leaver, 1997). Content based language instruction combined with distance and open education may have a strong facilitative effect on global education. It is a widely accepted fact that distance

PAGE 18

2 and open education ha s spread far and wide across the globe. According to some sources, distance and open education seem to be wide spread in developing regions, such as India and Africa (Badat, 2005; Panda, 2005). Geographical borders between learners and teachers are now bei ng easily crossed over. However, the unique capacity of distance and open education to cross geographical borders creates linguistic and cultural challenges. In particular, how to make education accessible to the world wide population of learners who speak languages other than the medium of instruction? Integration of CBLI in distance and open education could solve this problem, which in the long run may result in more effective solutions to the inaccessibility of education, and perhaps, an emergence of an official global lingua franca. This present study investigated the heart of this potential the integration of the CBLI approach in distance education. The setting of this study was also appealing to the globalization potential. A university in Iran, the has been struggling to provide learning opportunities to a marginalized population in the education on the basis of relig ious beliefs for the last few decades (U.S. Department of direct threat to the functioning of BIHE, hence the decision to start implementing a distance model of educa tion. This innovation has opened up doors to international collaboration. Adjunct professors from all over the world are now offering their service to provide quality education to BIHE students via distance. However, now the university is facing the lingui stic the would be predominant medium of instruction of BIHE distance courses plays a minimal, if any, role in the Iranian culture. Thus, BIHE represents a mini replica of emerging linguisti c barriers to higher education in global distance and open education.

PAGE 19

3 Theoretical Framework Epistemologically, this study comes closest to the constructivist philosophy of inquiry (Guba & Lincoln, 2005). Accordingly, the assumptions underlying this researc h are consistent with naturalistic inquiry rather than positivistic research. Among such assumptions, Guba and Lincoln (2005) highlight: subjective nature of inquiry; biases as natural characteristic of research; the researcher as a co participant in the l ives of the other study participants; and qualitative methods of inquiry. These assumptions are evident in the language of this dissertation (such as the use of the first person), a different understanding of limitations and generalization, and in the mult iple roles that I, as a researcher, assume in this project. The study is framed within cultural historical activity theory (CHAT). Today, CHAT represents one of the valuable assets of naturalistic inquiry. CHAT has developed from cultural historical psych ology, whose origins are rightly attributed to Lev Vygotksy, a Russian psychologist and educator. His theory is based on the ideas of the German philosophers Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Engels (Engestrm, 1987). In the heart of Vygotsky's theory is the idea tha t humans perform any conscious actions towards achieving their goal or object by means of mediating instruments, either physical, such as a pen or hammer, or psychological, such as language. This mediating process not only allows the subject to achieve his consciousness (Vygotsky, 1982b). Vygotsky (1982a; 1982b) also proposes that any higher psychological functions, such as attention, voluntary memory, counting, and categorizing are attributabl e only to humans and developed in the process of internalization. Any such function is originally social. He gives an example of a mother who first draws the attention of her baby to a particular object by pointing at it. The baby thus learns to draw and p ay attention to things around it. Later, this function of attention paying becomes internalized.

PAGE 20

4 Using the terminology of Vygotsky, we can say that higher psychological functions first exist at the interpsychological level (i.e. social or between people) a nd then become intrapsychological (i.e. internal or inside the subject). Language acquisition takes place in a similar fashion; first it exists externally between the baby and care giver, and then becomes internalized in the mind of the baby. eas have evolved into different models and theories, of which CHAT is major contribution was that he took individual human actions to the level of collective ideas Kant, Hegel, and Marx. Thus, activity becomes the smallest unit of an alysis that contains all the elements of human collective activity, namely: subject, instruments, object, division of labor, community, and rules. Many other Soviet and Western scholars adopted sent the current version of cultural historical activity theory. Engestrm (2001), a leading activity theorist in the West, talks about CHAT as a constellation of multiple activity systems constantly changing and interacting with each other. His thesis is that any human activity has a potential to grow, and that this growth is cyclical, going through cycles of internalization (learning) and externalization (problem solving or creation). Central to this growth are the contradictions within the elements of e ach individual activity (subject, instruments, object, division of labor, community, and rules), between these elements, and between surrounding activity systems. As contradictions are resolved, the activity continues to develop and grow. Unresolved contra dictions lead to stagnation of activity and possibly its death.

PAGE 21

5 Figure 1 shows how the central activity system interacts with surrounding activity systems through the nod e s of the six elements: subject, instruments, object, division of labor, community, a nd rules, and where potential contradictions may arise. Engestrm (1987) provides a classification of four types of contradictions in such a network of activity systems: primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary. Primary contradictions can arise within any of the six elements of the activity: subject, instruments, object, division of labor, community and rules (marked as 1 in Figure 1). Secondary contradictions occur between the six elements of the activity, for example between the subject and the instr ument of the activity (marked as 2 in Fig ure 1). Tertiary contradictions take place only at the object nod e of the activity system when an outside more advanced activity introduces a new object into the central activity system (marked as 3 in Fig ure 1). T his new object may create disagreement and clashes of interest, which is the result of tertiary contradictions. Finally, the quaternary contradictions occur between the central activity and any surrounding acti vity system (marked as 4 in Figure 1)

PAGE 22

6 Fig ure 1. Four types of contradictions: 1 primary, 2 secondary, 3 tertiary, and 4 quaternary. Adapted from Engestrm (1987). This study views learners of the distance content based course as subjects of their activity systems. The central activity sy stem is a student specific activity of course taking that lasted one semester. Each such activity system had their own objects, i.e. motives that provided impetus and direction to the activity. Each subject was mediated by a number of instruments, of which some were common to all learners, such as English as a foreign language and distance learning instruments, and others were specific to subject participants Each subject is part of the same community of classmates and instructors. They interacted within t heir activity systems using implied and explicitly stated division of labor, and followed implied and explicitly agreed upon rules.

PAGE 23

7 The s surrounding activity systems. Those includ ed the students' community activity systems outside of the course (families, political situation in Iran), and also the activity systems of the course instructors, course developers and the course technology support person, among others. A number of contra dictions within and between the central activity systems offered a potential for the development of the subject matter of the course as well as the mediating instrument English as a foreign language. Based on the assumption of CHAT, these contradictions and their resolutions are key to the development of the subject matter and the foreign language, hence the particular focus on contradictions in this study. Statement of the Problem As was stated previously, one of the premises of CHAT is that any human a ctivity can be viewed as a constellation of interacting activity systems, each consisting of the six elements: subject, instruments, object, division of labor community, and rules Further, it was said that CHAT can help explain the development of human a ctivity, which Engestrm (1987) introduces into the field as expansive cycles of growth (to be discussed further). In the context of the study, the human activity in question is the learning of the subject matter and the linguistic medium of instruction English as a foreign language. Understanding how this expansive growth of second language acquisition (SLA) occurs would require a new set of SLA related definitions for internalization, externalization, expansion, and other related constructs. To my knowl edge, few of these constructs exist in the SLA field. In their recent extensive review of literature on internalization in SLA, Lantolf and Thorne (2006), two leading scholars who apply cultural historical theory to SLA, suggest that the process of interna lization of second or foreign language manifests itself through the learner's repetition of target language structures and private speech described as articulation of the most difficult elements of the language. How ever, a s far as

PAGE 24

8 externalization or expans ive cycles of growth in SLA are concerned, the authors have little if anything to say at this point (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006). Engestrm (1987, 1999a), on the other hand, discusses expansion, internalization, externalization, and other related constructs i n much detail. However, he too points out that much of what we know about these phenomena is still vague. For example, we know little about historical cycles of expansion (Engestrm, 1999a). Besides, his construal of these constructs is not directly applic able to SLA. Engestrm primarily applies CHAT to investigate dynamics in organizations, where expansive cycles of growth take place through the iterations of internalization (i.e. understanding the situation or problem) and externalization (i.e. finding cr eative solutions to the problem). While his approach is insightful, it does not provide much theoretical support for the investigation of SLA. The most that we can infer from this model is that the silent period common to all language learners is due to th e internalization processes, and the creative production of the language as externalization. This relationship, however, is not present in the SLA literature, let alone the empirical investigation of this relationship. Given this lack of theoretical found ation for the exploration of expansive cycles of growth of SLA in the distance CBLI environment, one faces a need to conduct an exploratory study that would draw the picture of such development in big brush strokes or would capture some elements of this de velopment. To conclude, the problem at hand is two fold. First, there is a lack of general knowledge about developmental processes that take place among English as foreign language learners who are engaged in distance English medium college level courses. Put another way, little is known how such learners develop their competence in the actual subject matter of the course and the target foreign language. Second, the study was also

PAGE 25

9 motivated by intent to improve pedagogical practices of a specific CBLI cours e in a given setting with its unique limitations and affordances. Purpose In view of the above, the purpose of the study was to address these two problems: 1) lack of general understanding of the nature of expansive cycles of growth in SLA in the distance CBLI environment, and 2) lack of information on how this process happens in the specific setting of the study in Iran. These two problems are interrelated. The first one concerns the theoretical framework of CHAT and its application to SLA. The second pro blem is context specific and implies an action research perspective. The primary focus of this study was to address the second problem, which yielded specific pedagogical implications for the particular setting and to some degree other similar settings, gi ven the assumed transferability of the final research findings (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). These findings, however, also have theoretical implications, which concern the first problem under consideration. In this sense, the proposed study has paved the way for the forthcoming more in depth research into internalization, externalization, and expansive cycles of growth in SLA, among other things. This connection between theory and practice is strongly encouraged in CHAT research (Engestrm, 1999a). The particular focus of this exploratory study was on contradictions that occurred in expansive learning should be understood as construction and resolution of successively evolvin occur in the cycles of internalization and externalization, and it is their resolution that leads to breakthroughs and further expansion of the cycle of growth (Engestrm, 1999a). Elsewhere, he makes a point that researchers need to investigate historicity of expansive

PAGE 26

10 h developmental cycles. It seems promising to analyze these cycles in terms of the stepwise formation and resolution Given this theoretical significance of contradictions, their in vestigation appeared promising. The findings on the nature of contradictions and their resolutions in the distance CBLI course have direct pedagogical implications for BIHE and contribute to the theoretical understanding of the expansive cycles of growth i n SLA in the context of distance CBLI courses. To this end, the study investigated a distance CBLI course on critical thinking offered at the BIHE University. It was the first bridge course in the BIHE curriculum, whose purpose is to help Farsi speaking s tudents transition from pure English language instruction to college level subject matter courses delivered through the medium of English as a foreign language. Research Questions Two overarching questions, each with four sub questions guided the study: 1. What types of contradictions arise in the central activity systems of individual learners of the target course? 1.1. What primary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 1.2. What secondary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 1.3. What tertiary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 1.4. What quaternary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the targe t course?

PAGE 27

11 2. What are the consequences of the identified contradictions? 2.1. What are the consequences of the identified primary contradictions? 2.2. What are the consequences of the identified secondary contradictions? 2.3. What are the consequences of the identified tertiary contradictions? 2.4. What are the consequences of the identified quaternary contradictions? Question 1 sought to identify all visible contradictions in the activity systems of individual learners. Understanding the four types of contradictions in an activity system implies an understanding of relationships among the contradictions, which according to the theory can be identified through levels of contradictions: primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary, hence the four sub questions targeting the four types of contradictions. These sets of questions are tapping into the underlying roots of the contradictions in theoretical terms because certain contradictions theoretically are caused by others. Question 2 aimed to investigate the consequences of t he identified contradictions in terms of what happens as a result of contradictions. According to Engestrm (1987, 1999a, b) contradictions could result in their resolution or absence thereof depending on the conditions. Resolutions lead to: 1) a new model of the activity system with modified rules, instruments, division of labor, or community, or 2) emergence of a new activity with a different object. Conversely, when contradictions remain unresolved, this may lead to a lag in the activity or death of the activity system depending on the scope of the contradictions. Both sets of questions directly relate to the two problems that this study addresses. Concerning the first problem, understanding the relationships and consequences of contradictions in a dista nce CBLI course contributes to the theoretical interpretation of process of expansive learning should be understood as construction and resolution of successively evolving contradicti 2). Because

PAGE 28

12 theoretically any expansion involves internalization and externalization, the findings of this research shed light on what these constructs mean in SLA. In terms of the second problem, there are direct pedagogical implications of these findings for distance CBLI courses at BIHE. In particular, awareness of the roots and consequences of contradictions in one such course will help in the design of other CBLI courses that effectively integrate contra dictions of certain type s and provide appropriate conditions for their resolution. Operational Definitions of Terms The following terms are key to the study. The bulk of the terms are CHAT constructs most relevant to the research questions. The others are related to the nature of the bridge course under investigation. Activity a CHAT construct that relates to a unit of analysis of human pursuit. It includes an agent of the activity and is directed towards a certain result. Activity is mediated by a numbe r of factors, such as the materials and resources the agent is using (instruments), the groups of people he or she is surrounded by (community), arrangements (rules) and roles (division of labor) that are present between the agent and other members of the community. Subject a CHAT construct that refers to the main agent of an activity system. In the given context, a subject is an individual student participant of the study. Central activity system a CHAT construct that in this study refers to a semester long activity of taking the critical thinking course, in which the subject is an individual student participant. Object a CHAT construct that refers to the sole reason for the existence of an activity. It emerges as a way to meet the need of the agent, and as such, it is defined by the motive of the agent. interchangeably. Object/motive defines the borderlines of a given a ctivity system.

PAGE 29

13 Object/motive can be identified asking the qu estion why is the agent engaged in what Outcome becomes transformed into a tangible outcome, the end result of the activity. Instrument a CHAT construct that ref ers to the means by which the subject achieves his or her object. Community a CHAT construct that relates to a group of people that are immediately involved in the agent's activity system. Division of labor a CHAT constructs that refers to the roles of the agent and members of the community immediately involved in the given activity system. Rules a CHAT construct that refers to the arrangements, norms, or agreements in the community, according to which, each member of the community including the agen t is expected to act. Action a CHAT construct that refers to a unit of analysis. Actions are finite steps that an agent completes towards satisfying his/her motive and transforming the object of activity into an outcome. Action is identified through the What is being done to achieve Disturbance a CHAT construct that refers to a tension, a problematic situation that Innovation a CHAT construct that refers to a sol uti on, whose purpose is to smooth the flow of the everyday actions of the agent when a disturbance occurs Such innovations 68). Contradiction a CHAT construct th at refers to the underlying source of disturbances and innovations. As such, contradictions are manifested through disturbances or

PAGE 30

14 innovations that arise in everyday actions (Engestrm, 1987). They are formulated in terms of a conflict of dual nature where one alternative contradicts the other, expressed by means of versus between, and or Consequence a construct that refers to any outcome of a contradiction at the activity level. This may include emergence of new activities as a result of contradiction s, or new models of the same activity where a modification of a mediator took place (modified instrument, new division of labor, rule, or community). Bridge course an English medium course that teaches a college level subject matter to students whose pri mary language is other than English. A bridge course helps students transition from target language courses to subject matter courses delivered in the target language. A bridge course incorporates linguistic support in the form of glossaries, multiple revi sions of assignments, analysis of academic writing genre, and other means. English as a foreign language the linguistic medium of instruction for the bridge course. It is a language that is not native for the target students and that is not commonly spo ken in their environment. Delimitations and Limitations The notion of delimitations, that is external validity or generalizability, in this study is different from typical quantitative research. Lincoln and Guba (1985) propose an equivalent of external va lidity in qualitative research, and they term it transferability. Transferability implies thick description of the setting and participants of the study so that the reader could be assisted in transferring the knowledge that the researcher acquired in his or her study to another setting, however similar or dissimilar it is. Eisner (1998), too, prefers to talk about (p. 198), which in turn refers to the idea of veris imilitude or lifelikeness that Bruner (1986) suggests. Thus, being qualitative in nature, this study aimed for transferability. The findings

PAGE 31

15 of this study are likely to be more easily transferred to contexts that are as similar to the setting of the propos ed study, such as other BIHE online CBLI courses. However, given the definition of transferability the findings could just as well be applied to other contexts The same assump tions of research discussed above apply to the notion of limitations. While in quantitative research limitations are due to the lack of internal validity in the study design, in qualitative research, these limitations may be due to the lack of credibility. Chapter Three discusses means of ensuring credibility in this study, but there are factors that undermine this characteristic. Such limitations are mostly due to the online nature of the research, theoretical framework, and the culture of the student part icipants. Because the study was conducted exclusively via distance, the quality of the data collected suffered tremendously. One reason is the lack of extra linguistic support during the interviews with intermediate English proficiency participants. Anoth er cause of this limitation was numerous technical problems during interviews, such as distracting noise and prolonged delays. Inability to directly observe the student participants' actions was another serious handicap. In fact, many findings in this stud y remained inconclusive because there was insufficient evidence that could only be collected with direct observation of the related actions. Due to the lapse of time between the actual event and the interview, the participants inevitab ly forgot many disturbances and innov ations occurring in their everyday course related actions. In terms of theoretical limitations, they refer to the lack of agreement in defining certain CHAT constructs, such as object at the level of activity as seen by CHAT theorists (Engestrm, 1987) versus object at the level of actions as envisioned by Vygotsky (Engestrm, 2001). There is also a different understanding of subject as being collective or individual (Davydov, 1999). There is also no clear guidance on wh ere in the activity system

PAGE 32

16 to place such mediating factors as instructors; they may belong to the nod e of instruments community rules, or as subject of an external activity system causing tertiary contradictions Probably, the most hindering of all theor etical limitations for this research is the lack of operationalization of contradictions within and between the elements of activity systems. Most of this guidance comes from Engestrm (1987), but his few examples were not sufficient to extrapolate the pri nciple to the cases in my research. Finally, the culture of politeness and respect that seems to permeate everyday interaction of Iranian s might have affected the credibility of this study too. There was some evidence from the interviews that indic honest at the expense of appearing too critical, hence impolite and disrespectful. As a result, some responses to the interview questions were elusive despite my effort to ensure confidentiality. Attributing this characteristic to all Iranian s would be stereotypical. However, it is possible that this cultural element affected the quality of the data obtained in this study.

PAGE 33

17 Significance of the Study As was explicated above, the study aimed to achieve tw o goals: theoretical understanding of expansion in SLA and practical guidance in that the knowledge of the nature of contradictions in this distance course allow s for a more informed implementation of other bridge courses at BIHE. Given the transferability of the study implemented through the thick description of the setting and procedures, the findings of this study may also be helpful for a broader audience of distance CBLI researchers and practitioners. Finally, this study contributes to the further refi nement and understanding of the CHAT framework, which is still in the developmental stage. This dual significance of the study is typical of CHAT research. Engestrm emphasize that development of CHAT theoretical concepts takes place incrementally through localize d practice uch intermediate theoretical concepts provide a two way bridge between general theory and specific practice

PAGE 34

18 CHAPTER TWO: LITERAT URE REVIEW Introduction to Chapter Two The study is hea vily driven by its theoretical framework cultural historical activity theory (CHAT). It defines the epistemological stance of this research, guides methodological decisions, and shapes the language of the study. Its complexity is another reason for speci al attention to this theoretical framework. It has a long history starting from German idealist philosophers: Kant, Fichte, and Hegel, and as such, has deep philosophical roots and concepts. With this in mind, much of the content of this chapter is going t o discuss CHAT. Since the time CHAT came into existence in its original form in the 1930s in the Soviet Union, it has been applied to a variety of contexts. Many Russian scholars philosophers and psychologists contributed to the development of CHAT as a theory that explains human learning and applied it to investigate learning processes, primarily of young learners (Davydov, 1999; Davydov, Zinchenko & Talyzina, 1982; El'konin, Galperin, 1969; Leont'ev, 1975, 1981; 1989; Leontiev, 1981; Zinchenko, 1981) In recent years, CHAT has drawn much attention of Western scholars who further contributed to the development of CHAT. Among the most cited contributors are Cole (1996), Engestrm (1987), Kuuti (1996), Nardi (1996a), Thorne (2004), Wells (2004), Wertsch (1998) to name just a few. Many studies have employed CHAT as a heuristic to understand human activity and to provide recommendations for improvements. Engestrm (1987, 1989, 2001) and his colleagues have used CHAT to study activities in clinics, hospitals courts, and schools, to name just a

PAGE 35

19 few contexts. There is a strong CHAT movement in the field of human computer interaction (HCI). Exemplary in this respect is the book edited by Nardi (1996a) that highlights the works of researchers who chose to depart from traditional cognitive interactionist models of HCI and applied CHAT to account for the missing cultural and historical aspects of HCI (Christiansen, 1996; Kuuti, 1996; Bodker, 1996, 1997; Kaptelinin, 1996; Holland and Reeves, 1996). In line with this strand of research, many scholars are investigating new emerging technologies and e learning opportunities in light of CHAT (Barab, Barnett, Yamagata Lynch, Squire & Keating, 2002; Greenhow & Belbas, 2007; Mwanza; 2002; Turner & Turner, 2001). Finally, re searchers from the field of second language acquisition have applied CHAT to a number of studies. Some of them have looked at features of pedagogical tasks and differentiated them from student constructed activities (Brooks & Donato, 1994; Brooks, McGlone & Donato, 1997; Coughlan & Duff, 1994; Platt & Brooks, 2002; Roebuck, 2000; Yilmaz, 2005). Others have looked at different elements and dynamics of language learning activities as defined by CHAT (Lantolf & Ahmed, 1989; Lantolf and Genung, 2002; Li, 2007; Storch, 2004; Thorne, 2000, 2003, 2004). A few other studies investigated SLA related issues pertaining to teacher development and vocabulary retention, such as Ban (2006) and McCafferty, Roebuck and Wayland (2001). This selection of studies is but a tip o f the iceberg of the much larger body of the research that has been conducted using the CHAT framework. While this study has much in common with most of the above cited research in terms of their focus on computer technologies and second language acquisiti on, few if any of them have dealt with issues pertinent to this particular study. To my knowledge, there is no research that has investigated content based language instruction per se, let alone in connection to distance education. An exception could be Ba sharina's (2004) study on contradictions of language learners engaged in an activity of an international telecollaboration (see p. 45 ) This dearth

PAGE 36

20 of previous research and literature at this intersection of disciplines renders th is study both challenging and exciting. It is challenging in that there is little previous work to lean on. It is exciting because it promises to open up a new venue at the age when distance education and ability to use a foreign or second language for rea l life academic or professional purposes are becoming a norm. Given its interdisciplinary nature, this chapter consists of multiple sections organized according to their focus. The first section describes CHAT and its central concepts and constructs specif ic to the study. The second section provides a review of the literature on content based language instruction. The third section discusses major trends in distance language education. Each section concludes with a summary of the literature and implications of the findings for the current study. Finally, the concluding section synthesizes the three previous sections guided by the particular focus of this study, i.e. contradictions in activity systems of learners. More importantly, it defines CHAT and its cen tral components as they apply to the specific context of the study. Theoretical Framework: Cultural Historical Activity Theory Introduction to the Theoretical Framework This part of the literature review lays down the theoretical foundation for the study a nd in some way s puts the rest of the chapter into perspective. It starts with a historical overview of the cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) and culminates in the discussion of concepts and constructs central to the proposed study. Engestrm (200 1), a modern activity theorist, discusses the evolution of CHAT in terms of three generations starting from the beginning of the 20th century and ending with the most recent developments. This approach provides a simple and clear chronological

PAGE 37

21 explication of this complex and still evolving theory. What follows is the discussion of these three generations with a particular focus on contradictions of CHAT. First Generation of Cultural Historical Activity Theory CHAT shares its origins with the sociocultural t heory of learning (also referred to as cultural historical psychology) founded by the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky's legacy gave rise to a number of related and yet differing interpretations and developments of his works advanced by scholars across the world. In his brief historical accounts of activity theory, Alexei Nikolayevich Leont'ev (1989), a colleague of Vygotsky's and the rightful founder of activity theory, shares his memories of the birth of the sociocultural theory in the walls of the Institute of Psychology in Moscow in 1925. The ideas of the twenty nine year old Vygotsky, who had recently joined the Institute, were quite radical given the mainstream behaviorist interests that pervaded the Institute and indeed the whole field of p sychology in Russia and abroad. While his colleagues were engaged in experiments on stimulus response reactions on rats, Vygotsky was perusing the works of Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Engels and building a new theory of human psychology. Vygotsky's theory expla ins the development of man in four domains: phylogenesis (the evolution of humans from apes), sociocultural history (development of man throughout human history), ontogeny (lifelong development of an individual person), and microgenesis (short term psychol ogical developments of an individual person) (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006). According to Vygotsky (1983b), phylogenesis and sociocultural history become molded in the ontogenesis of an individual child, as he or she replicates the entire biological development of man and the acquisition of the human cultural heritage accumulated throughout the long history of mankind. While Vygotsky himself did not produce much research in the microgenesis domain, many of his contemporary and

PAGE 38

22 probably most of the modern follower s have used the sociocultural theory to investigate psychological changes particularly in this domain of human development. However, it appears that most scholars recognize Vygotsky's genius because he resolves the eternal problem with the dualism of the concrete and abstract, material and ideal, body and mind (Engestrm, 1983). This problem stems from the notion of consciousness, which takes a central role in the works of Marx, Vygotsky, and Leont'ev. According to Leont'ev (1975), philosophers and psychol ogists before Marx (here he refers to idealists, existentialists, phenomenologists, and psychoanalytics) failed to grasp the nature of consciousness. Marx, however, proposed a unique understanding of consciousness as a product of social relationships. Leon t'ev's son, Leontiev, Alexei A. (1981), a passionate adherent of his father's ideas explains the development of consciousness in these terms: This form of reflection mental reflection occurs only at a definite level of biological evolution, and constit utes the precondition for further evolutionary development in the animal world. But in animals the possibility of mental development is limited by the fact that each individual animal establishes a direct and non mediated mutual relationship with the envir onment and the objective world at large. [...] The emergence of society and labour means that in man mental reflection acquires a qualitatively new form that of consciousness (p. 5). Consciousness of children similarly emerges as a result of socializing with the physical world. With the consciousness emerges the language as a way to objectify the world (Leont'ev, 1975). Leontiev, A. A. (1981) expounds on this idea in the following way; "[w]ithout language, consciousness as a human form of mental reflect ion would be impossible. [..]. Only because consciousness rests on social experience and direct social practice is man able to come to conscious terms with objects and events" (p. 6). The

PAGE 39

23 triangle in Figure 2 demonstrates that mediation of objects in human actions becomes the link that connects the material objects with its ideal reflection in human mind by means of mediating psychological instruments, among which language takes an exclusive role. Figure 2. mediated and objec t directed action. This triangle is implicitly or explicitly present in many studies conducted within the sociocultural theoretical framework. It demonstrates the central premise of the theory about the relationships between three central elements of human action: subject, instrument, and object ( Figure 2 ) (Engestrm, 2001). Methodologically, this approach considers human actions as a primary unit of analysis. Vygotsky (1987) makes this point through an analogy of a molecule of water, which includes "all th e basic characteristics of all" (cited in Wertsch, 1998, p. 26). Understanding human action situated in a given cultural historical context reveals the complexity of that action and its relationship to the surrounding influences. To further explicate this triangle diagram in Figure 2, man, as a subject in this triangle, performs all conscious actions towards achieving an object strictly by means of mediating instruments, either physical, such as a pen or hammer, or psychological, such as language, also call ed signs. Conscious actions, such as writing, hammering a nail, using voluntary memory, attention giving, or conveying thoughts are examples of higher psychological functions. Spontaneous unconscious actions, such as immediate removal of the hand from a bu rning stove, result from lower psychological functions and take place directly between subject and object through the stimulus response mechanism (see the horizontal line

PAGE 40

24 connecting subject and object in Figure 2). While lower psychological functions are i nherent in the biological makeup of the human body, higher psychological functions are acquired only through human interaction, where signs, i.e. psychological instruments, such as language, are of primary importance (Vygotsky, 1983b). Vygotsky explains th e ontogenesis of higher psychological functions as being social in origin. As newborns come into social contact with adult caregivers, they start developing their higher psychological functions through the assistance of the adults. Thus, a mother would fir st draw attention of her child to certain things in their environment. At this stage, becomes voluntary. As Vygotsky puts it, the child from being directed by others, starts to direct him/herself. Wertsch (1998), a leading expert in Vygotsky's theory, calls these levels Similarly, lan guage, as a sign system, first exists at the intramental level, and then transformation of the brain (personal translation, 1984, p. 15). Thus, speech first exists in its social function and is always externally produced. By the time higher psychological functions have developed enough, speech acquires another function that of cognitive. In its cognitive function, language is referred to as inner speech, and as such, it is never externally produced. However, the language part of the brain is still actively engaged during thinking processes even if a person is not speaking. This was confirm ed by studies that recorded electrical brain activity (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006). One should note that speech does not suddenly change from being social to inner.

PAGE 41

25 languag e becomes internalized, speech moves more and more inside the brain, and at this stage, we can observe egocentric speech in children. Egocentric speech is a mix of social and inner speech, in that it is externally produced as a social speech, but it primar ily fulfills a cognitive function to facilitate a thinking process. In fact, Vygotsky (1983a) asserts that egocentric speech is typical when a child encounters a problem in understanding something. In second language acquisition, egocentric speech is usual ly termed private speech, which was introduced by Flavell (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006). Another important contribution of Vygotsky (1982b) is the concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD). ZPD is a difference in the quality of human action performed w ith and without an expert assistant This concept underlie s the importance of collaboration with the presence of a more competent person in the learning process. It helps to identify the developmental potential in a child. Imitating an adult is actually co nsidered a form of working in the ZPD. As a child imitates, he/she goes beyond his or her present level of development, and this going beyond facilitates the internalization process. Second Generation of Cultural Historical Activity Theory As was mentione d earlier, Leont'ev, A. N. worked closely with Vygotsky. Later, however, Leont'ev moved to Kharkov, a city in the Ukraine where he established the Kharkov Psychological School (Leont'ev 1989). This school produced a number of renowned activity theorists. T his is where we start tracing the roots of the actual activity theory. Leont'ev gave Vygotsky's ideas a new direction. Leont'ev's (1981) outstanding contribution was that he added another layer of the unit of analysis that of human activity. By doing th is he shifted attention from the level of human actions to the level of human activity. In his interpretation of Marx's works, human activity, of which labor is central, constitutes the driving force of human evolution. Leont'ev

PAGE 42

26 explains his view of activ ity employing a well known analogy of a collective hunt by primeval humans. From the perspective of an individual bush beater, his hunt activity is motivated by the need for food or clothing. His specific actions in the hunt are the beating of the bush to scare away the animals in the direction of his co hunters waiting to attack. The beater's action of his activity is then the beating of the bush, and it is directed at the goal of sending the animals in the right direction. Finally, the operations of his a ction are the shaking of the bushes or whatever other specific body movements or sounds he has to make to accomplish his actions. His operations are controlled by condi tions under which he performs the operations. Conditions can facilitate the shaking of t he bushes or inhibit it. To extend Leont'ev's example, if the ground for example was wet after the rain, conditions could worsen and affect the operations, thus making it harder to maintain a stable position and shake the bushes properly. Table 1 Hierar chy of activity. Adapted from Lantolf and Thorne (2006, p. 217) Everyday description Unit of analysis Oriented toward Carried out by Time frame Why something takes place Activity Motive, transformation of object Community and/or society Recurrent, cy clic, iterative What is being done Action Goal Individual or group Linear, finite The actual doing Operations Condition(s) Individual Present moment, process ontology

PAGE 43

27 Lantolf and Thorne (2006) offer a concise summary of the three levels of activity in the form of a chart (Table 1). Every next level of the activity starting from the bottom up is built upon the preceding one. Action is built upon operations, and activity is built upon actions. One and the same set of operations can be used to accomplish different actions. To further develop Leont'ev's analogy, shaking the bushes and making other noises can be applied to achieve different goals, i.e. to accomplish different actions, such as sending a herd of animals in a certain direction vs. p erforming a ritual. Similarly, one and the same action can be accomplished to reach different objects, hence be motivated by different reasons. Again to extend, Leont'ev's example, the beater could scare away the animals because he wants to receive his por tion of the meat and skin vs. because another hunter forced him to perform this action, so he complied in order to stay away from trouble. In fact, Leont'ev (1975) makes it clear that in human activity, goals of actions are typically different from motives of the activity. He goes on to say that subjects rarely realize their motives without in depth analysis of their own activity, whereas they certainly understand their goals. He suggests that motives should be identified objectively by observing the subjec t's behavior and by paying particular attention to the emotional reactions that may accompany the activity of interest. directly to the findings of the study. Emotion s and feelings play a decisive role in human activity. He admits that while it may seem that the psychology of objects concerns co gnitive processes only, in reality much of the anatomy of objects has to do with emotions and needs ). He dis an internal condition, as one of the necessary precursors of activity need as that which directs and regulates concrete activity of the subject ( The category of objective activity, 15 ) An animal, he continues, is moved by its hunger, which is the function of the first type

PAGE 44

28 of need. However, the animal cannot direct or regulate its search fo r food the way a human being engaged in a food procuring activity can which is the function of the second typ e of need : Need is an object of psychological cognition especially in its directing function. In the first place, need appears only as a condition of the need of the organism and is in itself not capable of evoking any kind of positivel y directed activity; its function is limited to the activation of appropriate biological function and general excitation of the motor with an object that answers it does it first become capable of directing and regulating activity (The category of objective activity, 15 ) To illustrate this extraordinary event, I would like to use an episode from a recent Oscar nominated movie August Rush (Sheridan, 2007). The protagonist of the story is a n 11 year old orphan ed boy who calls himself August Rush. August is a musical genius He hears music everywhere, and it guides him to his parents He travels to New York to find his parents as his intuition inspires him. He goes through v icissitudes of a homeless life until one day he hears music in a church. He enters the church and stays there unnoticed by the inhabitants. Next morning, wandering around the church, he finds a girl who sang in the choir the other night. She is sitting at the piano. They start a conversation during which he admits that he loves music more than food and that he never tried playing the piano. The girl has to go to school and leaves August at the piano. This encounter of the main protagonist with the piano is 1978 ) definition. While the girl is at school, August unlocks the secret of the piano and composes a number of original pieces of music. The mysterious part of the plot aside, t need with his new object, the piano, which for him embodies music, immediately explodes in a new activity. The transformation of this new object is so fast that in a matter of weeks,

PAGE 45

29 he is granted an opportunity to conduct his own rhapsody at the C entral P ark in New York i n front of thousands of people. Perhaps not all encounters of human needs with their objects result in such dramatic ally evolving activities, but this example is illustrative of the extraordinary event in the psychology of human objects that remains hidde n from the routines of everyday life unless it is brought to the fore by the artistic powers of writers and movie producers To conclude the discussion of Leont'ev's contribution to Vygotsky's work, human activity is always collective, and as such it repr esents a complex web of multiple factors acting upon it. In Leont'ev's activity theory, the original Vygotsky's triangle ( Figure 2 ) appears at the top part of the larger triangle referred to as an activity system (see Figure 3 ). The subject is engaged in a n activity towards an object. Drawing on Engestrm's other factors of the activity system: community, division of labor, and rules. These elements can be identified in Leont'ev's (1981) hunt analogy as well. Being a collective hunt, this activ ity involves a group of people working towards a common object procuring food and skin for the community. Every participant of the hunt has his roles; for example, beating of the bushes is the role of the beater. These roles result from a certain divisio n of labor. Finally, rules include agreements among the hunters as to who is doing what, at what point of time, in what order, and the like. As one can notice, these three elements (community, division of labor, and rules) are so inextricably tied to each that it is impossible to describe one without involving the other s Engestrm (2001) visually represents these complex relationships among the elements of an activity system and uses double headed arrows to show their mutual effects on each other, as one c an see in Figure 3. It becomes obvious

PAGE 46

30 that each individual participant of an activity has his or her own structure of the activity system because the subject may be driven by differing motives even though they may be using the same instruments, belong to the same community, and follow the same rules and principles of division of labor. This understanding of human activity is crucial for the proposed study because while every individual student will be part of the same distance course and completing the sa me assignments, they will in fact be working in quite different activity systems and exposed to somewhat differing elements of their activity systems, such as their communities (e.g., their families), instruments at their disposal, and most certainly the o bjects of the multiple activity systems they will be engaged in throughout the course. Figure 3. A model of the second generation of the activity theory (Engestrm, 2001, p. 135). Third Generation of Cultural Historical Activity Theory Leont'ev' s work was further developed by a number of scholars from the Russian school of psychology as well as those from the West. However, the most well known name among activity theorists in the West is probably Engestrm. He argues that focusing on only

PAGE 47

31 one act ivity system prevented researchers from investigating the potential influences from outside of this activity system (Engestrm, 2001). Thus, the third generation of CHAT takes Leont'ev's activity system to yet another level by introducing multiple activity systems into the picture (see Figure 4 ). This view of CHAT has revealed previously hidden interactions among multiple activity systems involved in one collective endeavor. Figure 4 shows for instance, how two objects formed in two separate collective act ivity systems come together to form a new object common to two different groups of people (Engestrm, 2001). Engestrm's contributions, however, went beyond that. Using previous work on activity arch, he formulated five principles of activity theory that have direct connection to the proposed study. Figure 4. A model of the third generation of activity theory (Engestrm, 2001, p. 136). The first of these principles is that "a collective artifact mediated [same as instrument mediated], and object oriented activity system" should be viewed in the context of other surrounding activity systems, i.e. the network of activity systems (Engestrm, 2001, p. 136). This principle is in essence the reiteration of Leont'ev's ideas. In his discussion of the psychology of personality, Leont'ev (1975) insists that individual psychological characteristics, whether inborn or acquired, provide little information about the true personality of a person, unlik

PAGE 48

32 ersonal translation] (p. 60). Figure 4. Interactions of surrounding activities and potential contradictions within and between them (Engestrm, 1987). Engestrm (1987), however, takes this general idea of Leont'ev and proposes a more in de pth explication of the interaction of activity systems and their potential effects on one another. For instance, he talks about activity systems that produce the subject, instrument, object, and rule elements in the central activity system. In Figure 4 one can see subject producing, instrument producing, object producing, rule producing activity systems of the central activity system of a doctor's medical practice, an example suggested by Engestrm (1987). To expand on this example, the subject producing ac tivity system could be a medical school. The instrument producing activity system would be a company that

PAGE 49

33 provides the doctor with necessary supplies and instruments for his work. The object producing activity could be the patient's health or recovery, and everything that may affect its construal and definition. Finally, the rule producing activity system is the administration of the medical practice that establishes and enforces regulations implemented in the practice. The second principle that Engestrm ( 2001) suggests is the multi voicedness of activity systems, realized in participants' traditions, interests, opinions, and the diversity of instruments, rules, and histories present in any activity system. Partly this multi voicedness comes from the divisi on of labor that creates different roles, hence perspectives of the participants. Partly, the multi voicedness is inherent in the fact of any single activity system is simultaneously interacting with the network of other activity systems that carry their o wn perspectives. The third principle concerns the historicity of activity systems, in that they always carry some past history and change over time. Accordingly, any activity system should be analyzed on the background of its history and the history of it s elements. Engestrm (2001) calls for the investigation of the past of an activity system and its elements as well as the present transformation of the activity system and its elements. Moreover, he recommends that the study of the history should be local i.e. applicable to the specific setting and global, i.e. applicable to concepts and practices in the field in general. Thus, for instance, "medical work needs to be analyzed against the history of its local organization and against the more global histor y of the medical concepts, procedures, and tools" (Engestrm, 2001, p. 137). The fourth principle is the role of contradictions in activity systems. Originally depth discussion follows) and further explicated by Ill' enkov (1977), contradictions are understood as potential causes of desirable changes in any activity system. A contradiction is

PAGE 50

34 interpretation, sense Engestrm proposes four levels of contradictions: primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary ( Figure 4 ). The primary contradictions, indicated as 1 in Figure 4, arise within the elements of the activity system: subject, object, instruments, community, ru les, and division of labor. Engestrm (1987) provides an example of instruments that a doctor uses in his practice. A doctor may be faced with a contradiction of how much to spend on the instruments to maintain his/her cost efficiency (i.e. a contradiction between use value and exchange value of medical instruments). The secondary contradictions (2) are those that emerge between these elements within an activity system. According to Engestrm, traditional instruments used in biomedicine (instruments) may be inadequate for diagnosing the patients with complex illnesses (object). The tertiary contradictions (3) arise when a culturally more advanced activity within the central activity of interest introduces a more advanced object or motive. This could be illus trated with a clinic administration introducing new methods of diagnoses that run counter to the traditions of some doctors in that clinic. Finally, the quaternary contradictions (4) exist between the central activity system and the outside activity system s. The latter could be of four types: 1) an activity system of object (e.g., diagnosing and treating patients), 2) a rule producing activity system (e.g., the clinic administration), 3) a subject producing activity system (e.g., doctors and nurses in a cli nic), and 4) an instrument producing activity system (e.g., company that provides drugs and other medical instruments). The fifth and last principle is the expansiveness of activity systems. As contradictions arise, and changes take place, participants re consider their object and motives, thus taking an activity system to a new level of development. This reconsideration of the object and motives of activity system results from the cycles of internalization understanding the new

PAGE 51

35 phenomena, and externaliza tion production of new ideas and problem solutions based on the new understanding (Engestrm, 1999a, 2001). More on Contradictions In his account of the learning activity of a child, Leont'ev, A. N. (1981) talks about the change of motives in two interac ting activity systems. In his example, a child, whose dominant activity is play, naturally does not want to do homework, which belongs to an activity system brought in by a more culturally advanced representative his parent. Thus, the child experiences a conflict between two motives: to have fun and to get a good grade, of which the latter is not desirable. By Engestrm's (1987) definition, this conflict is a contradiction of tertiary level, in that the parent, a representative of a more culturally advanc after the homework is done. This takes effect, but the child still experiences resentment and a conflict at the action level when completing the homework assignment because from the child's perspective his efforts to do homework do not yield desirable results. Thus, for the child, the conflict between two motives at the activity lev el still remains acute. Leont'ev suggests that this struggle is temporary, and that over time the object of the culturally more advanced activity will take over the child's dominant one. In his scrupulous and a book long discussion of the nature of learnin g activity, external activity system conflict. Engestrm reaches to the roots of this conflict in the inner contradictions inside the culturally advanced activity system. He argues that the new motive of getting a good grade, present in the culturally advanced activity system, is not the right motive in the first place because it corresponds to the exchange value of the object, not the use value.

PAGE 52

36 In schooling settings with a capitalist socio economic fo rmation, the primary contradictions in the elements of activity acquire the nature of use and exchange value (Engestrm, 1987). In his example, text represents the object of learning. On the one hand, it can be studied in exchange for grades. On the other hand, it can be studied for meaningful use in real life. Instruments oriented towards exchange value require recall and memorization, whereas instruments that call for meaningful use of knowledge provide means for investigation and real life problem solvin g. Division of labor oriented towards exchange value calls for isolated roles, while division of labor oriented towards use value encourages cooperation. Community oriented towards exchange value produces a class of separate individuals, but when it is ori ented towards use value, it creates a team of inquiry. Rules oriented towards the exchange value force competition and adaptation. Rules oriented towards the use value encourage risk taking. Finally, a student as a subject is either a grade maker when orie nted towards the exchange value of the object, or is a sense maker when oriented towards the use value of his or her object. Thus, an activity where the subject is oriented towards the exchange value of the object leads to alienation. An activity where the subject is oriented towards the use value of the object leads to inclusiveness and collaboration. Engestrm (1987) does not mean to say that all primary contradictions (contradictions within any of the six elements of the activity) are inherently contradi ctions between use and exchange values. In fact, he makes a point that the nature of these contradictions depends on the socio economic formation of the given culture. However, even in his references to the socialist system in former Russia (such as the di scussion of Leont'ev's illustration above), Engestrm talks about primary contradictions as the dual nature between use and exchange value. The question is whether we can use this definition for any primary

PAGE 53

37 contradictions, including those in the proposed s tudy. I will use the following statement from Engestrm (1987) as a guidance in my research: when I here and later speak of capitalism, I do not imply that analogous contradictions [exchange vs. use value] would disappear in socialism. But I do imply that we cannot dump these two socio economic formations under one rubric of 'industrialized societies'. The inner contradictions of activities in socialism require their own analysis. (p. 36) This definition of primary contradictions in terms of conflict betwe en exchange and use values within the academic context was confirmed in this study despite the fact that Iran is not strictly a capitalist socio economic formation. One important premise derived from the research is that contradictions come to existence a t the level of actions (Barab et al., 2002; Bodker, 1996; Engestrm, 1987, 32). In this respect, Barab et al. (2002) conducted a study that has much in common with the proposed study. The researchers investigated contradictions that arise in an astronomy course, where students constructed models of celestial bodies using a three dim ensional animation application. One of the contradictions that the study focused on was a contradiction between the object to construct accurately the required model of celestial software. The researchers video taped and analyzed a number of actions that revealed an interesting dynamic understanding how the 3 D application worked and 2) understanding the moveme nt and relationships of celestial bodies. Thus, in the process of learning the subject matter of the

PAGE 54

38 course astronomy the students had to go through a number of disturbances caused by their limited knowledge of the application and the subject matter it self. In this study, the students went through a very similar cascade of actions, moving back and forth from the actions focused on content understanding to resolving disturbances with ry focus was on actions. triangle with its six elements of subject, instrument, object, division of labor, community, and rules. They justified this approach by re ferencing to a personal correspondence with Engestrm, who confirmed its theoretical consistency. Indeed, according to the theory, action can be performed either by individuals or a group of people (see Table 1). Because 2) study were working in groups, this solution makes perfect sense. One should remember, however, that staying at the level of actions may limit the researcher from seeing the root problems because any actions are directed by motives at the activity lev el. In other words, without knowing why an action is being carried out, the researcher will miss the bulk of the data and may misinterpret the findings. Thus, Engestrm (1999a) suggest s the researcher move from the level of actions to the level of activity In other words, looking at the level of specific learner's actions will help discern possible disturbances or innovations, whereas seeing the actual activity triangle will help define disturbances in terms of contradictions in the activity system. Put in Engestrm's Another aspect that literature disc usses without much variance is a duality inherent in any contradiction. Thus, at the primary level (within the six elements of activity system),

PAGE 55

39 Engestrm (1987) prefers to notate contradictions using the emphasize their dual nature For example, in his discussion of learning activity in modern school maker vs. sens e contradictions can be expressed with the Engestrm's (1987) example with school going, one may identify a secondary contradiction as a conflict between the learner's wish to work on an assignment individually (subject corner) and the teacher's requirement to work in groups (rules corner). Similarly, a tertiary contradiction could be a conflict between the student's object to earn a good grade in a foreign language course and the parents' admonishment to study the language to be able to use it in real life (object of a culturally more advanced activity). Cultural Historical Activity Theory and Second Language Acquisition Without a di scussion that highlights the application of CHAT in SLA, this section on the theoretical framework would be incomplete. The number of studies on SLA carried out strictly within the theoretical framework of CHAT is limited unlike SLA research in the broader framework of sociocultural theory the theory that is foundational to CHAT and that draws on the ideas of Vygotsky. What follows is a discussion of SLA research conducted within both sociocultural theoretical and CHAT frameworks. The former has significa nce to the proposed study in that many of its constructs share the same origin with CHAT and as such shed light on the present study. Sociocultural Studies in Second Language Acquisition

PAGE 56

40 ngaged in communicative tasks. One interesting finding of this research is that certain discourse features, such as metatalk (off task communication about the nature of the task), use of the learner's first language, and private speech are in fact the nece ssary features of language acquisition (Brooks & Donato, 1994; Brooks, McGlone & Donato, 1997; Yilmaz, 2005). This proposition runs counter to some cognitive interactionist views that such discourse features are undesirable or, at most, tolerable side effe cts. Sociocultural researchers, however, advance an argument that these discourse features are legitimate aspects of language acquisition because they 1) help establish a common goal for a collective action i.e. pedagogical task (in the case of metatalk); 2) act as mediational instruments (in the case of first language use); and 3) are manifestations of language internalization (in the case of private speech). These findings relate to several important constructs in sociocultural theory, which also find th eir application in CHAT: intersubjectivity and regulation. Establishing a common goal degree to which interlocutors in a communicative situation share a perspec 112). Regulation refers to the mediational means that a subject uses when achieving a goal. This regulation can come from another usually a more competent person, which is termed as other regulation, in which case, it also relates to the zon e of proximal development discussed above. The subject can regulate him or herself too without assistance from outside. One way we self regulate ourselves is through private speech, which as was mentioned earlier, emerges in difficult cognitive tasks. The re is a third type of regulation, called object regulation. In language acquisition, it is most easily elicited through picture description tasks, where a learner is relying on the actual object (pictures) to facilitate the action of description (McCaffert y, 1994).

PAGE 57

41 Aljafreeh and Lantolf (1994) conducted a study on the types of regulation language learners employ. They set up a task where learners worked with a researcher (a competent user of the language) correcting errors in their essays. The researcher p rovided different degrees of assistance starting from most implicit to elicit self regulation, moving to most explicit to elicit other regulation. They identified five levels of transition from intramental, i.e. internalized to intermental, i.e. not intern alized functioning (recall the discussion of intrapsychological and interspychological functioning of children in Vygotsky's works): Level 1: lea r ner unable to notice let alone correct the error Level 2: leaner able to notice the error but not correct it even with intervention Level 3: leaner able to notice and correct error, but only with help (under other regulation) Level 4: leaner able to find the error and correct it with little or no help. At this stage, the correction may be incorrect because th e development is not yet fully intramental and not automatized Level 5: learner becomes fully responsible for finding and properly correcting the error independently The researchers summarized their findings in three stages: (I) levels 1 3 other regula tion, (II) level 4 partial self regulation, and (III) self regulated and automatized development. Another strand of research considers the distinction between task as defined in the cognitive interactionist SLA field and activity as defined within the sociocultural perspective. SLA researchers in the cognitive interactionist camp conceive of tasks as being fixed variables, such as one way or two way tasks, closed or open tasks, which elicit differing types of language from the learners, hence a claim t o predict the degree of language acquisition in different tasks (Long, 1989). Research using the sociocultural framework, however, reveals that the so

PAGE 58

42 p. 175) are in fact not very stable varia bles. They seem to differ from one time to another across the same participants. The implication is that learners are most likely to construct their own goal oriented activities, different from what the teacher or researcher may expect. This finding was st rongly corroborated by Roebuck (2000) in her study on how learners what the researchers [...] would like the learner to do, and activity is what the learner actually doe s. Thus activity is how learners as agents It is important to note in the light of the previous discussion of CHAT constructs that this research deviates from the conventional operationalization of activity. It puts pedagog ical tasks that are finite, short term, and linear at the level of activity, whereas by definition, they belong to the level of actions (see Table 1). This, however, is not necessarily a theoretical inconsistency that the researchers overlooked. Vygotsky ( 1982a, 1982b, 1983) himself used the term activity (Russian: deyatelnost ) repeatedly in his works However, it was not until Leont'ev (1975) conceptualized activity theory that we started to refer to activity as a construct distinct from action. Thus, while there appears to be some theoretical mismatc h in this strand of research, the findings that the nature of pedag ogical tasks are not presumably teacher controlled as was sometimes believed are quite in line with the assumptions of CHAT. Cultural Historical Activity Theory Studies in Second Language Acquisition The above reported SLA studies considered concepts and constructs in the broader framework of the sociocultural theory. The next body of research comes closer to the conceptualization of CHAT that this study follows. One such strand of researc h concerns the higher psychological function of memory and how it plays itself out at the three levels of activity: operations, actions, and activity

PAGE 59

43 (Table 1). In their study, McCafferty, Roebuck, and Wayland (2001) investigated vocabulary retention follo wing the example of a math problem solving study by Zinchenko (1981). They conducted an experiment, in which the learners in the control group were given words for the essay and learners in the experimental group picked their own words for their own interv iew questionnaires and then interviewed each other. Using the data obtained, the researchers identified two categories of words: 1) those that were the objects of an action at least once, and 2) all the other words. Because in the three tiered hierarchy of activity, goal directed actions are controlled by consciousness unlike automated operations, the learners' recall was 100% in the follow up multiple choice quiz, unlike with the words in the second category with a 56% recall. Other researchers looked at t he shifts of subjects' motives as they were engaged in their activities, and how mediating factors such as rules, division or labor, instruments, and communities affected the development of the learners' activity systems. In their well cited case study, L antolf and Genung (2002) describe how the motives and goals of a Ph.D. student in linguistics, a former colonel in the U.S. Army, shifted throughout the semester while she was taking a Chinese class. Originally, driven by the long term Chinese, by the end of the class, she shifted to short and the goal of merely passing the class. The researchers identified the following factors that affected the subject in this study: 1) her history as a Ph.D. student and a military person, 2) the rules of the community, and 3) division of labor. from unwillingn ess to participate in a computer mediated communication (CMC) activity to the intrinsic desire to keep engaged in the activity (Thorne, 2003). Her shifts occurred due to switching to a more familiar artifact of instant messaging and due to the re engagemen t

PAGE 60

44 of her French CMC partner. As a result, the amount and depth of learning that the student experi enced within one week of very involved interaction were enormous. Another study, or, rules, and object of the activity shift too, resulting in a qualitatively and quantitatively different interaction, which affords more quality language internalization (Lantolf & Ahmed, 1989). ss revealed that the the outside activity systems. Computer savvy students tended to form a sub culture in the class CMC community to distinguish themselves from the classmates that were not as experienced in participating in online communities. Thorne is quick to note that this finding runs counter to the conclusion made by the previous research that CMC unlike face to face tasks cipation (Sullivan & Pratt, 1996; Beauvois, 1998). A recent study by Jin (2007) corroborates many of the above made conclusions about the unique insights that CHAT provides in SLA research. Her study investigated ESL aged in peer revisions tasks with their classmates via IM tools. Jin's findings confirmed the above cited research (Coughlan & Duff, 1994; Roebuck, 2000) that the same task is conceived of differently by individual participants at every given moment. Each participant in her study had their own activity systems with differing motives and goals that changed from one class and task to another. Further, her study supports the findings of Storch (2004) that some students can be engaged in multiple activity syst ems at the time, such as the writing task and having fun in an instant that her participants differed in their individual activity systems due to their histories and ag e support the claim of McCafferty et al. (2001) that actions and operations cognitively affect

PAGE 61

45 perience with instant messaging, the participants were at different levels of the class level activity system. For a participant with poor typing skills, typing in itself was an activity, while for others, typing belonged to the operations level, and as su ch they could direct their conscious attention to discussing their classmates' papers. Basharina (2007) comes closest to the present study with her work on contradictions in an international telecollaboration project where three groups of English learners from Russia, Japan, and Mexico interacted with each other in an asynchronous forum discussion throughout one semester. Broadly speaking, the researcher identified three types of contradictions: 1) intra king a forum post, between using formal or informal register), 2) inter cultural (unequal contributions from different groups of students, differences in understanding genres and plagiarism, and topic selection), and 3) technology related contradictions (t oo many messages, slow pace of interaction in an asynchronous environment, and gender confusion). and this present research. Basharina (2007) does not attempt to investiga te the relationships between the four levels of contradictions. Further, methodologically she chose not to identify contradictions through disturbances and innovations. Rather, she conceives of them as mere problems that nevertheless do have a dual nature. This may not necessarily be a theoretical misinterpretation in her study. However, I would still argue it is a simplification of a much more complex theoretical construct of contradictions and their role in the development of language learning activities. It is also a simplification in terms of removal of certain fundamental CHAT principles, namely, the historicity and expansiveness practically her research sheds light on typ ical problems that international telecollaborators

PAGE 62

46 may face, theoretically it does not provide much insight about the nature of expansion of telecollaborative activities, or let alone the nature of the language acquisition activity. Summary of the Theoret ical Framework To conclude this section on the theoretical framework, CHAT provides much guidance for the methodology of this study. It identifies the units of analysis, directs the focus of investigation, and describes the relationships among the particip ants of the study and many other related mediating factors. However, as a developing theory, CHAT needs further explication and grounding. For example, we still know little about the nature of transformation, particularly, the historical stages of developm ent (Davydov, 1999; Engestrm, 1999a). The distinction between individual and collective subject vs. community is another issue needing further work (Davydov, 1999). Methodologically, there are challenges capturing and depicting the very dynamic nature of activity systems over time (Engestrm, 1999a; Mwanza, 2002; Nardi, 1996b). With this in mind, the study takes a mix of grounded and theory guided approach. One also needs to be cautious about definitions of constructs. Some studies refer to activities, whi le meaning actions by CHAT definition (Coughlan & Duff, 1994; Roebuck, 2000, just to mention a few). There is an inconsistency in the use of object and goal. From the review of Vygotsky's work above, we know that subject reaches out to the object. And yet in CHAT's conceptualization, object belongs to the level of activity, while goals belong to the level of actions. Overall, however, these issues are not critical and relate to either a lack of coordinated effort in this is fast growing community of sociocu ltural and CHAT users and researchers or a lack of theoretical foundation, which this study attempts to address. The ultimate purpose of this section is to lay the foundation for the theoretical framework and introduce central concepts that will or may e merge in the study under

PAGE 63

47 consideration. Having done this, I will now proceed to the discussion the other two related areas: content based instruction and distance education. In the final conclusion, all three areas will be brought together as a projection of what this study will investigate in terms of contradictions in the activity systems of learners. Content Based Language Instruction Introduction to Content Based Language Instruction To my knowledge, no studies have been reported on college level CBLI courses carried out within the framework of sociocultural theory, let alone CHAT. This is surprising given the attention sociocultural theory pays to language as a primary mediating instrument in human actions and activity. Sociocultural theory and CHAT ex plain the phenomenon of CBLI very compellingly. According to the founding premises of these theories, as man reaches the object of his action, the mediating means that he employs improve to facilitate the transformation of the action (Leont'ev, 1975). This is how primeval humans in their attempt to accomplish everyday actions improved their tools for hunting, fire making, and the like. In CBLI, the object of activity is the subject matter, whereas the linguistic medium of instruction is the mediating instru ment. In the process of transforming the object, the subject also transforms this mediating instrument to more efficiently perform actions and transform the object. Thus, the legacy of sociocultural theory and CHAT provides unique insights in interpreting the findings of CBLI research. Content based language instruction (CBLI) emerged in foreign language (FL) education as a communicative based language teaching approach in that it places more emphasis on the meaning than the form of the language. Some Engli sh for academic purposes (EAP) contexts have shown a particular interest in the models of CBLI that use

PAGE 64

48 the subject matter of school courses as a means for learners to acquire academic competency in a second or foreign language. In particular, some report s in the EAP domain indicate that there are serious gaps due to the inadequate preparation of English as a second language (ESL) students for mainstream English medium college courses. Rose (1983) and Horowitz (1986) argue that typical assignments for univ ersity/college courses rarely included personal essays, where students create personal meanings, unrelated to the reality shared with the reader. Rather, students were commonly asked to argue for a position based on the information received in the course. Canseco and Byrd (1989) add that such students are expected to write in different formats following the guidelines of their professor. In a more recent study, Leki and Carson (1997) discovered some serious gaps between the demands placed on students in EA P courses in the U.S. such as Intensive English Programs and those in mainstream college courses. They found that most typical assignments in EAP composition classes (personal writing) turned out to be least represented in mainstream university/college cou rses. Conversely, the most typical assignments in university/college courses (which they refer to as content responsible writing) received the least attention in EAP classes. They also discovered that many ESL students had difficulty writing under time con straints and integrating information from textbooks and articles in a paper. In their earlier study, they found that ESL students lacked practice with speedy production of writing as well as exposure to a wider variety of academic discourses, besides essay s (Leki & Carson, 1994). Many of the above issues with EAP courses, where students focus on language learning per se and are not held responsible for content learning, are addressed in CBLI courses. This proposed study will look at a bridge course that ai ms to overcome this issue. While some challenges expressed above, such as timed writing, may not be related to the

PAGE 65

49 distance students in the given study, many other concerns still appear valid. One broadly defined concern could be referred to as differences in academic cultures. Much of the above said relates to the conflicts between instructors' expectations and students' perceptions of those expectations. Put another way, the culture of language learning differs significantly from the culture of college le vel subject matter learning. In the former the emphasis is placed on the language, while in the latter it is on the subject matter. The bridge course in this study, which serves as a transition from language to subject matter courses, placed much demand on the students in terms of the subject matter. What this section provides, then, is a discussion of CBLI courses similar to the bridge course under investigation, which will conclude with a summary of issues identified in the literature. The section that fo llows will first provide a broad definition of CBLI so as to place the current bridge course in the context of the literature. Then, the discussion will proceed to the CBLI cases divided into three categories: English as a second language, English as a for eign language, and foreign language CBLI cases. Types of Content Based Language Instruction Within higher education, CBLI has different manifestations. Back in the early years of CBLI on the North American continent, Brinton, Snow and Wesche (1989) ident ified three models of CBLI: theme based, sheltered and adjunct (see Figure 5 ). Figure 5. Continuum of content based instruction. Adapted from Brinton, Snow, Wesche ( 2003).

PAGE 66

50 According to their definition (Brinton, Snow & Wesche, 2003), all three models i ntegrate language skills in one course, but they differ in terms of the emphasis they place on the language vs. content. The theme based model prioritizes language instruction over the content, where the latter could be any theme of general interest to the students (e.g., American holidays, Mass media today, etc.). As students engage in reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities on a given theme, they learn relevant grammatical structures and vocabulary. The sheltered model is dramatically differ ent in that its primary objective is not the language, but the content a subject matter of a mainstream university/college course. Because all students in the sheltered model have limited language proficiency, the instructor provides extra support in the form of modifications, such as repetitions, use of visuals, slower pace, and simpler language. Finally, in the adjunct model, students learn the subject matter of a university/college course together with native speakers of the target language. Because t he demands and expectations in a class like this are higher than in a sheltered course, students with limited language proficiency attend a parallel, i.e. adjunct course. This class is taught by a language instructor who helps students better understand th e content of the mainstream course and overcome linguistic, cultural, and discoursal challenges as students complete their assignments. Since these three models were first introduced to the SLA field, many other developments have taken place in the CBLI d omain. In this sense, the fact that Brinton, Snow, and Wesche (1989) used the analogy of a continuum to describe the relationship among three models ( Figure 5 ) was rather foresighted. Many higher education institutions have since developed CBLI models that fall on the continuum around and between sheltered and adjunct models (to be discussed further).

PAGE 67

51 As regards this particular study, it focuses on the CBLI model in the middle part of the continuum ( Figure 5 ), and as such the bridge course under investigat ion is primarily a content course, with the secondary goal being the development of academic English competency. Content Based Instruction Cases The following section discusses CBLI examples reported in the literature. One should note that theme based cou rses, as defined by Brinton, Snow and Wesche (1989), have not been included in this review due to the exclusive focus on the CBLI models that prioritize content over language learning. The deciding factor for the inclusion of reports in this review is the role of the subject matter. Only those studies were included where the course content appeared critical for the learners either for professional or academic reasons. These studies are categorized by the school or program context: English as a second langua ge (ESL), English as a foreign language (EFL), and other foreign languages (FL). English as a Second Language Cases Most of the reports in CBLI come from schools and programs in the United States and Canada. Probably one of the most commonly cited cases i s the University of Ottawa, where in the 1980s, the school l a unched a series of sheltered and adjunct model classes for mainstream university courses, such as Psychology, Anthropology, History, and the like. Students had a choice of taking the course in th eir first language or second, English or French. The experimental studies conducted in this setting showed consistent positive results. The students taking these mainstream courses in their non native languages, either French or English, showed equal amoun t of learning of the subject matter compared to the native speaking course sections, and at least the same language gains compared to

PAGE 68

52 intensive language programs at University of Ottawa (Burger, Wesche, & Migneron, 1997; Edwards, et al., 1984; Hauptman, We sche & Ready, 1988). Another well cited setting is the UCLA, where in 1977, the university established a Freshman Summer Program (FSP) to help students with low English proficiency transition to mainstream university courses. All courses followed the adju nct model of instruction, so for each mainstream course, the students had to attend its language section. Similar to the findings from the University of Ottawa, these results demonstrated effectiveness of the courses, measured by the perceptions of the FSP graduates taking regular university courses, as well as by the results of the experiments comparing FSP students with ESL students in the Intensive English Program (Brinton, Snow & Wesche, 1989; Snow, & Brinton, 1988). Specifically, the FSP students perfo rmed equally well on the paper despite the fact that the FSP students had in fact a lower proficiency compared to the ESL students. Kasper (2000) shares a CBLI experience different from those above. Her students belonged to a low proficiency level taking a class in History of Psychology. To ensure content learning, Kasper introduced a fiction story at the beginning of the course that laid the foundation for the forthcoming academic readings. According to the author, the CBLI students outperformed regular E SL students in skill based classes on the reading battery and on the essay writing task. One would take caution, however, in interpreting the findings due to the limited information provided on the procedures of the experiment. Her earlier report on a stu dy that combined experimental and longitudinal methods convincingly shows that CBLI students outperform non CBLI ESL students both in short term goals measured with a post test and in long term success in college courses and rate of graduation (Kasper, 199 7). English as a Foreign Language Cases

PAGE 69

53 Unfortunately, very few CBLI studies have been reported from EFL contexts despite the fact that many schools in non English speaking countries, particularly in Europe, adopt English as a medium of instruction. The M iddle East Technical University in Ankara is one such example. The extensive school evaluation that Akunal (1992) conducted revealed some serious issues with English medium instruction at the university. Despite the fact that students were mostly satisfied with their receptive skills, they reported that the faculty did not help develop their speaking and writing abilities. The faculty in turn saw this approach viable and did not seek collaboration with language instructors who could facilitate language lear ning One may question the credibility of the author due to some inconsistencies in defining such constructs as sheltered and adjunct models or comprehensible input. However, the claims overall appear valid and well justified. Unlike the previous study, t he experience from the University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, proved more successful (Kerans, 2001). The report of the Sustained Content Language Teaching program for health science students is not a study per se, but the fact that this program has s tood the test of time is telling. Foreign Language Cases The reason for including language other than English in this review is the extensiveness of research in this area. While the target language is indeed different, the context in which the language is used is still the same the academic setting. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Monterey, CA has been a home to many CBLI courses of various models in a number of FLs. FL learners in this setting are professionals preparing for official work abroad in the areas of consular affairs, military, economy, and politics. The reported CBLI courses in Russian (Leaver, 1997), Serbian and Croatian

PAGE 70

54 (Corin, 1997), Indonesian (Chadran & Esarey, 1997), Arabic (Ryding & Stowasser, 1997), and Spanish (Stryker, 1997) had overall positive results in terms of content learning and advances in the target language. A common challenge identified in these studies concerns learners of lower proficiency who ended up taking classes higher than they could afford linguistically. Well designed courses specifically for beginning learners proved successful though (Corin, 1997; Leaver, 1997). This implies the importance of placing students in the The ex perience of the FSI programs proved so successful that it spread to other schools. Klahn (1997) shares her experience of a Spanish program at the Columbia University, which was built on the example of the Spanish program at FSI (Stryker, 1997). The graduat e students at the School of International and Public Affairs acquired extensive knowledge in the subject areas and performed better in terms of the language gains compared to previous non CBLI courses (Klahn, 1997). This experience in later years was repli cated in the Russian and Portuguese programs at Columbia University as well as in other universities in New York. A variety of other schools and programs in the U.S., Canada, and Australia reports consistent findings supporting the viability of CBLI cours es. Those include the FL across curriculum program at SUNY Binghamton (Straight, 1997), the Monterey Institute of International Studies (Shaw, 1997), the French program for journalism students at the Ohio University (Vines, 1997), a course in French at the Brisbane College of Advanced Education in Australia (Chappell & de Courcy, 1993), the Canadian French teacher immersion programs at the Simon Fraser University (Brine & Shapson, 1989; Day & Shapson, 1993) and the University of Ontario (Majhanovich & Gray, 1992), the Greek Mythology course at a U.S. university (Giaugue, 1987), and the foreign language immersion program at the University of Minnesota (Klee & Tedick, 1997).

PAGE 71

55 Summary of Content Based Language Instruction Most of the research reported above may not always be as rigorous due to the fact that many CBLI studies come from teaching practitioners. To summarize, much of this research celebrates the CBLI approach and provides supporting evidence. Others do not fail to discuss challenges of this curricu lum (Akunal, 1992; Klee & Tedick, 1997; Shaw, 1997; Stryker, 1997; Chadran & Esarey, 1997). What is important in the context of this study, however, is the synthesis of the challenges and ways in which they were overcome (see Table 2). Table 2 C hallenges and Recommendat ions from Literature on CBLI Courses Challenges Recommendations Lack of coordination between instructors and other important agents Provide administrative support Unsupportive or untrained instructors Provide instructor training and ed ucation Challenging content Modify instruction and materials by simplifying the language and using facilitating strategies Place students according to proficiency levels Sequence courses from easiest to most complex content and language wise Ensure of the subject matter Lack of improvement in speaking Give speaking and written assignments and

PAGE 72

56 and writing provide sustained and structured guidance on them Too complex language Proper placement of students by their proficiency level Disengagement of students Include authentic materials and tasks skills complains about nature of assignments and workload Set clear expect ations at the beginning of the course The information summarized in Table 2 is an outline of typical challenges and corresponding recommendations applicable to CBLI courses. Challenges and recommendations are theoretically different from the contradicti ons and consequences of this study. However, they provide an overview of disturbances that are to be anticipated in CBLI courses. Distance Education and Language Instruction Introduction to Distance Learning and Language Instruction The scope of the liter ature involved in this section varies from general discussion of distance education (DE), its concepts, history, and current status to more specific language learning and teaching issues. Given the wealth of resources on DE, I limit myself only to the disc ussion of central issues and trends in DE as they pertain to the current study. Literature on language learning and teaching in DE, however, is less abundant, and here I am able to highlight most of the existing themes in the literature. The summary ties t ogether major

PAGE 73

57 themes of this section and establishes preliminary connections among these themes and the constructs of cultural historical activity theory. History and Concepts of Distance Education Moore and Kearsley (1996) describe the evolution of DE as spanning across three generations. The first generation represented correspondence and independent study, and it dates back to the nineteenth century. Among pioneers was Isaac Pitman who started a correspondence shorthand course in England in 1840. A few years later correspondence courses spread to France and Germany. In the U.S., it was the Chautauqua Institute in New York that officially established program awarding degrees by correspondence methods. The emergence of independent study introduced in the 1960s by Wisconsin Madison professor Charles Wedemeyer, also belongs to the first generation of DE, according to Moore and Kearsley (1996). Today, independent study is also referred to as learner autonomy, which implies providing learners the freedom to e stablish their own timeline and pace of study and be self directed learners. Despite the fact that this philosophy was first introduced in the U.S., it does not seem to be prevalent in most DE programs in this country, a concern raised by Saba (2005), Gibs on (1998b) and a number of other scholars. This discussion is yet to follow in the remaining part of this section. The second generation of DE belongs to the middle of the twentieth century. According to Moore and Kearsley (1996), a major shift occurred d ue to the collaborative efforts of Charles Wedemeyer, who had just started the Articulated Instructional Media Project at the University of Wisconson, and a few advocates of DE in England. In 1969, the British Open University was established. This school d iffered significantly from previous DE models in that all of its students were distance learners and that it was an autonomous and self financing, degree granting distance university. Moore and Kearsley credit Professor

PAGE 74

58 Wedemeyer for this achievement becau se he was the one who indicated three flaws of DE that they could not overcome in the U.S.: lack of control over faculty, funds, and academic rewards (degrees and credits). The British Open University purposefully conceived its structure to eliminate these flaws at the root. Many other countries followed the model of Great Britain and have established open universities since then. Examples include the Athabasca University and British Columbia Open University in Canada, the Open University of Israel, the Ter buka University in Indonesia, a number of open universities in India with the Indira Gandhi National Open University being the largest and most influential, and many more (Guri Rozenblit, 1993; Muirhead, 2005; Panda, 2005; Saba, 2005). Many open universiti es distinguish themselves not only by capitalizing on learner autonomy through flexible curricula, but also by their capacity to reach out to diverse groups of the population who may not be eligible for more conventional types of schooling with their rigid admission requirements. Besides the emergence of open universities, the second generation of DE was also marked by a host of groundbreaking technologies: radio and video broadcasting via satellites, which resulted in teleconferencing capabilities. Produc tion of quality instructional materials, courses, and programs required an enormous amount of effort, money, and time, unaffordable for a single institution. Hence, at this stage, DE witnessed the formation of a number of consortia that represented a numbe r of universities and organizations working together to produce instructional resources so as to share them for the common benefit. At the turn of the twenty first century, DE is transitioning through the third generation of its development. This period i s marked by the emergence of Internet and multimedia technologies. These tec hnological achievements provide many affordances for smoother collaboration among learners and teachers and more independent and yet guided learning through multimedia products. To add to this historical overview by Moore and Kearsley

PAGE 75

59 (1996), this period has also allowed researchers to direct closer attention to the characteristics of distance learners and brought about a need for a post industrial and most modernist approach to DE (to be discussed further). Today, DE is becoming a norm across the globe. A single university in India, the Indira Gandhi National Open University, serves almost 1.5 million students including a large population of marginalized people (Panda, 2005). In In donesia, the Terbuka Open University had an enrollment of some 350,000 students according to a report in 1994 (Muirhead, 2005). In Africa, approximately 43% of the students in higher education are part of distance programs (Badat, 2005). In their report co mmissioned by the Sloan Consortium, Allen and Seaman (2006) state that in the Fall 2005 semester, some 3.2 million higher education students in the United States were taking at least one distance course. The steady growth in the enrollment of DE learners i n the U.S., however, is now slowing down. In general, DE learners constitute approximately 17% of all students in higher education in the U.S. This number is 25% in India (Panda, 2005). A big portion of the DE student body includes undergraduate or vocatio n oriented students. This trend seems consistent across many countries and continents: the United States, Africa, and Australia (Badat, 2005; Calvert, 2005; Seaman & Allen, 2006). Most DE courses and programs are offered by single or mixed mode mega univer sities; this trend again appears global (Badat, 2005; Calvert, 2005; Panda, 2005; Seaman & Allen, 2006). Issues in Distance Education This segment of the literature is important in that it highlights the most pressing issues in DE. It sets the stage for a more focused discussion of language learning and teaching in DE, and further for the purpose and questions of the actual study proposal. The issues are many, and they overlap. An effort was made to select those that are most informing for the

PAGE 76

60 present study They include: the outreaching capacity of DE, a shift of attention from technologies to pedagogy and learners, learner variables, and typical barriers in DE. All the references in this segment come from the most renowned experts in the field of DE workin g in different parts of the world. The outreaching capacity of modern DE is one of the victories of education. It is no surprise that distance and open education are so widespread in developing areas such as Africa and India, where the number of DE learner s is much higher than in the U.S., as is mentioned above (Allen & Seaman, 2006; Badat, 2005; Panda, 2005). This emancipating power of DE benefits all deprived and challenged pockets of global population: marginalized groups, such as females, minority group s, people from remote rural areas, financially challenged people, and those that are restricted due health, family, or work issues. This outreaching aspect of DE is not without problems. Badat (2005) brings up a concern of a Ministry of Education in Afric a about the quality of DE since it has become so widespread and easily accessible. There are on going problems with the lag of technological advances in many developing countries, as well as in rural areas of more developed nations (Badat, 2005; Panda, 200 5; Rennie, 2003). This outreaching capacity of DE has direct implications for the proposed study, where the Iranian target learners are marginalized and deprived of higher education on the grounds of religious beliefs. They have no other choice but to rece ive education via DE. This issue was raised by Paul (1990) in his discussion of learners (primarily using Canadian and Yugoslavian examples) who can only access education at a distance, and as such are forced to exercise learning styles that may be alien t o them. In other words, the outreaching capacity of DE is a double edged sword, and this may play out in the online course under investigation in the form of a contradiction.

PAGE 77

61 Another issue that stands out in the current literature is an awareness of the ov eremphasis on technology in DE. Jegede (2000) uses an analogy of the marriage of technology and distance/open education, which is now nearing the end of its honeymoon period, when the euphoria of using technology is suddenly going away. Thus, one of his ma in theses is that educators should be cautious about the bells and whistles of technologies if they are to meet their pedagogical goals effectively. Saba (2005) approaches this issue from a slightly different perspective. Talking about the situation in the United States, he brings up a social dimension to DE, which has been missing so far due the prevalence of the scientific paradigm in education that emphasizes the technological attributes of DE. Drawing on the works of other scholars, Saba makes a case th at we are about to embark on a new model of DE. Until now, education has been built on the principles of the pre industrial and industrial models. In the former, a teacher develops and delivers courses on his or her own. In the latter, administration comes into play to routinize the development and delivery of education by introducing division of labor, adding rigid timelines, standardized scores and methods of instruction. Saba argues that these two models do not fit the new demands. Learners need flexibil ity. Instead, a post industrial, post modernist view of DE is needed, where students are in charge of their own learning, create their own objectives, and set their own pace and time line, and where current learning management systems such as Blackboard an d WebCT are replaced with those that are driven by artificial intelligence, which guides the learner about possible courses and paths of action. This view of DE includes the following features according to Garrison and Anderson (1999, cited in Saba, 2005): maximized interaction, focus on meaningful learning outcomes, maximized active learning, flexible design, a systems view in its administrative affairs, and sustaining a distributed architecture. Interestingly, Saba believes that that small research school s are more likely to adopt this approach than mega

PAGE 78

62 universities that are caught in the loop of industrial model of education. It appears that he urges for DE to consider some of the practices and principles that open universities have been implementing for the last half century. This concern of overemphasis on technology may have some bearing on the proposed study. Going back to Jegede (2000), he talks about cultural border crossing when delivering education via distance. Technology that is used successfull y in one country may cause conflicts in the existing schema of the learners in another culture. In that case, accommodations will have to be made to the point of changing the conventional technology to better meet the pedagogical needs. Put another way, in the content based course under investigation, uses of technologies will have to be given due attention as possible sources of conflict in the existing schemata of the target learners. The next issue closely pertains to the above mentioned shift from techn ological to learner centered concerns. White (2005), a leading expert in distance language learning and teaching, was one of the contributors to a special issue in the Distance Education journal on the state of DE in the world. Her call in that paper is fo r consideration of learner related issues in current DE. She draws on an extensive body of literature to make her point that DE learners are a complex phenomenon, and in order to succeed in DE, educators must consider this phenomenon. Much of this complexi ty comes from considering the learner's perspective. This emic view provides a totally different picture of learners. One of the scholars that White (2005) brings up in her discussion is Morgan (1995) who raises the issue of student motivation. He refers to the notion of deep vs. surface learning proposed by Ramsden. According to this distinction, if a student takes a deep approach to learning, he or she has an intention to understand, unlike a surface student whose intention is to complete learning assign ments. The former "focuses on what is signified", while the latter "on the signs", i.e. the text itself (p. 56). The former relates to

PAGE 79

63 previous knowledge and attempts to apply new information to real life, whereas the latter tries to memorize information i n order to meet assessment demands. While for the former, the learning is self directed, for the latter it is imposed. This dichotomy could be applied to of a learni ng object. When students are oriented to the use value of learning, they are genuinely interested in learning. Conversely, when they are oriented towards the exchange value of the object, they learn for the sake of a grade or other surrogates of learning. Morgan's thesis is that educators should help their DE learners acquire a deep approach to learning, and there are ways to facilitate it by means of certain types of tasks, assessment, providing students some freedom, and the like. Morgan has been in the DE field since the 1970s, and one of his influential contributions to this field is the theory of transactional distance. Morgan (1993) set out to gather a large body data from multiple distance schools delivering instruction via different modes, such as r adio, TV, mail, and computer solutions. The result of his extensive research is a model that explains the interaction between distance learners and the success in the dis tance environment: course structure, dialogue, and learner autonomy. The course structure (S) is the amount of control that the course design imposes on the learner. Dialogue (D) is the interaction between the learner and the instructor. Thus, there are t wo continua along which distance course design can be placed, which result four ends of the continua: D S, D+S, +D+S, +D S. Finally, a regulate their learning processes, evaluate themselves, and set goals. Th us, the transaction distance increases as structure increases and dialogue decreases. According to this model, autonomous learners function successfully with great transaction distance, i.e. with little control and dialogue in the course design.

PAGE 80

64 Another prom inent researcher who investigates characteristics of distance learners is Gibson ( 1998b) He maintains that much if not most of the success in distance education is defined by students' academic self concept. He identifies process related and content relat ed factors that shape students' self concept. Among process related factors are: empathy of the professor, familiarity with the procedures, sense of accomplishment, ability to manage multiple social roles, and study skills including reading competency. Con tent related factors include: awareness of prior knowledge, familiarity with course expectations and format, and feedback among other things. Content related factors seem to be able to override the process related ones. Put another way, if a course is chal lenging in terms of content, students' self concept will diminish even if the process related factors are positive. To enhance DE learners' self concept, he proposes student orientations, workshops on study skills, transparent course expectations, samples of assignments, feedback from instructor, initiated contact from instructor especially at the beginning of the course. Gibson points out that distance learners' should be given opportunity to clarify for themselves their own goals and needs and shape their course experience accordingly. However, the emphasis on learner autonomy in a distance course can also be inhibiting if the student does not have adequate study skills. It is interesting to note that Gibson (1998b) recognizes the complex character of aca demic self concept. He stresses that this construct is a "situational attribute ... with specific institutional factors, emerging as influences" (p. 71). This multifaceted and dynamic nature of academic self concept is reminiscent of the CHAT perspective t hat too underlines the complex and constantly changing nature of human development. In fact, in a paper about the nature of context of distance learners, Gibson (1998a) draws a parallel between Vygotsky's understanding of individual development and ecologi cal systems theory developed by Kurt Lewin and Urie Bronfenbrenner. Given the theoretical

PAGE 81

65 affinity of these two theories, I would like to briefly discuss how Gibson applies ecological systems theory to understand the context of distance learners. Ecologic al systems theory views humans interacting in terms of four system levels: microsystems, mesosystems, exosystems, and macrosystems, each inserted into the other much like a Russian doll. Gibson (1998a) says that at the microsystem level, distance learners belong to certain immediate environments: distance course environment, workplace, family, and a circle of friends. At the mesosystem level, these microsystems interact in either facilitating or inhibiting ways, thus impacting the learners' development in t he distance course. Exosystems belong to a more global level, which the learners are not directly included in but still experience certain influences from. They may include the neighborhood, mass media, government agencies, transportation system and the li ke. Finally, at the macrosystem level, the learners experience "overarching institutional patterns of the culture and subculture, such as economic, social, educational, legal and political systems of which micro meso and exosystems are the concrete mani festations" (Bronfenbrenner, 1977, cited in Gibson, 1998a, p. 116). Thus, using ecological systems theory, Gibson (1998a) makes a point that researchers need to re consider their understanding of the distance learner context in a much broader and more dyna mic and interacting sense This perspective allows us to see additional, often hidden forces that exert inhibiting or enhancing influences on the distance learner from multiple interacting systems. From a practical standpoint, Gibson suggests: making meani ngful connections between course assignments and the learners' workplaces; considering learners' desire to have another life apart from school life; adjusting to seasonal differences in learners' lives ; and becoming aware of possible conflicting values of education and gender roles in the learners' environment. In other words, Gibson's (1998) thesis is for DE educators "to

PAGE 82

66 consider how the context might be seen as a partner in teaching and learner support" (p. 121). This view of the context is strikingly similar to that of CHAT. Given the any time and any place nature of distance learning, the researcher's task is to dig deep. This has certain methodological implications: prolonged and on going investigation of distance learners, attention to detail, an em ic perspective, and consideration of multiple forces affecting activity learners' systems, much in line with what White (2005) and Morgan (1995) said above. Gibson's (1998a) contribution also allows us to infer a presence and interaction of different activ ity systems and their objects: acti vity systems of learners' families work places, and f riends, and the inevitable inner and external contradictions arising from this interaction. Another learner variable that White (2005) talks about is learner autonomy T he aforementioned Paul (1990) looks at this issue from the perspective of open learning institutions. He urges open universities to take charge in preparing their learners to become autonomous, self directed, and independent. Some of the means he discus ses include instructional design, delivery, and students support mechanisms. Anderson and Garrison (1998) talk about learner autonomy in the context of meaningful learning, which is achieved when the balance of communication, control and collaboration is e stablished. Regarding control, they state that "[t]he issue of control will be radically challenged in higher education" (p. 110). This reiterates the above made point made by Saba (2005) when he refers to Morgan's distinction between autonomy and structur e. This section ends with a discussion of barriers in DE. In a sense, this theme summarizes the points raised above in terms of specific problems they breed. On the other hand, the theme is also in line with the central focus of the current study, i.e. c ontradictions in activity systems of DE learners.

PAGE 83

67 Yorke (2004) discusses barriers in DE in the context of student drop out and persistence rates, which by itself is a large area of investigation. He shares results of two major survey studies on barriers to persistence: 1) Yorke (1999) and 2) Davies and Elias (2003, cited in Yorke, 2004) which in total involved 4,000 full and part time students, including those who had already left their program by the time of the survey. The results of the studies are stri kingly corroborative. Most cited reasons for early departure from programs included: wrong choice of study, institution, or course; academic, financial, and personal problems; poor quality of the student experience, unhappiness with the social environment, and low satisfaction with institutional provision. Further, he provides a few possible factors that may help maintain student persistence: a sense of belonging; student engagement; clear expectations at the marketing stage; social aspect; frequent formati ve assessment; and use of interim failure for learning purposes. This last recommendation is especially pertinent to the current study. Yorke (2004) says that "interim failure may be a stage perhaps a necessary stage on the journey to terminal success" (2 9). This thought reiterates the idea that any contradictions in activity systems of learners are able to take the development cycle to the next level of provided they are resolved properly. Another well cited research on student barriers in DE belongs to Garland (1993). In her ethnographic study, she investigated 30 persisting and 17 withdrawing students in five distance courses at the University of British Columbia. Results revealed four categories of barriers: 1) situational barriers (poor learning envi ronment and lack of time), 2) institutional barriers (cost, institutional procedures, problems with course scheduling and pacing, problems with tutor assistance, instructional design problems), 3) dispositional barriers (lack of clear goal, stress of multi ple roles, time management/procrastination problems, conflicts in learning styles, self actualization needs, i.e. adult pride, psychological, social and economic factors), and 4) epistemological barriers (too technical or theoretical content,

PAGE 84

68 internal epis temological gap between content and expectations, lack of personal relevance and prerequisite knowledge). Language Instruction in Distance Education Distance language instruction has been around for some 150 years, when Charles Toussaint and Gustav Langens cheidt started presumably the first correspondence language course in 1856 (Moore & Kearsly, 1996). More recent discussions of distance language instruction took place around the 1970s and 1990s with the emergence of new types of technologies. Selman (1984 ) provides a brief history of distance education in Canada, where from 1977 through the 1980s, a number of distance programs ran in Ontario, Alberta and at the Open University in British Columbia. The primary technological media included telephone, audio r ecordings, print material, and radio. But, as the literature suggests, the hotbed of language distance education has been Europe. For example, Fesl (1993) and Bates et al. (1995) discuss the results of a Europe wide project that lasted from 1991 to 1995, w hose goal was to establish a virtual European Open University Network. The project was an experimental series of at least 15 telematic distance courses offered to over 1 400 students in 12 European countries 60 companies and involved design, development a nd implementation of new technologies: satellite TV, first computer conferencing, videoconferencing. Much of this endeavor placed focus on developing a cost effective system for multimedia design with authoring capabilities. At about the same time, the Ope n University in the U.K. started its distance language programs with similar technologies at hand (Hampel, 2003). Due to ongoing advances in technology, the field of distance language education continues to evolve rapidly. What follows is an account of som e of the recent discussions in this area: 1) technological aspects, 2) quality of DE

PAGE 85

69 research in language learning and teaching, 3) cross cultural issues, 4) online writing courses, 5) content based, task based and 6) English for specific purposes courses. As in the general field of distance education, technology related reports tend to lead the discussion in distance language education. One such strand is the issue of multimodality, which provides at least three modes of communication: visual, verbal, and acoustic. The idea is that students can select their preferred modes that match their learning styles. Hampel (2003) in discussing pros and cons of such audiographic applications notes that their advantages may lead to challenges. While audiographic softwa re has the capacity to develop oral competence in an authentic student centered environment, and caters for different learning styles, it tends to overload students and provides more technical problems among other things. A number of other studies with dif ferent distance courses, but mostly from the Open University in the U.K. yielded similar findings (Hambel, 2006; Hauck, 2007; Lamy, 2004). Wang (2006) takes the studies on audiographic applications to the next level by discussing videoconferencing in lang uage instruction. The researcher found similar types of interaction modifications that took place in videoconferencing sessions: repetition, expansion, rephrasin g, acknowledgment and reduction. He also found that this environment provided some of the suppo rting elements missing in audiographic applications: facial expression and pictures shown on camera. There are a few other types of technologies found in this strand of literature. Corda and Jager (2004) discuss the role of content management systems, such as Blackboard and WebCT in distance language instruction. They are concerned that these applications tend to make instruction more teacher and less student centered. Delcloque and Bramoulle (2001) remind us of the importance of authoring systems in dista nce language education. The authors believe that these applications could be a turning point in the development of

PAGE 86

70 language e learning in that they empower language educators to develop instructional materials independently of programmers. Evaluation S tudi es Lambert (1991) stresses the importance of more in depth research on pedagogical aspects of distance language instruction rather than just administering surveys. In this regard, three reports demonstrate different examples of evaluation studies of distan ce language courses. Cheng (2003) conducted a quasi experimental study with 30 students in an online and 30 in a conventional writing course. He found that the differences in reading proficiency, attitude, and interest rate were significantly higher for on line students than for conventional ones. It is important to note, however, that the online course was built around constructivist principles unlike the conventional course. Felix's (2003) approach was to investigate multiple distance language courses in d ifferent countries. She involved four high schools with a total of some 80 students. She then compared these results with her earlier research on college level distance students (Felix, 2001). Her scope of inquiry was broad but mostly included non parametr ic data, such as perceptions and attitudes for multivariate analysis. She found that the results of the high school students corroborated those of college students: 1) around 60% of th \ e students preferred to use a hybrid approach to instruction; 2) learni ng styles between working alone, with a partner, and in a group divided equally yielding around 33% for each category; 3) enjoyment increased as the semester progressed. There was also a strong correlation between usefulness and enjoyment of materials, sl ightly higher for high school students. College students rated general satisfaction slightly higher than high school students. Finally, Madyarov (in press) developed an evaluation framework with a mixed method approach for distance language courses drawing on the literature from both distance education and language instruction.

PAGE 87

71 The framework was then validated in a study of an EFL course in a Middle Eastern university, showing among other things that only lower level students demonstrated significant gains in language skills, specifically, listening and reading. These three examples illustrate attempts to undertake an in depth investigation of distance language courses, which often involves a mixed method design. In essence, some of the results corroborate the well known No Significant D ifference P henomenon according to which conventional courses are in general as good as distance ones (Russell, 1999). There is also a tendency for students to like a combination of face to face and online instruction, which corroborates some findings and recommendations in general distance education (Badat, 2006; Strambi & Bouvet, 2003). One particular study looked at cross cultural issues in distance language education. Gauriento (2004) discusses how a distance English cour se from Namibia was adapted for similar schoolchildren in Eritrea. The author brings up concerns pertaining to the epistemological and methodological clashes of interests between the host and receiving schools. This concern is reminiscent of Jegede's (2000 ) proposition when he earlier talked about crossing borders with distance education and how this affects students in the receiving country. Quite a few other reports discuss specific examples of courses that are of interest for the proposed study. Ayres ( 2003) talks about the design process for an in house course to teach the writing component of the well known proficiency test IELTS. Besides some technical aspects of course design, the author discusses pedagogical issues, particularl y, the inclusion of tu tors for individualized guidance on the students' papers. Anglada (1999) continues this theme in her dissertation about tutors in the online writing lab for EFL students. She discovered that much of the feedback as well as revisions were grammatical

PAGE 88

72 rather than global and structural. Overall, the experience turned out to be positive for the students. Other studies discuss CBLI courses as well as task based and English for specific purposes (ESP) courses, which are similar to the former in that they tend to concentrate on content more than skill based language courses. In their task based course Trayectorias, built on the principles of constructivist learning, Sole and Mardomingo (2004) discovered that students appreciated the freedom to select different rou tes and options provided in the course. It allowed the students to set their own learning goals and made the experience more meaningful. In his discussion of a correspondence ESP course for newly enrolled engineering students, Boyle (1994) highlights many pedagogical strengths and mentions a challenge with resources needed for the creation of solid correspondence courses. Vetter and Chanier (2006), besides discussing the use of audiographic software for delivering an online ESP course, state that beginning proficiency students can communicate content related ideas comfortably enough provided that the content is related to their field of study. One implication of their study is that multimodal environments with the use of text, audio, and graphics provide a s olid scaffolding for the discussion of such content via distance. Jones and O'Brien (1997) share their less successful experience with a minutes writing course for corporate workers. Their challenges included absence of motivation and certain skills needed for this kind of learning (time management, technical skills etc.) among the learners. It is interesting to note that these studies on CBLI, task based, and ESP courses do not discuss content related issues as much as one would expect, which could imply that their courses were either well scoped in terms of complexity of the content and student background, or that the content learning was not as critical in their courses.

PAGE 89

73 I shall conclude this section with a few studies that highlight some challenges in distance language courses. These challenges differ depending on the context and time they were reported. Many studies in developed countries talk about the effectiveness of implementation of recent technologies, whatever they are at the given time: audio a nd video resources, audiographic applications, course management systems, use of forum discussions, and the like (Corda & Jager, 2004; Delcloque & Bramoull, 2001; Hambel, 2006; Hauck, 2007; Lamy, 2004 Mollerling, 2000; Wang, 2006). Conversely, in developin g countries, such as the Philippines and some African countries, predominant issues tend to be less about technologies and more about the lack of public preparedness for distance language courses, funding issues, and poor teacher training (Gauriento, 2004; Mann, 1998). Summary of Distance Education and Language Instruction Table 3 summarizes the main challenges in general distance education and in distance language instruction. Most of the issues are distance education specific although there are a few tha t are pertinent to conventional classes too. Table 3 Challenges and Recommendations from Literature on Distance Education and Language Learning and T eaching Challenges Proposed Recommendations A missing balance between course structure and learner auto nomy Adjust administration and educational system Lack of adequate support for distance students before and during course delivery Provide student orientations and training on how to be effective online learners

PAGE 90

74 Insufficient connection between instructi on and application of knowledge and skills in real life Make meaningful connections between assignments and student workplaces Establish ties with sponsor organizations that would provide internships for students Lack of motivation among instructors to o ffer courses via distance No recommendations discussed Lack of trained distance instructors Provide training on distance education for existing instructors Train new instructors to be distance educators Missing sense of community and belonging Create ce nters for distance students to come together from near by areas Inadequate technologies and infrastructure for effective development of communicative skills Create opportunities for language practice in the local environment Develop new technologies Sens e of isolation felt by DE learners Provide multiple methods of synchronous and asynchronous interactions for learners Too much emphasis on local problems in writing and insufficient focus on global issues Provide training for students and tutors on the writing process approach

PAGE 91

75 Cross cultural issues: conflicts in teaching and learning styles among students, teachers, and administrators Consider local culture of students and educational system when delivering courses across differing cultures As with t he challenges and recommendations summarized in the previous section on content based language instruction, the contents of Table 3 serve as a foundation for understanding the possible disturbances in the distance environment of the course under investigat ion. Many of these disturbances proved true in the given context, but their different light on these disturbances, and this is demonstrated in Chapter 4. Conclusion to Chapter Two This literature review has touched upon three major areas: 1) the theoretical framework of the study cultural historical activity theory (CHAT), 2) content based language instruction (CBLI), and distance education (DE) and language learning and teaching. This concluding section revisits the challenges identified in the literature on CBLI and DE and provides interpretations of a few challenges in terms of contradictions in the activity systems of learners, which is the focus of the proposed st udy. This will demonstrate how the CHAT framework fits with the purpose of the study, and how this study could be methodologically different from those reported above. Interpretation of Reported Challenges in Terms of Contradictions This section attempts t o present some of the findings reported in the literature in light of the CHAT constructs. I will consider only a sampling of those challenges at different levels of activity systems.

PAGE 92

76 What becomes immediately apparent in the listing of the challenges in Ta bles 2 and 3 is the lack of detail. Contradictions are manifested through disturbances and sudden innovations in the actions of participants in the activity systems (Engestrm, 1999). From the data presented, it is impossible to identify the actual disturb ances or innovations, and accordingly their causes. For example, I will consider two challenges in CBLI courses from Table 2: 1) lack of coordination between instructors and other important agents, and 2) challenging content; and two challenges in DE from Table 3: 1) lack of adequate support for distance students before and during course delivery, and 2) missing sense of community and belonging. Figure 6. Possible contradictions in a CBLI student's activity system based on literature revi ew.

PAGE 93

77 The challenge with the lack of coordination between instructors and other important agents could be due to a disturbance related to a time conflict to arrange for joint meetings between a subject matter professor and a language instructor. Instructors would represent one of the instrument producing activities because the learner uses them as mediating instruments to transform his/her object. In this example, the disturbance could be attributed to the primary contradiction in the rules corner of the inst rument producing activity (see it marked with Number 1 in Figure 6). It could be due to a personality mismatch, hence lack of coordination (Number 2), or poor agreement on their responsibilities (Number 3). Figure 7. Possible contradictions in a distance student's activity system based on literature review. The issue with the challenging content again could be attributed to a number of contradictions. It could be a tertiary contradiction between the learner's object and that of the instructors representing a culturally more advanced activity (Number 4), or a secondary

PAGE 94

78 contradiction between the learner and the textbook due to its challenging content or language (Number 5). The range of possibilities is almost limitless. Let us now consider Figure 7 that shows the learner's central activity system in a distance course. The issue with the lack of adequate support for distance students before the course delivery (I deliberately omitted during course delivery) could be a primary contradiction in the o bject of the subject producing activity (Number 1 in Figure 7), assuming the problem truly comes from administration and not the student. This means that the recruiting department of the school did not do proper work at the marketing stage with preparing s tudents for the demands of the course. Hence, the student population that the in the division of labor corner of the same activity (Number 2), meaning that that in the recruiting department, the staff were not clear as to who was to inform the potential students of the demands of the course. The immediate interpretation of the problem with the missing sense of community and belonging among distance students seems to be a primary contradiction in the community nod e of the central activity (Number 3). However, it might as well be the student's previous background and expectations of a classroom. In that case, it is a quaternary contradiction between the student's activi ty system representing his or her past experience and the current student the subject of the central activity system (Number 4). The wealth of possibilities that one can see in the interpretation analysis is due to the lack of detail. However, this is no t to say that the data in the reported studies are insufficient; they are likely to be more detailed than presented in this literature review. Rather, what this brief analysis implies is that CHAT provide s a solid framework for identifying specific underly ing roots and consequences because it taps into specific disturbances and innovations at the level of actions. Unless this information is available

PAGE 95

79 through adequate data collection techniques, there will be no way to identify the underlying causes of the c ontradictions. The next section specifically discusses the methodological aspects of this study in terms of data collection, analysis, and interpretation CHAT also provides an advantage in this study due to the content based nature of the course under in vestigation. Viewed through this lens, English plays the role of a mediating instrument in the learning of the content. This interplay between English being an for eign language pedagogy. Depending on the position of English in the activity system contradictions and their consequences change their nature as well.

PAGE 96

80 CHAPTER THREE: METHO DOLOGY Introduction to Chapter Three This chapter discusses methodological issue s pertinent to the study. Particular attention will be paid to the setting of the study, research design and method, sampling approach, as well as data collection and analysis techniques. The study in question is framed within the cultural historical acti vity theory (CHAT). It investigates the central activity systems of individual students engaged in an online course on critical thinking. The following questions guide the research: 1. What types of contradictions arise in the activity systems of individual learners of the target course? 1.1. What primary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 1.2. What secondary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 1.3. What tertiary contradic tions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 1.4. What quaternary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 2. What are the consequences of the identified contradictions? 2.1. What are the co nsequences of the identified primary contradictions? 2.2. What are the consequences of the identified secondary contradictions?

PAGE 97

81 2.3. What are the consequences of the identified tertiary contradictions? 2.4. What are the consequences of the identified quaternary contradic tions? The Setting and Participants of the Study The Setting historical environment. Located in Iran, this Institute until recently used Farsi exclusively as the medium of inst ruction, except for the English linguistics major students whose courses have been delivered primarily in English. BIHE originated in 1987 in an effort to meet the needs o higher education as a minority group (U.S. Department of State, 2007). Since its inception, the Institute has grown to offer 14 undergraduate and 3 graduate degrees totaling over 700 Since the very beginning of its history, BIHE has used a hybrid correspondence system of education where students would come to a central location in Tehran, the capital city of Iran, to meet with their professors, receive guidance, and sit for exams. Such visits would take place every month or so and last for about a week. This practice, however, is becoming less possible due to recent persecutions, as a result of which traveling to the physical facilities has become less feasible The semester during which the study wa s conducted did not have a traditional face to face orientation precisely for this reason. Instead, the online classes, such as the critical thinking course, had their orientations online at the course website. The current BIHE semester lasts 20 weeks, of which four weeks are reserved for the preparation and administration of the proctored midterm and final examinations. An academic year at the Institute includes two semesters, with the fall semester starting

PAGE 98

82 approximately September 20 and ending mid Februa ry. The spring semester runs from April 5 until the beginning of September. These dates are not stable because the university often encounters challenges from the government leading to delays and disruptions. Until recently, students would meet at the Inst itute facilities. However, as the discrimination increased and the facilities were appropriated, meeting on a regular basis at a physical location became a challenge. The Institute decided to start moving towards a distance model of instruction. This new m odel of delivery is opening doors for international collaboration. Some distance courses are now offered in English by English speaking adjunct professors from abroad. Those include courses in the MBA program, and a few courses in other departments. Most o f the adjunct professors work for BIHE on a voluntary basis. With the introduction of the distance learning environment and increased opportunities for more quality education, students now have to adapt to an additional medium of instruction English. The critical thinking course, which is the focus of this study, is an important component of the distance curriculum at BIHE. It is a bridge course in that it helps students transition from purely English courses to subject matter courses that students take a s part of their major programs. As such, it is a content based course that focuses on the subject matter of critical thinking. The course is part of the core curriculum of BIHE, meaning that students of all majors are required to take this course as part o f their program of study. The Bridge Course Traditionally, BIHE has provided English instruction through individual departments. Each department would develop and offer English courses at different levels of proficiency with more focus on English for spec ific purposes at more advanced levels. In 2006, the s varied from 40 to

PAGE 99

83 420 contact hours within the period of 2 to 6 semesters, depending on the department and or Higher Education, 2006a). In 2005, BIHE formed a group of volunteers to help develop EFL curriculum that would apply across different departments. This group included EFL teachers and a few instructional technology experts who were located in different owned multimedia company in the Philippines offered to design the courses in the Flash program that would include some interactivity with animations and controllable contextualized audio input. In the fall of 2005, BIHE launche d a pilot EFL 101 course (a lower intermediate course). Now there are four EFL online courses: EFL 100, 101, 102, and 103 with a total enrollment of about 1,000 students per semester. These are theme based content courses in that they all focus on English instruction with a non language content that ties the language instruction together, such as Academic Success, Human Progress, and the like. The bridge course under investigation is the next natural step from EFL 103. While it focuses on a non language su bject matter (critical thinking), it also integrates linguistic support, which is supposed to further help develop students' academic English proficiency (Brinton, Snow, Wesche, 2003). The decision to use this content in the bridge course was arrived at in collaboration with an outside BIHE faculty member who is in charge of the BIHE curriculum development, in particular, the core curriculum of the Institute. As an initiator of this project, I described the nature and purpose of the bridge course to the col laborating faculty member, and we concluded that critical thinking has to be the subject matter course of the BIHE core curriculum. The objectives of the critical thinking course are the following: At the end of this course students will be able to:

PAGE 100

84 Analy ze academic text using most of the main component s of critical thinking: purpose, questions, concepts, information, assumptions, perspectives, and implications. Solve academic and non academic real life problems using the following element s of critical th inking: purpose, questions, concepts, information, assumptions, perspectives, implications, ethics, evaluation of evidence, fallacy detection, unity building. Use critical thinking concepts and principles in writing and optionally in speaking through confe rence calls with clarity, accuracy, and fluency expected of advanced English as a foreign language users. The course was offered for the first time from April 21 2008 through August 8 2008 Of these 15 weeks, the first week was an online orientation to t he course and introductions among the group participants. According to the BIHE academic schedule, the period between June 17 and 30 was reserved for the mid term exams, and as such no teaching activities took place. Because the bridge course did not have a midterm exam, the students used this opportunity to catch up with late assignments. The courses consisted of eight modules lasting from one week to ten days with additional overlaps between the modules. Each module included an article that discussed an aspect of critical thinking: 1. History of Critical Thinking 2. Intellectual Attributes of Critical Thinking 3. Ethical Components of Critical Thinking 4. Faith and Critical Thinking 5. Asking Questions 6. Evaluating Evidence

PAGE 101

85 7. Detecting Fallacies 8. Consensus Building and Cri tical Thinking The articles were written by invited contributors from U.S. and Canadian universities (see Error! Reference source not found. for a sample reading). The contributing authors are professors or experts in critical th inking, who share the same religious background with the students. Thus, the content of the course is aligned to consider the students' cultural and religious background. Some effort was made to adapt the level of readings to the higher intermediate and ad vanced level of English proficiency. However, due to personal preferences and styles, some contributors chose to use complex language to accurately convey the depth of their content. There were four assignments in the course: two required and two optional The major required assignment was 250 350 word long analysis papers for each module (see Appendix B for the Guide for Analysis Papers ). In these papers, the students analyzed each reading using th ree elements of critical thinking: 1) the purpose of the text and the questions it addresses, 2) conclusions or implications it makes, and 3) one more element of he /she discusses, c) the assumptions the author makes, and d) the perspectives he/she presents. In addition to these three elements, the students were required to include reflections on the content of the article. Students wrote each paper by first submittin g a draft and language related feedback. The instructor graded the final paper focusing only on the quality of the content, the amount of revision implemented based on the instructor feedback, th e overall quality of the language (see Appendix C for the grading rubric). The students had on average of 13 days to write each paper including the time for the instructor feedback and follow up rev isions. According to the grading policy, the students could submit their papers up to tend days after

PAGE 102

86 the due date but with a penalty of 10% of the grade per every day late. There was one 10 day grace period per one paper assignment. The students could ap ply the grace period to any paper at any time during the semester, but only once. The second required assignment was the problem solution forum discussions. Originally, the plan was to keep each forum open for one month. However, due to low participation, the forums were left open throughout the whole course. In these forum discussions, students discuss ed scenarios and collaborate d with their classmates to find solutions using critical thinking principles. The forums were graded based on the level of partic ipation and the degree of reference to the course readings (see Appendix D Appendix D Appendix D for the grading rubric). The first problem solution forum posed a scenario with a family conflict, in which a mother of a seven year excessive involvement in computer games (see Appendix E ). The second forum discussion asked the students to create their own real life problem based on the example of the first (see Appendix F ) preferences. Two instructors asked students to debate about the evidence and fallacies found in the chapter about the Faith written by Martin (1965) in his book The K ingdom of the C ults The students were divided into groups : one opposing and the other suppo rting the author (see Appendix G ). Two other instructors, whose students part icipated in the study, followed the same debate format but presented two articles about upbringing of children ( see Appendix H ) The course also include d two other optional assignments, for which the s tudents could earn bonus points. One of them was a pre writing activity, where students had an option of sharing and outlining their ideas about the course readings before starting to write their papers on an individual basis. The pre writing activity was also in the forum format. An

PAGE 103

87 attempt was made to introduce this activity in the Wiki format, but it failed due to technical challenges of the course management system. The instructors graded pre writing activities twice during the semester: 1) at the mid t erm covering Modules 1 4, and 2) at the end of the semester covering the remaining Modules 5 8. The grading rubric accounted for the consistency and quality of stude nt participation (see Appendix I ). An other opportunity to earn bonus points was conference calls with the instructors held on Skype or Yahoo Messenger. Due to the fact that most instructors taught the course on a voluntary basis, they were not required to hold conference calls. Conference ca lls took s Some students joined the sessions individually or in groups depending on the time selection. The main purpose of these conference calls was to provide student s with an opportunity to clarify the subject matter of the course and develop English speaking skills. The instructors graded all the conference calls once at the end of the semester. The grading rubric accounted for the consistency and qualit y of student participation (see Appendix J ). The grade book consisted of two categories of assignments: 1) analysis papers that constituted 64% of the course grade, and 2) problem solution forum discussions that const ituted 36% of the course grade. The two optional assignments: pre writing activities and conference calls, each added extra 8% to the course grade, thus providing extra means for t he students to make up for low grades on the required assignments. Appendix K shows a copy of the description of the course assignments with the due dates and weights. In addition to the graded assignments, the course had three other forum discussions: Questions and Answers, Course News and Announcements, and Announcements and Discussions for each module. The interaction in the first two forums took place at the course level. Any student could post their problem or concern in the Question and Answer

PAGE 104

88 forum and expect to receive an ans wer within 48 hours. The Course News and Announcements forum was a place for general course level announcements and if necessary any follow up discussion. Unlike the first two forums, the Announcements and Discussion forums belonged to each individual modu le and each individual group of students. Each instructor was responsible for making posts in these forums by sending reminders of module specific due dates and sometimes by posting extra study materials. Figure 8 A print screen of the web br owser version of an article that shows a roll over box for a glossed word. The online component of the course was delivered through Moodle, a content management system (CMS), which provided students with access to course materials, grades, electronic drop boxes and other instruments typical of most CMSs. Due to poor Internet connection and sometimes absence thereof, the reading materials were also available on CDs. Besides the printout versions of the eight articles with encl osed glossaries, the CD included a web version of the readings. This way, students could enjoy the interactivity of Internet pages without having to go online. The glossaries in this format

PAGE 105

89 were embedded as roll over boxes that appeared when a student rolled over hyperlinked words (see F igure 8 ). The Instructors and Teaching Assistant Because the theoretical framework of this study implies a close attention to the surrounding activity systems, the discussion of the course instructors will be revisited along with the discussion of the find ings in the following chapter. This section provides a brief overview of the faculty and staff in order to minimally contextualize the study. Of the five course instructors, four participated in this study. They all resided outside of Iran. One of them ha d a Ph.D. degree in Inte rcultural Communication, and had taught courses in critical thinking as part of her teaching c areer. She was also the Chair of the Communication Department of a U.S. college. Another instructor was an ESL and EFL teacher with more t han two years of experience in the development of the BIHE EFL curriculum. She also had strong personal interest in content based language instruction, which was the reason she wanted to part icipate in the project. The third instructor was myself. Besides being the researcher, I also co developed the critical thinking course and assume d the role of the course facilitator during the course delivery. Finally, the fourth instructor was a graduate of the doctoral program in Second Language Acquisition and Instr uctional Technology at the Univ ersity of South Florida. She had extensive experience teaching ESL/EFL and distance ESOL courses to undergraduate and graduate students from the College of Education. Of the four instructors, only the first one identified her self as an expert in critical thinking and criti cal theory. Two instructors had Ph.D. degrees. One is a Ph.D. candidate, and one held an M.A. degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages.

PAGE 106

90 Most instructors volunteered to teach this course. The ir workload varied from 10 to 25 students. One of the instructors was hired, and she had 25 students. Prior to the beginning of the course, the instructors took a one week teacher training session at the Moodle course site. The training focused on the: 1) design and structure of the course, 2) technical aspects of the course site, 3) nature of written feedback, 4) inter cultural aspects of the course, 5) discussion of course assignments, and 6) subject matter of critical thinking. There was one conference call with all course instructors and the subject matter expert co author of the course (s ee the welcome message to the instructors during t he training session in Appendix L ). In addition to the instru ctors, there was one teaching assistant (TA) for all 70 students. The TA was a BIHE student from an undergraduate program in English linguistics. Her English was advanced. She resid ed in Iran, and her function was to act as a liaison between the students and instructors. The EFL coordinator who also resided in Iran, and who was also my research assistant, oversaw the logistics of the bridge course as well as the work of the TA. The EFL co ordinator routinely participated in bi weekly conference meetings wi th other administrators of the EFL operations team including the lead tutors for EFL 101 103 courses. The Students There were 68 enrolled students in the course. Most students in th e critical thinking course had high intermediate to advanced level s of pro ficiency in English. The majority of the students reached this level by taking distance courses at BIHE: EFL 100 through 103. Their gender was a good mix of males and females, mostly in their late teens or twenties. There were, however, some students who w ere older adults with families and other commitments. This population of BIHE returns to school in order to receive the higher

PAGE 107

91 education they could not receive in the past. Because EFL courses including the bridge course are part of the BIHE core curricu lum, all students are required to take them. Most if official universities in Iran. The target students had limited or no prior experience in taking courses similar in content to that of the bridge course under investigation. In fact, the decision to create the course on critical thinking was derived from the need to develop such competency in BIHE students. Originally, the students were put into groups of 5 6. However, to address the problem of low interaction among the students, those groups were collapsed into larger ones with 10 12 students in each at the midterm exam recession. These groups worked together on problem solution forum discussions and pre writing activi ties. They could also see forum posts in other groups but could not respond to them. Conference calls were open to all students under the assigned instructor. For example, the two teachers who taught 25 students had two separate groups, and the students fr om these groups sometimes interacted with each other in conference calls. The Course News and Announcements and the Questions and Answers forums were available to all students at the same time.

PAGE 108

92 Figure 9 summarizes some of the aspects of the setting in the form of a generic course taking activity system which in a later discussion I will refer to as a course shell Many features of this course shell are the same in the actual activity systems of the student participants (e.g., certain rules : due dates, pla giarism policy; division of labor, or technological instruments: Moodle, telephone, CDs, etc .). However, some others differ from extensively discussed earlier, object is shaped by a motive that forces the subject to be engaged in this activity. In this sense, motive and object are considered equivalent to the purposes of this study. Participant specific activity systems are discussed in detail in the following chapter. Figure 9 An activity theoretical shell of the critical thinking course

PAGE 109

93 Research Design Research conducted within the CHAT framework calls for a specific research design that would afford an in depth study of an activity system or a constellation of interacting activity systems. A single activity system can belong to an individual subject, such as a person, or a collective subject, such as a school class or a society. Movement from the unit of analysis of actions to that of activity is also a critical aspect of CHAT specific methodology (Barab et al., 2002; Engestrm, 2001). Given that the main unit of analysis in this study is an activity system with an individual student as a subject, a viable research design would be a case study. A single case in t his design represents a central activity system of one student taking the critical thinking bridge course (see Figure 9 ). Thus, the primary focus of the study was to investigate individual cases of such central activities equal to the number of students se lected for the study. student in the bridge course. Stake defines two types of case studies: an intrinsic case study and an instrumental case study. The former inquires about a particular case, which is the sole object of the study. The latter investigates a case in order to understand a general problem. That is, the instrumental ca se study seeks to apply the knowledge acquired from one case to other similar cases. to understand the nature of contradictions in distance CBLI courses, not necess arily limited to the individual student cases at hand. The fact that the study attempts to contribute to the theoretical understanding of CHAT in SLA also puts it in the category of instrumental case studies.

PAGE 110

94 Yin (2003) talks about different types and func tions of case studies. He makes a case that case studies can be used to create generalizations, but those are generalization s to the theory, rather than statistical generalizations. When generalizing to the theory, a researcher is relying on a very finely developed theory, which he or she is testing using different cases. The more the theory stands the test of different cases, the stronger it becomes. This is in line with Engestrm (1999a) when he is says that CHAT research is both practical in that it help s improve is the practice and theoretical in that it adds knowledge to the construction of CHAT as a theoretical framework. Thus, case study is a design that is consistent with the theoretical framework of this study and with the general principles of qual itative research. Research Method sociocultural theory of Vygotsky primarily studies cultural and historical changes of human cognition. This endeavor is predom inantly achieved through qualitative methods of inquiry although there are studies that do involve experimental methods, which were also implicated by Vygotsky himself (Scribner, 1985). However, it is not only this similarity between sociocultural theory and CHAT that calls for a qualitative design. There is a difference that further justifies this methodological decision. Sociocultural theory researchers primarily work with the unit of analysis of actions. light of his or her motive at the level of developed by many other activity theorists (Engestrm, 1987). Thus, unlike most research in sociocultural theory, CHAT ex tends its inquiry to the unit of analysis of activity, meaning

PAGE 111

95 that the collective is present at least in the community element and may even extend to the subject element, when it consists of more than one person (Davydov, 1999). This significantly impacts the complexity of the method. The researcher now investigates the historical development not only of an individual subject engaged in action through mediating instruments, but the historical development of all the elements as part of the activity system: communities, rules, and division of labor, and even goes beyond to include the neighboring activity systems. The purpose of this study and its guiding questions call for an in depth investigation of phenomena. Particularly, this endeavor involves a consta nt movement from the unit of analysis of action to activity, as well as the tracing of contradictions and the complex interactions within central activity systems and their many elements: subjects, objects, instruments, communities, rules, and divisions of labor. It is important to note that while this influences of neighboring activity systems (see Figure 6 ), the immediate attention still remains on the central activity syste ms with individual students acting as subjects. The neighboring activity systems are considered when circumstances point in their direction. For had to direct my a producing activity system. This approach is congruent with CHAT research, where attention to actions and their contextualization in the light of the activity system is key (Barab et al., 2002; Engestrm, 1999a; 1999b). It is also congruent with CHAT in that the neighboring activity systems are not initially the primary units of analysis, but rather are complimentary sources of information that shed light on the actions taking place in the central activity of contradictions in activity systems and his emphasis on inner contradictions that take

PAGE 112

96 place within or between the elements of the central activity system (i.e. primary and secondary contradictions). In view of the above, the study aims to deal with the complexity inherent in the multiple realities constructed in the central activity systems of learners in their natural settings. Lincoln and Guba (1 985) characterize this kind of research as a naturalistic inquiry that typically employs qualitative methods of investigation. Within CHAT literature, we find some discussion on the methodology of investigation too. Many of the principles in this discussio n are in line with the assumptions of naturalistic studies. For instance, Nardi (1996b) summarizes the methodology of research on human computer interaction (which has much in common with any other CHAT research) by identifying four guidelines: There shou ld be a long enough time provided to accurately identify the subjects' objects and trace any changes over time; a general movement of an activity (p. 95); One should emp loy diverse sets of data collection techniques, and It is important to consider the subjects' perspectives on their activity. Mwanza (2002) takes these and other guidelines for CHAT research and sets out to empirically operationalize and validate a methodo logy for CHAT research. She proposes the following four instruments: 1) the eight step model, 2) activity notation with three operational guidelines, 3) technique of generating research questions, and 4) technique of mapping operational processes. While mo st of these instruments are not directly applicable to the current research due to a differing focus of the study, the eight step model appears helpful.

PAGE 113

97 The eight step model is not a chronological but rather a cyclical technique that poses specific questi ons to learn about the activity of interest (see Table 4). In the current study, I object and other elements of the activity. A modified version of this eight st ep model was a in the data collection and analysis procedures to be discussed below. Table 4 The Eight step Model a dapted from Mwanza (2002, p. 128). Step Id entify the: Questions Step 1 Activity of interest What sort of activity am I interested in? Step 2 Object Why is the activity taking place? Step 3 Subjects Who is involved in carrying out this activity? Step 4 Instruments By what means are the subjects performing this activity? Step 5 Rules Are there any cultural norms, rules or regulations governing the performance of this activity? Step 6 Division of labor Who is responsible for what, when carrying out this activity and how are the roles organized ? Step 7 Community What is the environment in which this activity is carried out? Step 8 Outcome What is the desired o utcome from carrying out this activity?

PAGE 114

98 Recruitment and Sampling of Participants The major unit of analysis in this study was a centra l learning activity of an individual learner as the subject of this activity system. Thus, each individual learner methodologically represented one case. Selection of cases was based on purposeful sampling strategies. Patton (1990) discusses 16 purposeful sampling strategies used in naturalistic studies. Of those, the maximum variation sampling suits best the purpose and the setting of the proposed study. As the term implies, this sampling strategy aims at identifying a variety of cases to depict as complet e a picture of the issue as possible. Table 5 shows the chronological steps of the selection, recruitment and other data collection procedures. In terms of selection and recruitment of six participants, the first stage was making an announcement about the upcoming research study to the whole class. Because the orientation took place this time in the online Moodle environment, the announcement from the EFL coordinator in Iran was posted to the Moodle course site. The reason for asking the EFL coordinator to make the announcement was to instill a sense of safety in the students. The EFL coordinator was the main point of contact for all BIHE students taking online EFL courses. They know her and identify her with the BIHE institution, which is not the case with me an outside researcher from the University of South Florida, at best an affiliated adjunct faculty member. Shortly after the announcement, all students received individual emails from me with the invitation to participate in the study ( see Appendix M ). The informed consent was attached to the email (see Appendix N ). Given the time constraints, students had five days to respond to the email instead of the originally planned one week. Eight students responded to the invitation expressing their interest to participate in the study. Three other students responded apologizing for not being able to join the study.

PAGE 115

99 At the next stage, these eight students were screened based on the information from the background survey (administered as part of the course activities during the online previous semester. From these sourc es, the most critical factors for the selection of the participants using the maximum variation sampling strategy included the students': English level proficiency: high versus low interest in philosophy and/or critical thinking: high versus low gender: f emale versus male age: young adult versus mature adult groupings: different groups and instructor or the same motivation to learn English: high versus low experience with the computer technologies: extensive versus limited experience with previous distance courses: positive versus negative The other two students were not selected for the study because their characteristics did not add to the maximum variation sampling. One of these volunteers was a female student who matched the characteristics of another male student in terms of English proficiency, age, grouping and perceived motivation to learn English. However, because there were more females than males among my selected participants, I opted for another male participant. The same rationale was used t o make a choice among the last two potential participants. They were both males, computer science majors, and belonged to the same instructor. However, one of them had a clearly lower proficiency in English, a characteristic that was a rare find among the eight volunteers, and this determined my final decision. Having selected the six student participants, I sent out email invitations to their instructors ( see

PAGE 116

100 Appendix O ) and the teaching assistant ( s ee Appendix P ). They had five days to respond to the invitation email. Of these six students, five officially remained enrolled in the course until the end of the semester. About a month into the semester, one of them chose to withdraw from the course and another one stopped participating due to the many other duties he had. At the same time an email invitation was sent out to the teaching assistant. The course instructor responded immediately agreeing to part icipate in the study. The teaching assistant, however, never responded even after two follow up emails. As the semester progressed and data collection and analysis began, it transpired that the study was missing an added more in depth perspective from the BIHE administration. After consulting with the co major professors and obtaining approval for the study modification from IRB, I contacted one of the BIHE coordinators who had been closely involved in administering and teaching courses at BIHE (see Appendix Q for the informed consent letter). This coordinator participant lives in Iran and graduated from the BIHE linguistics department. During the study, she was finishing her online MBA degree at BIHE. She had been intimately related to BIHE since her father joined a team of volunteers who laid the foundation to this university some 20 years ago. Data Collection Before the actual data collection period, some data collection techniques were piloted on th ree students who successfully completed the EFL 103 course. While EFL 103 is not a bridge course by our definition, it still stands close to the bridge course in terms of language demands made on students and in terms of the technologies students use, such as Moodle, Skype, and Yahoo Messenger. In other words, the informants represented the target student participants in terms of their English proficiency and experience in taking BIHE distance courses.

PAGE 117

101 The purpose of the pilot interviews was two fold: 1) t o test whether the probing interview questions elicited the kind of data required for the study, and 2) to test the technical capacities of the computer mediated communication and recording applications. The interviews took place via Skype and Yahoo Messen ger to test the quality of the connection on the two most popular applications among BIHE students. The interviews lasted approximately 20 30 minutes and were recorded using Audacity, an open source recording application. The pilot interviews revealed a f ew insights that affect ed the data collection procedures. First, it transpired that students could not remember specific challenges they experienced in the EFL 103 course that had finished a month prior to the interview. This indicates that certain disturb ances and innovations may lose significance for the students after a lapse of time. Hence, to ensure minimal loss of these data, extra effort was made to schedule the interviews with the students to take place shortly after they complete d some of the major assignments in the course. Second, some adjustments were made to the wording of the interview questions so they could elicit the type of data the study sought to collect. Third, all three students could follow my questions very easily and express themselv es articulately in English. The three students, however, did not represent a wide range of proficiencies typical of EFL 103 graduates, but according to the quality of their papers and final course grades, they covered most of the typical target students. L astly, the interviews went well from the technical standpoint. The quality of the voice recording was clear, and the participants did not experience any significant delays. There were some challenges with the initial Internet connection on the students' en d as well as the microphone connection on one occasion, but those obstacles were overcome easily through a few email exchanges.

PAGE 118

102 Thus, the set of interview questions (see p. 111 ) reflect ed all the required changes made as a result of the piloting and the final consultation with the chair members of the dissertation committee. What follows next is the discussion of data collection procedures. The course officially started on April 21, 2008 with an online orientation at the Moodle course website. During the orientation, the students introduced themselves, familiarized themselves with the course site and course requirements. The students also took the Background Survey as part of the course activities. Table 5 provides an outline of data collection procedures along with major events in the course delivery. Table 5 Procedures, Data Collected, and Corresponding Dates When Study procedure or course Event Where and/or How April 21 28 April 21 May 16 Students introduced the mselves Students took background survey At the Moodle course website At the Moodle course website April 29 May 8 Course started Proposal defended At the Moodle course website At USF May 12 IRB approval received At USF May 12 18 May 16 Research anno unced to prepare for recruitment All students invited to participate in the study Research assistant/ forum post at the course website By email

PAGE 119

103 By May 20 Student participants selected On the basis of: 1) students' response to my invitation email 2) ba ckground survey, and 3) English achievement results from the previous semester. May 20 Course instructors and teaching assistant invited By email May 24 May 24 August 27 Student participants final ized and informed Student participants' data collect ed: paper assignments, pre writing activities, forum participation, Moodle logs, conference calls, student instructor interactions via email, in Moodle, or conference calls By email From Moodle course website Via phone or Skype/Yahoo Messenger May 24 August 24 S tudent participants interviewed (3 5 times per semester) Skype/Yahoo Messenger Recorded with Audacity August 10 30 Instructors and coordinator participants interviewed Via Skype Recorded with Audacity May 24 end of data analysis Record Atlas.ti memos

PAGE 120

104 As the actual data collection and analysis started, I had to find a way to organize the growing pool of qualitative data in a more efficient way than in multiple folders on the computer. This problem was solved by ATLAS.ti a computer application for qualitative data analysis For ease of analysis, every document was saved in a .txt or .rtf format before uploading it to the software. It allowed for efficient coding and linking of multiple sets of data that could be printed out in a number of different ways depending on the purpose of the analysis. Due to the efficiency of the software to organize all the data most of the instruments for data collection and analysis devised for the proposal of this study proved unne cessary at this stage of the research. They did, however, play a critical role in conceptualizing the design of the study and the many steps of data collection and analysis. In this sense, these instruments served as a conceptual stepping stone in the meth odology of this study. The section of Data Analysis that follows discusses in more detail how ATLAS.ti was utilized during the analysis stage. The following sections are going to address all the data sources and data collection procedures outlined in Tabl e 5 above. Background Survey All the students in the bridge course took the Background Survey as part of the course. As such, no informed consents were required. The survey was placed in the Moodle course site and had a due date ending on May 2 2008 The survey elicited information regarding reports of their ability to use Internet and other technologies, and accessibility to communication tools. Because the survey was in English, spec ial care was taken to ensure proper readability level for the intermediate to advanced EFL learners, such as use of simple vocabulary and grammar, short sentences, and familiar topics. Further, the original survey questions were

PAGE 121

105 piloted on two BIHE student s who also participated in the piloting of the interview questions. These students were about to take the critical thinking course, and as such matched the target student population in terms of the level of proficiency and experience with online BIHE cours es. The following set of questions is the result of this piloting with all identified ambiguities or additions taken care of: Why did you decide to receive higher education? Why did you decide to study for your degree? Why is knowing English important or not important for you? What is your age? Have you taken any online distance courses at BIHE or any other school? If so, please share your experience: was it positive or negative, and why. What are your personal goals for this critical thinking course? Wh at do you think of the subject of philosophy? Please describe how experienced you are with computer technologies: Skype, Yahoo messenger, forum discussions, email, and the like. Please describe your experience with conversation assignments via phone, Skype or Yahoo messenger, or other voice applications. What kind of access to the computer and Internet do you have? Analysis Papers Students wrote eight papers to demonstrate their engagement in the readings. As was described earlier, students first had a cha nce to brainstorm and outline ideas in the optional pre writing activities, and after having produced a draft, they received feedback from the instructor, and prepared their final paper. These sets of data pre writing activities, drafts, and final papers with instructor feedback were used to identify possible disturbances and

PAGE 122

106 innovations in the student participants' actions, primarily through content, grammar, vocabulary, organization, and other kinds of inconsistencies. Due to the fact that the partici pants produced many projects with such inconsistencies, it became impossible to follow up on every instance of disturbance or innovation in the interviews. Thus, focusing on to be the most efficient and theoretically justified approach. Whatever was not matching the descriptors in the grading rubric ( see Appendix C ) and was commented on by the instructor was considered a d isturbance. Among those, an effort was made to strike a balance between discussing different kinds of comments from the instructor: content language organization or mechanics related. Examples of questions asked about disturbances in instructor comme nts included: When you were writing the draft, did you suspect this error commented on by your instructor? How did you go about fixing it? de, reasons for late paper submissions, and a number of regulative behaviors during the drafting and revision process, such as use of dictionaries or grammar references, re reading the source article, going back to the assignment description, and seeking h elp from classmates or other people, among other things. For ease of analysis, the draft and the final papers with the instructor feedback were put together in one .rtf file and uploaded to ATLAS.ti. The questions for the subsequent interviews with the st udent, instructor and coordinator participants were generated during the preliminary analysis and coding of disturbances and innovations. This approach

PAGE 123

107 replaced the original form for identifying possible disturbances and innovations created for the proposa l of this study. Problem Solution Forums Forum discussions have been notoriously inactive in online EFL courses. This tradition continued in the critical thinking bridge course. As such, problem solution forums were a rich source of data about disturbances posts were easily accessible in the Moodle environment. They were copied and pasted into a text editor and then saved for a systematic analysis in the ATLAS.ti software. Important indicators of possible disturbances were frequency of posts, dates of posts relative to the due dates, and the amount and content of the posts. As with the analysis papers above, these indicators are primarily based on the grading rubrics for forum discussions ch signs of disturbances or innovations were followed up in the interviews with questions such as the following: How are the forum discussions going for you? Did you struggle with this assignment? Why or why not? Was it interesting to do it? Why or why no t? Do you know how much these problem solution forums contribute to your final course grade? If the weight for this assignment was lower, for example, 5% instead of 36%, would you spend more time doing it? Did you have to use a dictionary or grammar book to help you with this assignment? Did you read the grading rubric and the description of the assignment before making your post?

PAGE 124

108 Like with the analysis papers, all forum discussions were uploaded to ATLAS.ti, where preliminary analysis of disturbances and innovations took place, and questions for the subsequent interviews were noted. Questions and Answers Forum The course had a forum discussion where any student could post questions or concerns related to the course. Unlike the Problem Solution forum, thi s asynchronous discussion was an optional way of communication between the students and the course instructors and administrators. This forum was open to all students, meaning that a post from any of the 70 students was visible to all other course particip ants. Unfortunately, this forum that promised rich data on student disturbances turned out inactive. Unaware of the purpose of the forum, the technical assistant for the course deleted a number of first interactions in this forum in his attempt to organiz e the posts in a more efficient way without letting the instructors know. He then sent an announcement to all students that contradicted the original idea of the forum. This put an end to the student participation in this forum despite the follow up remedi al announcement. Overall, there were only 15 posts from the students throughout the whole semester, with two problems raised by different students: missing course CDs at the beginning of the semester, which were soon deleted by the teaching assistant, and three questions about new groups at the midterm. Moodle Tracked Logs presence and provides information about the type of event (viewing, uploading, or posting) and the time and date of the event. These lo engagement in the course over time.

PAGE 125

109 with the online tools that did not elicit student responses. A mong such were the above mentioned Course News and Announcements open to all 70 students and News and Discussions for each module and group. The six student participants never posted anything to these forums, but they did visit them, and these behaviors be came transparent through the Moodle tracked logs. These logs were downloaded in the Excel spreadsheet file and then copied and pasted into a text editor for further analysis in the ATLAS.ti software. Some logs had indications of possible disturbances when for example, a student would repeatedly check the messages from the instructor about conference call s otherwise invisible from the actual course site. I would follow up instances like these in the interviews: Has anything prevented you from doing assig nments this past week/two weeks? Any issues with the computer or Internet? Have you been able to solve the issue? you do that ? Conference Calls between Instructors and Stud ents Conference calls were optional assignments that students could participate in to earn extra bonus points towards the course grade. Of the six student participants, only three chose to join conference calls with their instructors. One of them had a cal l at the beginning of the course before the approval of the IRB, and that conversation could not be recorded. The other two participants belonged to the same instructor. They were able to talk once during semester. These conversations were recorded by the instructor and emailed to me for subsequent transcription and analysis.

PAGE 126

110 Message and Email Interactions Besides the data that were directly accessible to me in the Moodle environment, such as those discussed above, there were two other sources that could on ly be requested from the participants: messages sent through the internal Message tool in Moodle and email messages outside of Moodle. These interactions between the instructors and students often The instructors provided copies of these exchanges once or twice during the semester when I requested them. Interviews In the absence of face to face contact, conducting interviews with English learners presented serious challenges. For this reason, the i nterviews were conducted through Yahoo messenger and Skype which provided instant messaging capacity for extra linguistic support. The interviews were semi structured to tap into specific areas of interest and took place three or four times during the seme ster depending on the availability of the students. information. In one case one of the participants used Farsi to express a culturally complex idea, which was further translated by a nother Farsi speaking person. To accommodate the the on line observation data (such as analysis papers, forum posts, and Moodle logs) and stored in the ATLAS.ti software. The most serious challenge during the interviews was the technical connection. Because most of the student participants had a dial up connect ion, this caused inhibiting delays and poor sound quality. To overcome this obstacle with one participant, I instant messaged my questions in the text box, while the participant

PAGE 127

111 responded orally. With another participant, I called her on her home phone fro m my Skype out account. Being semi structured, the interviews relied on probing questions and then expanded further to tap into more details of interest. Below is a sampling of probing questions from one of the interviews: How many times do you read the articles for this course? What do you know about the Universal Course Structure? Do you read it sometimes? Do you usually try to find out about the structure of the course and its requirements or not? Do you think this style is common among most BIHE stud ents or is it your person al approach? Have you tried to contact your instructor because you had a question, request, or you wanted to clarify something? How do you revise your papers when you receive feedback from your instructor? Do you have to go back to the article or the Guide for Analysis Papers? Do you have to ask someone for help? Share some strategies that you use in this course, such as using a dictionary to help you with the articles. Tell me as many of your strategies as you can remember. Whi ch of these strategies did you use in other EFL courses (EFL 102 or 103)? Which ones are different? Co mpare these strategies to your S tatistics in Business course? Are any of these strategies different or the same? The interviews with the instructors and the coordinator participants took place once when the semester was over. Frequent email exchanges, however, took place throughout the semester. Below is a sampling of probing questions from the interviews with the instructors:

PAGE 128

112 How was your distance teachi ng experience in this course? Have you taught online before? What kinds of courses have you taught that are similar to this critical thinking course? I noticed that you posted announcements in Announcements and Discussion for Modules 1 and 2, but not in Mo dules 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Why did you decide to stop making those posts? How do you decide what needs to be commented on: misunderstanding due to issues with ideas, language, ..., or for the sake of drawing a student's attention to the mistake even though it doesn't cause any misunderstanding? Azad has requested conference calls several times? Was it mostly the time issue that prevented you from offering conference calls to the students? In paper 1, you left a comment on Azad's sentence: [What do you mean when you that you accept everything Michael Penn writes, and it adds to your knowledge? Or are you saying you are already familiar with the information he presents?]" Was this question a form of recommendation or a genuine question caused by misunderstanding? There were quite a few points of disagreement between you and Azad in his papers. I noticed that these points of disagreement often resulted in a lower grade. Is that an accurate observation? The interview with the coordinator participant had a different purpose and focused on issues pertaining to the cultural historical context of BIHE in general. The following are some questions from this interview: Do students real ize that BIHE is moving towards a bilingual model of education?

PAGE 129

113 I hear students are saying that regular universities in Iran don't ask much from their students, and BIHE students have to work harder to get better grades. What do you think of this ? Do you think because BIHE struggles with organization aspects, the students tend to slack too with their assignments and due dates? Why is it difficult to make trips to Tehran more organized? Students complain a lot about poor scheduling of exams, trips, etc. Ma ny students are grade driven. Could this be influenced by the ordinances to excel in everything? Or it is more of the Iranian culture? All interviews were audio recorded with Audacity and transcribed for further analysis. Field Notes Lincoln and Gu ba (1985) recommend three types of journals: a) daily schedule/calendar that identifies logistics and events pertinent to the study, b) personal reflection diary where researchers note their thoughts, interests, values relative to the study, and c) methodo logical log with major related decisions and rationales. As thoughts and issues emerged during data collection and analysis, I recorded them in the ATLAS.ti software in a section called Memos Originally, I created a Word document form to enter my reflecti ons. However, because ATLAS.ti offered a convenient and efficient way to organize a large pool of data in one place, the original Word document was never used. Over time, these notes developed into six categories: 1) coding notes, 2) notes on participant recruitment, 3) data collection reflections, 4) data analysis refl ections, 5) ethical issues, 6) notes on the course delivery and 7) ethical issues Every note had a date. The most frequently updated logs were for data collection and analysis. They served as a

PAGE 130

114 conceptual device to make a better sense of the data during collection and analysis. These logs are the repository of the most insightful thoughts of me as a researcher Ethical Aspects of Data Collection Procedures This study inevitably involved int rusion in the instructor student dynamics of the course. As a researcher, I took a special care to prevent any unintentional changes in these dynamics or the participants' feeling of insecurity. In the informed consent document, the participants were clea rly informed of the strictly confidential nature of the data collection position of a respectful observer by means of appropriate use of language and behavior. When I obser ved seemingly inadequate practices in any of the participants, such as lack of revisions in the students' papers, lack of their participation, or insufficient feedback and overtly strict grading of the instructor, no direct references to those instances we re made to the participants or the administration of the course. In other words, in cases like these, I assumed my researcher's position. On one occasion, however, a student participant obviously misunderstood the role of the problem solution forums and co mpletely ignored them as optional assignments. During the interview, I indicated to her that while this behavior presented much interest to me as a researcher, she still had to revisit the course requirements and clarify the grading policy for the problem solution forums to avoid a significant drop in her final course grade. Thus, when the conduct of the participants jeopardized their outcome in the course, I assumed the role of the lead instructor and took measures to address the problem. Fortunately, no i nstances of intended ethical violations occurred during the course of the study.

PAGE 131

115 Data Analysis Following the recommendation for naturalistic studies, the data analysis started as soon as the first set of data arrived (Gall, Gall & Borg, 2007; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). There were three stages of data collection and analysis: 1) recruitment and selection of participants, 2) data analysis during collection, and 3) finalizing results. The bulk of the analysis took place in the ATLAS.ti software which allowed fo r easy linking and coding of the data. Thus, as a new data set arrived, it was turned into a .txt or .rtf file and uploaded to this application. Due to the introduction of this software, much of the originally planned instruments and techniques for analyzi ng data changed. The following discussion will highlight these changes and provide a detailed description of the analysis techniques applied to every data source during three stages of analysis. Table 6 introduces the updated methods of analysis applied to each type of data discussed in the Data Collection section above. Table 6 Three S tage s of D ata A nalysis with C orr esponding D ate s Time/Frequency Data Source Analysis Method or Instrument Stage 1: Recruitment and selection of participants April 21 May 16 Once at the beginning of the semester Background survey from the previous semester Elimination approach ( Appendix S ) Elimination approach ( Appendix S ) Stage 2: Data analysis during collection

PAGE 132

116 May 17 August 8 Before every interview Student participants' paper related assignments: pre writing activities, draft papers, and finalized papers ATLAS.ti coding and memos May 24 August 8 Before every interview Student participants' Problem solution forum posts ATLAS.ti coding and memos May 24 August 8 Before every interview Moodle tracked logs ATLAS.ti coding and memos May 24 August 8 Twice per semester Interactions between instructor and student participants via Moodle message tool or by email ATLAS.ti coding and memos May 24 August 8 Once per semester Conference calls between instructor and student participants ATLAS.ti coding and memos May 24 August 8 Before every interview Answers forum ATLAS.ti coding and memos May 24 August 27 3 5 times per semester Interviews with the student participants ATLAS.ti coding and memos May 24 August 27 Once at the end of semester Interviews with the instructor and BIHE administrator participants ATLAS.ti coding and memos

PAGE 133

117 May 24 end of analysis After every data collection or analysis Researcher s log ATLAS.ti m emos Stage 3: Finalizing results Mid august M id October Once at the end of semester Documents related to the analysis the pre de) Moodle tracked logs in the Problem Solution forums the Questions and Answers forum conference calls between inst ructor and student participants interactions between student and instructor participants via Mo odle Message tool and by email interviews with student, instructor, and BI H E administrator participants ATLAS.ti coding and memos Technique for operationalizing disturbances and innovations

PAGE 134

118 Stage1: Recruitment and Selection of Participants At th is stage, the data were analyzed using the elimination approach. This method applies to the sampling procedure rather than the analysis of data that address the research question. The elimination approach (see Appendix S ) considered the data from EFL 103 course in order to identify the best cases for the research. The chart includes the following critical criteria that r eflect the maximum variation sampling strategy discussed above: English level proficiency, interest in philosophy and/or c ritical thinking, gender, age, grouping s, motivation to learn English, experience with computer technologies, and prior experience wit h distance courses. Wh en entered in the form, the data became more visually organized and conducive to the elimination approach. This technique was applied only to the eight students who expressed their willingness to participate in my study by replying to my recruitment email. A more detailed discussion of the recruitment and selection of the eight participants was provided in the section Recruitment and Sampling of the Participants above. Stage 2: Data Analysis d uring Collection The purpose of this stage was to confirm the preliminary findings obtained through student produced data by conducting interviews with the students and other participants. At t his stage the data were analyzed as they were collected in line with the recommended methodology for na t uralistic studies (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). As was discussed in the Data Collection section above, these assignments and indicators of online presence included: d ocuments related to the analysis papers: writing activiti es

PAGE 135

119 s s Moodle tracked logs s Solution forums s c onference calls between instructor and student participants i nteractions between student and instructor participants via Moodle Message tool and by email Two changes were made to the originally proposed design of the study First, the forms that were designed to or ganize the collected information were replaced by the ATLAS.ti application. Among such forms were Possible D isturbances and Innovations for tracking Another such document was th proposed methodology that was meant to capture the changes in the elements of the activity system s during the semester : instruments, object, division of labor, community, and rules ATLAS.ti provided a facili ty for selecting relevant segments of evidence within the application and coding them accordingly. The selected and coded segments could then be printed out for further use, for example, during the interviews. The second change concerns the Activity Histo ry Log that was supposed to be updated activity systems T he data collection and analysis did proceed in four identical cycles as was outlined in the proposal In each cycle, I 1) collect ed the participant produced data and identified possible disturbances and contradictions, 2) interview ed the student participants to confirm the disturbances and innovations, 3) construct ed preliminary contradictions and consequences, a nd 4) prepare d the preliminary results for member checking, and this

PAGE 136

120 repeat ed a total of four times. These four cycles were methodologically necessary to p ay close r elicit accurate information from the participants wh ile it was still in the ir memory. However, this approach was not effective for constructing the four historical cycles specific to because the e with my data collection schedule. Thus, half way through the data collection and re construction of the same six elements of the activity systems (subject, instruments, object, division of labor, community, and rules), I chose to leave the task of constr ucting the dynamics of the participants activity systems until after all the data were collected. With this approach, the changes in the activity systems were still identifiable because I asked the same kinds of questions in the interviews, but these chang cycles and not the research cycles. In the discussion of the results, this dynamics was represented in three stages: beginning of the semester, mid term, and end of the semester. The process of analyzing and co llecting the data using ATLAS.ti proceeded in the following way: All data sources were saved in the .txt or rtf format and uploaded to ATLAS.ti Each data source was read and preliminar il y coded as possible evidence for: o disturbance s or innovation s o element s of activity system (instruments, object, division of labor, community, and rules) Q uestions for the follow up interview were generated based on the identified possible evidence and noted down in the Memo window of the ATLAS.ti application. Figure 10 pro vides an example of the coding process. The left pane shows the data source linked to corresponding segments of the data source. The Memo window shows interview

PAGE 137

121 questions whi ch were generated based on observed disturbances and innovations or elements of activity system. Figure 10. ATLAS.ti screenshot with codes and a memo window. While the elements of the activity system were theoretically predetermined, the disturbances an d innovations had to be coded anew. When the a nalysis and coding started, five types of disturbances emerged: 1) language related disturbances, 2) analysis related disturbances, 3) genuine instructor disturbances, 4) content related disturbances and 5) al l others. Language related disturbances included mech anical, grammatical, lexical

PAGE 138

122 and organization related feedback on the papers from the instructor. In addition, late submissions of papers, clarifying questions sent to forums and instructors also served as possible evidence of language related disturbances. Analysis related disturbances were Guide for A nalysis P apers reflected either through the missed discussion points in the papers, ins feedback, or Genuine instructor d isturbances were manifested through questions that the instructors asked because they mostly because of the grammati cal or lexical inaccuracies Content disturbances were the to the students to improve on their ideas in the analysis papers. These recommendations did not concern the ideas related to the requirements of the Guide for Analysis Papers. Finally, all other indicators of possible evidence that did not belong to the four categories above were coded as other s of disturbances emerged again. Others, howe ver, had to be created a new. Thus, as more data arrived from each student participant, the coding developed too A ppendix R includes a list of definitions for these and other codes that became developed during the actual coding and analysis process eight step model in Table 4 At this stage, the emerging evidence was coded as 1) subject, 2) i nstruments, 3) object, 4) division of labor, 5) community, and 6) rules. The definition for each construct is provided in A ppendix R A particular attention was paid to the identification and dynamics of the obje ct s throughout the semester Because at this point of the study, it was impossible to make conclusions about

PAGE 139

123 as object s At Sta g e 3, these preliminary coding obj ects were refined (to be discussed further). As the interviews were conducted and transcribed, a follow up analysis of the data activity elements and disturbances o r innovations indicating contradictions and their under the Memo section of ATLAS.ti. During this analysis and reflection phase, certain questions would emerge, and I noted them down in the Memo section for a follow up in the next interview. This procedure was repeated three to four times during the semester. Some student participants were not able to participate in all four interviews while others agreed to a final fifth interview. At the end of the semester, the instructor and BIHE administrator participants were interviewed. The interview questions were compiled in the process of the four cycles of data coll ection and analysis. Every time a piece of evidence needed a confirmation, a quest ion was added for a specific instructor or for the BIHE administrator in the ATLAS.ti section. Stage 3: Finalizing Results At this stage, the data preliminar il y analyzed in ATLAS.ti were revised and finalized There were two methods or techniques that fa cilitated this analysis: 1) ATLAS.ti coding and memos and 2) technique for systematizing d isturbances and i nnovations ATLAS.ti Coding and Memos As was described above, during Stage 2, the student produced data were analyzed and coded preliminary in order to generate follow up interview questions. The codes for the disturbances and innovations became refined as more data were coll ected. However, the

PAGE 140

124 The literature does not provide detailed discussion o f how to identify methodologically an object of an activity system, except that it is a long term motive that underlies the actions performed by the subject, and that it is not always clearly recognized by the subject (Engestrm, 1987; Engestrm, 1999a; Le 1975). Given this definition and the missing opportunity to observe the participants in real life, I relied primarily on the interviews, where I asked the participants about their goals in the critical thinking course. To confirm whether these goal s were indeed objects in the theoretical sense I inquired about actions that the participants perform ed in or outside of the course that would confirm the ir commitment to their objects. Next I would analyze the data collected from the course to confirm t he existence of a given object. This methodology required a cyclical analysis of the data for every potential object a participant had. The following is an example of this methodology. During the first interview, Azad, one of the participants, mentioned t hat his goal in the course was to pass it and get a grade. He also reinforced this idea in the background survey. This turned out to be one of the objects in the critical thinking course. I n fact, it was an exchange value orientation of an academic object, such as improving EFL or learning critical thinking which will be discussed in much detail in the following chapter This orientation was present in some of his course related actions, such as requesting his instructor for optional conference calls or pa rticipating in optional pre writing activities that earned him extra bonus points. When asked about his motive to complete these optional assignments, he readily admitted that he wanted to increase his grade However, in addition to this grade orientation the data also indicated the fact that analysis papers did not empha size criticizing people His instructor also clearly saw this tendency In the interviews, Aza d confirmed that he tended to criticize people, and that in fact he enjoyed doing it. Thus, while patterns of objects emerged already during the

PAGE 141

125 data collection and preliminary analysis, at this stage of finalizing the results, it required revisiting the d ata and preliminar il y defined objects to confirm the ir existence. Critical to this analysis were the memos, the reflection logs in ATLAS.ti, where I entered and refined my interpretations It should be noted, however, that the findings about the participan remain tentative because of the limited methodology due to the online environment and because objects in and of themselves are a theoretical construct that are hard to identify through observable data Technique for Operationalizing Contradicti ons and Consequences At the end of the semester, all disturbances and innovations were identified, confirmed, and stored in ATLAS.ti. The technique for operationalizing contradictions and consequences was instrumental in putting all disturbances and innova tions together in one document in order to identify their patterns and construct contradictions and consequences. This instrument is a combination of the original technique for operationalizing disturbances and innovations and the analytical techniques for interpreting contradictions and consequences. It includes the following original formula for phrasing disturbances and innovations: [Subject] had difficulty/was dissatisfied with [goal of action] because [disturbance] In order to [goal of action], [subje ct] came up with the idea of [innovation] to compensate for the [optional disturbance] In addition, th is modified instrument includes cells for contradictions and consequences. The methodology for linking disturbances and innovations to the underlying co ntradictions and their consequences is partly based on previous research. In one of his articles, Engestrm (1999b) provides examples of how their research team identified inner contradictions in a children hospital in Helsinki that had just undergone som e major

PAGE 142

126 changes in its infrastructure. The purpose of the article is to explain how contradictions in the activity system can be made visible. In their approach, they video taped multiple interactions with different participants in the hospital and then ca lled the executives for a joint session where the videos were shown and discussed. To give one example, they identified a series of disturbances: 1) multiple recordings of the same information about the patient by different hospital workers (nurses and doc tors), 2) multiple undressing of the child patient for examination, and 3) loss of information about the patient. These and other disturbances lead to two underlying contradictions in the activity system of the hospital: 1) between division of labor (rigid compartmentalization of duties) and the object (continued care for the patent) and 2) the instruments (missing adequate documenting tools) and the This methodology for identifying contradiction s in activity systems is present in many other works by Engestrm (1987; 1999a, 2001). There are several implications in examples such as above. First, all the disturbances and innovations need to be first identified and laid bare in front of the participa nts. Second, participants representing multiple perspectives of the same activity system should come together to offer their explanation of the identified disturbances and innovations. Third, the interpretations of contradictions take place in the light of the activity system of interest with all its elements in place: subject, instruments, object, division of labor, community, and rules. As a result of this effort, certain disturbances and innovations may start pointing at one underlying cause of the probl em a contradiction. sources. The multiplicity of perspectives is ensured through the involvement of the subject of the activity and the community (instructor). Final ly, the activity system with its elements is available to contextualize the disturbances and innovations at hand. One drawback of this

PAGE 143

127 methodology, however, is the missing meeting where all the participants with multiple perspectives come together for a jo int consultation. This is partly compensated by follow up interviews with the instructors. In addition, newly interpreted contradictions and their consequences were member checked as much as possible in the subsequent interviews with the student participan ts. was instrumental in theoretical construction of contradictions and their consequences. During the data collection and preliminary analysis, I noted down my preliminary interpretations of contrad ictions and their consequences, which were then revisited during the final stage of my analysis. Table 7 data that are operationalized in terms of contradictions and consequences For example, through the interviews with Azad, it transpired that he wanted to have a conference call but because his instructor did not feel confident using Skype and because she missed his last request, Azad was never able to have a conference call. T his disturbance was consistent throughout the semester; hence it is a contradiction. In order to identify what kind of contradiction it is, the involved subject, object, or mediator s (Skype and instructor) need to be placed in the activity triangle: instru ctor (community) Skype (instrument). The consequence of this contradiction also comes from the data According to both Azad and his instructor, they were never able to hold a conference call due to these disturbances, and Azad expressed a concern about t he lost opportunity to earn extra bonus points and to communicate with his instructor. In other words, no solutions for these disturbances have emerged, and the contradiction remained unresolved (1999b, p. 68) definition (see the last two rows in Table 7 ) it is important to keep in mind that theoretically they are the same as solutions of disturbance s. In other words, they occur at the action level in that

PAGE 144

128 they are single events. When a disturban ce occurs on a regular basis, it becomes evident that there is an underlying contradiction that is causing it. When an innovation, i.e. solution becomes implemented on a regular basis to address the same disturbance, it acquires a theoretical status of a r esolution of that contradiction. For example, the data show that Azad was able to submit his final paper on time, but his draft was a few days late. When inquired about his rationale, Azad explained that this was his strategy that he had to develop in ord er to cope with time constraints. As such, it is a resolution of a contradiction between tight due dates (time constraints) and the need to turn in his assignments on time (grade oriented object). The following chapter will provide a detailed discussion of the objects that the participants had in the course environment, as well as the connection between secondary contradictions, such as between due dates and objects and quaternary ones, such as between course and work activities. T his instrument establishe s a connection between single occurrences of disturbances and solutions (i.e. unremarkable innovations) on the one hand, and contradictions and their consequences (resolutions or absence thereof) on the other. This technique employs the data coded and stor ed in ALTAS.ti and theoretical analysis of the involved constructs.

PAGE 145

129 Table 7 Sample of Operationalized Contradictions and Consequences Solutions/possible consequences Possible contradiction Data source had difficulty Having conferenc e calls with instructor feel confident using it & she missed one of his requests No solution lost opportunity to earn extra points & communicate with instructor Community instrument Forum, interview had difficulty I nteracting with his classmates in forums because his classmates did not participate actively No visible solution Community object Instructor interview, Interview 3 had difficulty Having smooth relationship with instructor because she misunderstood h im for a schmoozer No evidence Community subject Instructor interview, Interview 3 had difficulty Taking classes from Iranian professors work online; their materials No evidence BIHE activity Interview 3

PAGE 146

130 are outdated s In order to Write his Paper 2 on time Azad came up with the idea of Running late with the draft but turning in his final on time Rule object Paper 4 In order to Write his paper 3 on tim e Azad came up with the idea of Running late with the draft but submitting the final on time Rule object Paper 2

PAGE 147

131 Trustworthiness Following the recommendations for naturalistic inquiry, I ensure d rigor of this study by establishing trustworthiness. Lincoln and Guba (1985) provide four conditions for trustworthiness: credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability, which correspond to the post positivistic internal validity, generalizability, reliability, and objectivity. Among the m eans for ensuring trustworthiness, Lincoln and Guba (1985) recommend: a) prolonged engagement, b) persistent observation, c) triangulation of sources, methods, and investigators, d) peer debriefing, e) checking findings and interpretations, and f) thick de scription. One semester provide d sufficient exposure to the activity systems of interest. My previous three year experience with BIHE, as was discussed above, provide d extra supporting information to contextualize and interpret the findings. Triangulation of sources and methods was achieved through the different methods, types and sources of data described above. There were three types of informants: student s instructor s and a BIHE administrator The types of data include d the background survey, intervie ws, observations of the students' online participation, students' products, such as papers and postings to forum discussions, as well as the researcher's log. To ensure that the information I collect ed during the interviews with the students was accurate, I use d was also helpful with the instructor s and BIHE administrator when the sound quality was not adequat e enough. After each cycle of data collection, analysis, and interpretation, I identified questionable interpretations of data and prepare d them for member checking. Thus, the preliminary findings from each cycle were followed up with the student particip ants in the subsequent interviews.

PAGE 148

132 Two colleagues were requested to cross check the coding of the data. Each of them receive d approximately 30 % of the data set collected from one student participant and was asked to code the evidence for identified distur bances, innovations, and activity elements: subjects, instruments, objects, division of labor, communities, and rules, according to provided operational definitions (see A ppendix R ) The agreement as a result of independent coding was 87% with one co rater and 72% with the other one. After I discussed the differences with the co raters, the agreement reach ed 1 00%. The interpreted findings were also discussed with the major professors of the committee. These meeti ngs helped arrive at a consensus on debatable interpretations when they seemed ambiguous. Finally, transferability is key in qualitative research. Lincoln and Guba (1985) recommend a thick description of the setting and participants that would allow the r eader to make a judgment as to how close the setting and participants come to his or her own target population. This concept of transferability is present in the works of other qualitative scholars. Eisner (1998) and Bruner (1986) talk about verisimilitude or lifelikeness as a feature of qualitative research that allows the reader to see the reality depicted by the researcher in as realistic a way as possible. The size of this manuscript testifies to the role of transferability i n this study. Each participa nt received ample attention. The setting, likewise, was discussed in much deta il to achieve verisimilitude.

PAGE 149

133 Summary of Data Collection and Analysis This concluding section discusses how each of the two overarching questions were addressed methodologicall y in terms of 1) the data collected, 2) analyses completed and 3) the timeframes for these procedures. All the procedures of the study can be presented i n terms of three phases (Table 8 ). At t he first stage I selected the participants. At the second sta ge, went through three to 2) confirming the emerging evidence through interviews with the students, 3) interpreting preliminary contradictions and their consequences, and 4) preparing data for m ember checking in the subsequent interview. During the last cycle, I also interviewed the instructors and a BIHE administrator whose input triangulated the findings. At the last stage, I reviewed all the data and preliminary findings and finalized them i n light of the research questions. Table 8 summarized these stages by highlighting research procedures and corresponding data sources and instruments. Table 8 Summary of the Research Stages Procedures Data sources and instruments Stage 1: Recruitment S election of participants: Students Instructors Background survey the previous semester Elimination approach ( Appendix S )

PAGE 150

134 Stage 2: Data analysis during collection 1) Find possible disturbances and assignments and other sources 2) conduct interviews to confirm disturbances and innovations and identify activity systems and their changes 3) Interpret preliminary underlying co ntradictions and consequences manifested in the identified disturbances and innovations 4) Prepare interpretations for member checking at the subsequent interviews Student produced data: papers, forum entries, student instructor interactions, and Moodle tracked data Interviews with student participants Interviews with instructor participants Interview with BIHE administrator ATLAS.ti coding and memos Stage 3: Finalizing results Fin alizing the interpretations of contradictions and consequences Cross checking of findings and interpretations with two colleagues Student produced data: papers, forum entries, student instructor interactions, and Moodle tracked data Interviews with student participants Interviews with instructor participants Interview with BIHE administrator ATLAS.ti coding and memos Technique for operationalizing dist urbances and innovations

PAGE 151

135 There are two over arching questions in this study: 1) What types of contradictions arise in the activity systems of individual learners of the target course? and 2) What are the consequences of the identified contradictions? Thes e sets of questions were addressed using almost the same sources of data. Figure 11 roughly shows this relationship. It is rough in the sense that in reality all the data sources were used for both questions, but there was emphasis on certain types of sour ces to answer one or the other research question. For example, we see that there are no data sources that would exclusively address only the second research question about consequences of contradictions. The bulk of the findings about consequences came fro m the interviews with the participants because consequences are primarily identified or rather confirmed through interviews and onl y secondarily through observed data, such as pre writing activities, p aper assignments, forums, and Moodle tracked logs. The question about contradictions, on the other hand, depends on the data about disturbances and innovations, which were primar il y identified through the observed data. Secondly they were also confirmed through interviews with all the participants.

PAGE 152

136 Figure 1 1 Distribution of data sources among research questions

PAGE 153

137 Finally, Figure 12 repre sents the information in Table 8 and highlights the cyclical nature of the procedures. This visual representation provides some additional insights in terms of the sequenc es of procedures. One can see that Cycles 1 through 4 proceed in an iterative manner. The study is finalized in Stage 3, which took place after the bridge course was over and all the data were collected Figure 12 The three stages of the study

PAGE 154

138 My Role as Researcher This section belongs to the end of the methodology chapter for a purpose. It brings the discussion of methodological issues to a logical conclusion by implying that many of the procedures above are inevitably influenced by my personal biases and limi tations, and rather than concealing them as non existing, I would like to bring them to the fore front in gning this study as well as its influence on the interpretations of the results. Proponents of naturalist inquiry maintain that a naturalistic researcher, representing a constructivist paradigm, is aware of the subjective nature of any inquiry and, as suc h, p. 194). This epistemological stance is reflected in the language of this study where the the researcher are common. This epistemological position can also be found in the methodological decisions such as a particular interest in As researcher of this study, I am indeed a passionate participant of th is project. I share the religious beliefs of the student and most of the instructor participants, as well as their and other minority communities in Iran. I also ass ume multiple roles in this project and bring much of my own previous experience with BIHE. I started volunteering for BIHE in 2005 as a member of the EFL group that had just begun to develop online EFL courses. Since then I have been involved with the BIHE curriculum as an EFL course developer, EFL 101 and 103 tutor, lead tutor, EFL tutor trainer, placement test developer, and researcher. Regarding the latter, 2005 through 2006, I conducted a study on the efficacy of the EFL 101 pilot course (Madyarov, in p ress). In 2007, I reviewed the BIHE curriculum and wrote a

PAGE 155

139 proposal for the BIHE administration on how to integrate English instruction into the Institute curriculum in view of the fact that BIHE is moving towards a bilingual distance model of education. I was closely involved in the development of this bridge course. I have initiated and participated in the course dev elopment. I have facilitated the administration of the course as the lead instructor, whose responsibility included leading the training of t he instructors, answering questions from the instructors or students, addressing any emerging problems, and staying in touch with BIHE administration. These previous and current responsibilities provide me with a richer insight about the setting. On the o ther hand, it created challenges due to the fact that, as a researcher, I had access to confidential information about my participants and was responsible for ethical decisions. Some of these issues were mentioned in more detail in the previous section on ethical aspects of data collection. Now that the study is complete, I realize that the course had many pedagogical shortcomings that resulted in certain overlooked contradictions systems, and I should admit that my identity of a course co developer was in no way diminished by this fact I celebrated my realization of the many drawbacks that emerged as a result of the study because they opened up doors for further improvement of this course particular ly and other online BIHE con tent courses. Thus, aware of this potential bias, I do not believe it affected my interpretations in any way. One potentially inhibiting influence of my role in this study comes from the fact that I was a researcher and instructor of one of my own student s. This fact could have had drastic fruitful collaboration of a researcher and participant. I sensed that he must not have allowed himself to speak of my fe edback and interaction with him in negative terms. However, this

PAGE 156

140 tendency was true of all other participants, which I attribute to the cultural characteristics of Iranian students or perhaps those of Iranian students. This is why I cannot readily co nfirm whether this tendency was due to my dual role with this student and whether it had a potentially negative influence on my findings. Rather, I tend to conclude that our relationship was conducive to obtaining more insightful data and arriving at more accurate findings In terms of my relationship with the instructors, I see only positive effects of my role on the results. I have developed a close relationship with all of them. Of the three instructor participants, I personally knew two of them, and w e could openly discuss any issues pertaining to the course. Soon after I met the third person, our collegial teamwork started to flourish. I enjoyed our collaboration during the semester, and it was a rewarding experience and certainly critical to the over all quality of my study. Overall, aware as I am of my personal biases in this project, I come to the conclusion that my relationship to the study participants and my personal investment in this course afforded more methodological benefits than shortcoming s. My intensive involvement in BIHE has provided me with knowledge about certain cultural practices and beliefs of BIHE students, instructors, and administrators. The trust that I have gained from the instructors and some of the BIHE staff members allowed me to tap into more in depth cultural historical nuances of the setting. This knowledge was critical in interpreting my findings. The discussion of implications in the final chapter requires an understanding of the larger context of the educational institu tion, which again was available to me through my prior and current experience. One final comment on my role in this project concerns some of my theoretical struggles. This has affected the final results of this study more than anything else. Cultural histo rical activity theory is by no means a straightforward frame of reference. I have learned

PAGE 157

141 much of CHAT for the past year by immersing myself in the literature, but nothing could have b rought me to the understanding of this theoretical perspective more than the actual research. I was forced to read Hegel and Marx in my attempts to resolve my own contradictions between the dense complexity of the theoretical constructs and my object of learning. This engagement with philosophy le ft its imprint in my dissertat ion which becomes more evident in the final chapter of the manuscript. Now that this study is over, I must admit I barely scratched the surface of CHAT and socio cultural theory. My interpretations are subjective not so much because of the many roles I h ad to play in this project, but largely because the theory seems to leave much room contradictions in human activities.

PAGE 158

142 CHAPTER FOUR : RESULTS Overview This section d iscusses the results of the study that focused on the following research questions: 1. What types of contradictions arise in the central activity systems of individual learners of the target course? 1.1. What primary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 1.2. What secondary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 1.3. What tertiary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 1.4. What quat ernary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 2. What are the consequences of the identified contradictions? 2.1. What are the consequences of the identified primary contradictions? 2.2. What are the consequences of th e identified secondary contradictions? 2.3. What are the consequences of the identified tertiary contradictions? 2.4. What are the consequences of the identified quaternary contradictions? Contradiction s and their consequences theoretically belong to the unit of analysis of activity. This implies tracing consistencies in disturbances and their solutions that occur at

PAGE 159

143 the action level. Engestrm (1999b) refers to this methodology as visibilization, where contradictions within and between the elements of activity b ecome visible through and forth between the units of analysis of activity and action when addressing the research questions in this study. The microgenetic processes of the participants were happening at the level of actions, and as such, they provided most evidence for the findings. The level of activity, however, comes into play during the interpretation of contradictions and consequences because they exist only at the level of activity, i.e. when they are contextualized in terms of relationships within and between the elements of activity systems: subject, instruments, object, division of labor, community, and rules. Before proceeding to the individual cases of stu dent activity systems and contradictions that occurred in them, I will highlight one important finding that runs through all six cases and contextualizes their results. Some CHAT framed research demonstrated that students may have more than one object in within the context of one course ( Jin, 2007 ). This finding is well supported in this study. Based on the data available, all six participants had multiple activity systems overlapping and interacting within the context of the course. However, t heoretically speaking, there was no activity of course taking as it was conceived of in the proposal of the study. Because an activity system is defined by its unique object, the course taking activity would have to have its unique object in order to be identified as suc h (Engestrom, 1987; 1978; Nardi, 1996 ). In my interpretation of the data, the student participants were engaged in activity systems oriented towards their unique objects but those were not course taking activities per se Rather, most of the had their previous history and now continued to evolve and co exist w ithin the context of the course, for example: the objects of improving English as a foreign language (EFL) learning critical

PAGE 160

144 thinking, or engaging in critici sm. Given the ontology and epistemology of CHAT, it is hardly possible to demarcate the boundaries between these activity systems methodologically because activities are characterized by their dynamic interacting nature (Engestrom, 2001). The boundaries do exist, however, and are manifested th r ough differing objects or motives. (1978) himself stressed the idea that individual actions are polymotivated, meaning that one single action could be a result of multiple objects or motives. Similarly, in th is study while students were engaged in the action of writing an analysis paper, they were meeting the needs of multiple motives, for example: improving EFL or learning critical thinking. Depending on the facilitating or constraining circumstances, some of these objects would become more salient than others, which will be discussed further with individual student participant s Accordingly, the research questions had to be understood in this new light. T heoretically, in this study it is more appropriate to s peak of the context of the course than a course taking activity I propose a construct of a shell to denote such a ready made, pre packaged environment that includes all the elements of an activity system except for the subject and obj ect. Courses in moder n school going often represent such shells in that they have a structure imposed upon students, where they could bring in their existing objects develop new ones, or simply perform a number of isolated actions not oriented towards any object, much like En gestrm (1987) suggests. The idea of a shell is somewhat opposite to the organic formation of a human activity in that it is not constructed by the subjects of the activity. An example may help. A young woman acquires an object of becoming a self trained professional photographer. She inevitably and quite organically acquires mediating elements that facilitate the transformation of her object towards the desired outcome making quality photographs that would be worth selling for a living. She buys books a nd necessary gear

PAGE 161

145 that serve her as mediating instruments. She inspires her family and friends who start sharing her object and support her in some ways by playing different roles, as models, consultants, or sponsors, who become the community of her activi ty. This kind of activity is organically formed, and as such all the elements therein organically mediate original object. If a textbook as a mediator does not satisfy the subject she naturally eliminate s it because it is not conducive to th e transformation of the object. She may, in fact, join a course or an organization that would facilitate the transformation of her object. Such a course would represent for her a shell that she enters with her own object. Other s tudents in that course will be driven by their own differing objects, for example, getting a certificate to satisfy their employer. Because it is a shell, some of its elements could be non conducive to the transformation of the object of our new photographer i n which case, she will naturally avo id performing those actions. H owever, if she is expected to comply, she will, but this time this action will be oriented towards the exchange value of the object, such as a grade (more discussion on this orientation is forthcoming) Thus, a shell is in a way an inorganic context in that individual subjects enter ing it from outside have not created it on their own to suit their motives. Sometimes they match the needs of the subjects and their objects very well, and such courses are considered successful. When they do not however the subjects decide to comply by forming their own objects or by brin g ing in those that would naturally fit the shell. What transpired in this study is that the shell of the critical thinking course caused multiple ac tivity systems of one subject to co emerge and co exist for several months until this shell ran its course at the end of the semester. One possible reason for this co emergence of differing activity systems is favorable mediators conducive to the transform ation of these diverse objects. Another reason is the imposing rules that force the emergence of some objects. This construct of shells may have insightful implications for

PAGE 162

146 pedagogical practice. However, at this point this interpretation has some implicati ons for the research questions. When operationalizing the central activity systems in this course I referred to the course taking activities of individual student participants. In light of the finding discussed abo ve, the central activity system become s re conceptualized as multiple c o existing activity systems within the shell of the course, such as those oriented towards improving E FL learning critical thinking, or engaging in criticism The contradictions and their consequences, which are the center o f gravity in the research questions, become viewed as contradictions and consequences within those particular activity systems as they are constructed within the course shell This last condition is important because my research design was targeting the sh ell of this course, and there is no data available in this study about the repercussions of these contradictions and consequences in those same independent activity systems outside of this course. In keeping with this finding, the discussion of this chapte r is organized in the following way. First, I provide a brief profile of the student participant followed by a discussion of his systems that co emerged within th e course shell and their historical development within the semester This contextualizes the subsequent discussion of the contradictions and consequ ences in these activity systems the focus of the actual research questions. This discussion will be follow ed by a summary of the findings for that particular student. Azita The data for this part of the chapter for all student participants c a me primarily from i nterviews with the participants Examples of questions included: What is your daily routine?

PAGE 163

147 Do you do anything besides taking classes? Tell me about your family. Do you do any related activities? Other questions elicited this information indirectly through our discussion of course provided insights about them as subjects of their central activity systems. Azita is a 23 year old female student. She is a like other BIHE students. She is single and lives with her mother and father. Her sister, who teaches English, apparently li ves separately, but they see each other twice or three times a week. Azita seems to have a good balance of creative and analytical skills. She likes to play the santoor, an Iranian instrument of the dulcimer family, and does calligraphy. She likes music an d particularly mentioned classical music. At the same time, she is attracted to everything that has to do with computers. In her background survey, she indicated that she had been using Yahoo! Messenger for 10 years and communicated by email exte nsively. I n fact, computers had been her passion for a few years. When she entered BIHE five semesters ago (equal to 2.5 years), her intention was to study computer engineering. However, according to her, because of an oversight in the BIHE administration, she ended up studying English literature instead, where most courses are taught in English. Two semesters ago, she changed her major to management. In her background survey, she .I also like to be a useful member in my society In the meantime, while taking an average of 16 credit hours of coursework at BIHE per semester, Azita works for a computer company where she repairs computers and does related paperwork. Her working hours last from 8 am until 3 pm Saturday through Wednesday (weekend s in Iran fall on Thursdays and Fridays). She says that her parents have enough money to support her, but she chose to work because she likes the job and prefers to have her ow n money. Azita could take fewer classes, but it is important for her to

PAGE 164

148 graduate as soon as possible. Her weeks long silence periods after my repetitive email requests for interviews may be an indication of her extremely busy schedule, or a possible lack o f time management. activity systems that emerged in this course. She comes across more as an emotional and sentimental person than not. She is quick to point out thin and it shows up in interviews, forum posts, and analysis papers. When recalling her recent course related actions, she said, predisposition for emotional reactions. In my interactions with her and in observing her online behavior, I also noticed frequent shifts in her opinion and mood. In one of the interviews in Yahoo! Messenger, she b ecame suddenly upset about the poor connection and made it very clear to me by text messaging me the following interview June, 25, 2008), and the next second she went on to discuss the issue at hand Her opinion about her current major in management and online At the same time, Azita is a very considerate and po lite, sometimes too polite to be willing to tell the truth a typical characteristic of the Iranian culture. Dear please and were common ly expressed in her interactions with me and her professor. If I broad brush strokes, I would say she is a vibrant, energetic somewhat outspoken young woman, who has her own professional and personal goals about which she is passionate. She tends to have a change of heart about issues she does not feel strong ly about. She likes to communicate with people, but may n ot volunteer the first contact.

PAGE 165

149 employed in this study: analysis papers, online forums, and ot her evidence of online behavior, interviews with the student participants and their instructors, interaction with their instructors through electronic messages and sometimes conference calls. One needs to realize that this kind of evidence is not sufficien t to draw an absolutely conclusive picture of activity systems due to the lack of direct contact with the participants. Therefore, certain findings remain tentative. Azita, was engaged in three different activity systems that correspond to t he following three objects or motives: 1) learning critical thinking, 2) improving EFL and 3) maintaining a good self image. It is important to note that Azita also exhibited strong interest in the grade, which I chose to interpret as an exchange value o r ientation of the otherwise use value oriented objects of learning critical thinking and EFL. This is in line with the discussion of going activities (see p. 36 above) A more detailed discussion of this nature of primary contradictions is forthcoming. In light of the discussion above, the course acted as a favorable context, a convenient vehicle that included all the necessary faci lities for the existence of these activities: instruments, division or labor, community, and rules. These mediating elements are the common denominators for the differing objects ; hence my discussion will start with them I purposefully made the activity s ystem of learning critical thinking more salient in Figure 13 because it is the shell that had a pedagogical goal of critical thinking. Being a shell, it includes activity system elements that are common to all other activit y systems within this shell: similar instruments, division of labor, community, and

PAGE 166

150 she did have an object of learning critical thinking, albeit very weak and u nstable. In this activity system, one of the m ediating instruments was EFL This is due to the content based nature of the course. This is one of the enlightening advantages of CHAT in th at it is able to demonstrate that the linguistic medium of instructi on in a content based course (or any course for that matter) is a mediating instrument and as such it begs for improvement if not adequate to fulfill its mediating functions. This study consistently showed how EFL as a mediating instrument in the given se tting proved inadequate, which drew When EFL is also an object of its activity, which is the case with Azita, this interplay brings about its own dynamics. Such a dual role of certa in elements as objects and instruments in two different activities is common, and Engestrm (1987) discusses them in the context of i nstrument producing activities whose object is the production of instruments that are utilized as such in other activities EFL was placed into the category of mediating instruments in that it helped students understand the readings and produce their assignments by means of English Other mediating inst group, the teacher posted Power Point slides for the first article to facilitate their reading. T he course also included information about the contributors, the authors of the articles and gloss aries that in the html version were hyperlinked inside the text. Assignments were also part of the mediating instruments, and they included the analysis papers for every module, three problem solution forums, and two optional assignments: pre writing assig nments, and conference calls. It is important to note that assignments could also belong to the rule node of the activity systems because they establish rules and as such have a restricting mediating power. I t is possible to theorize a distinction between assignments as

PAGE 167

151 instruments versus rules. In the former, the student s would genuinely use assignments to transform their use oriented objects, such as learning critical thinking. In the latter case, the subject s would comply with requirements and as such ha ve more of an exchange value orientation to the object Methodologically, this distinction was impossible to establish due to the missing face to face contact and perhaps due to the blurred and unstable borderline between the two functions of assignments. Figure 13 taking context. U nder the technology category the mediating instruments included the Moodle content management system, the articles primarily in html format with hyperlinked glossary

PAGE 168

152 items, the dial up Internet connection, and computer based dictionaries. Azita made it very clear that she preferred the html articles with hyperlinks and computer based dictionaries. A nother mediat ing English speaking sis ter. From the interviews with Azita, it appeared that her sister acted more as a help on demand resource, much like any other instrument we use to mediate our actions. If an instrument is not helpful, we either improve it or replace it with a better one. T hus, of all the elements of the activity system, the instruments nod e the function she fulfilled The division of labor included the roles that each member in this course taking context played (see Figure 13) There were other roles played by other members of this activity, such as a teaching assistant, ins tructional technology assistant, and myself as the course coordinator. according to the data obtained, the decision was not to include them in activity system s. T he rules were established by the course developers through the course syllabus, which in the Moodle environment is commonly referred to as the Universal Course Structure (UCS). In addition to describing the course goals, objectives, topics, and the calendar, the UCS stipulated the grading policy and due dates. For example, all the assignments were due at 11pm of the due date. For every day late, the assignment would lose 1 0% of the grade. Students had a 10 day grace period that they could apply to any one analysis paper. The grading rubrics were also part of the rules in this course context, and they included the grading rubrics for the problem solution forums ( Appendix D ), analysis papers ( Appendix C ), optional pre writing activities ( Appendix I ), and opt ional conference calls ( Appendix J ) The Guide for Analysis Papers (see Appendix B ) that described what to include in the analysis papers and prov ided an example of one was also

PAGE 169

153 actions as we shall see later. Finally, t and her classmates The classmates as a community were present only when Azita oriented herself to the exchange value of her objects, i.e. the grade. In this orientation her actions were mediated by the rule to make forum posts and respond to each other with a certain level of participation. This conclusi on is based on the overall level of interactivity among the group mates and the quality of the forum posts tutorials that [she] was having with ten different people (personal communicat ion August 22, 2008). The instructor on the other hand, did share with Azita the intended use value orientation in the object of learning critical thinking and EFL ha d an agency unlike her sister. The instructors in this course played a critical mediating role in transforming and shaping the student participants deserve special attention. was a who volunteered to teach this course as a service to BIHE. She was a native speaker of English and reside d in the United States According to her self introduction post to the group forum, she had had professional experience in designing garden s teaching piano, painting, public television, and radio, among other things. H er children had grown up and live d independently. had taught communication courses for 14 years and was the Chair of the Communication Department in a college in a Northeastern city in the U.S. According to her, she ha d taught many cour ses that integrated critical thinking and writing one way or another. This critical thinking course, however, was a new experience because its students were non native speakers of English and because this was a distance course She had to learn Moodle, but s he was somewhat familiar with Skype.

PAGE 170

154 H er teaching style and the nature of feedback reflected her extensive experience as a professor of communication and rhetoric She provided feedback promptly and responded In terms of the content feedback, she encouraged her students to follow the Guide for Analysis Papers ( Appendix B ), but more importantly she looked for a clear and focused argument She was quick t o note contradictory reasoning and that thoughts in written discourse be organized into developed paragraphs. In terms of language, she tended to point out repetitive errors and those tha t obscured meaning. As Figure 13 three activity systems had similar mediating elements because these activities happened to co exist in the shell of the course. This finding common to all student participants was discussed earlier in this ch apter. All these activities have existed outside of the critical thinking course, except perhaps for the activity of learning critical thinking, which as data suggest emerged in this course. It is impossible to depict their relationships but one can see a glimpse of these relationships by looking at the interaction between the activity systems of learning critical thinking and improving E FL It was often the case that Azita had to address some English related issues, such as difficult vocabulary item s or sentence s while she was trying to work on the actions oriented towards learning critical thinking. Thus, EFL often interacted with other activity systems as a mediating instrument that had its own existence outside of this course shell Depending on the circumstances, one or another activ ity system would be come predominant. Historically, these activity systems also changed their shape in the shell of the course. system s.

PAGE 171

155 started emerging from the beginning of the subject [philosophy], first interview, one month into the semester, Azita still expressed interest in the subject ave searched the Internet to learn about critical thinking, although on another occasion in the same interview, we observe the following exchange (interview, June 1, 2008 ) : [ Researcher ] How about critical thinking? You said you like the content. Do you do anything else in addition to the course to understand, to learn it? [ Azita ] N ot yet [laughs] These contradictory statements may indicate her non committal attitude towards the object of learning critical thinking. She started forming this object but th ere is no evidence that she worked on transform ing it actively by engaging through self initiated actions, and she may have felt guilty about this l ack of genuine interest, which manifested itself as an apologetic laugh. Then, her fledgling o bject of criti cal thinking seemed to start waning. In the second interview, almost two months into the semester, Azita did not indicate any particular interest in critical thinking unlike in the first interview. When asked, s he could state with some understanding which elements of critical thinking had to be included in the analysis papers We should discuss the main ideas of the writer. The author and we should say his or her purposes, his goals, and we should mention ... his perspectives and his opinions ( interview June 25, 2008) However, those were not discussed in her papers quite explicitly according to the course expectations despite the repeated effort of the instructor to bring this missing discussion to her attention throughout the whole semester. This clearl y indicates her confusion about the nature of critical thinking as it was conceived of in this

PAGE 172

156 course. In her analysis papers she consistently discussed what she liked and did not like about the articles or agreed and disagreed with the authors instead of discussing the elements discussed in the Guide for Analysis Paper. The following is an excerpt from Analysis Paper 1 ( May 8, 2008) : Instead of saying ctual capacity capacity. Because the meaning of exclusive is more complete and more suitable in this phrase. Also, using thinking instead of reflection, social scientists instead of psychologists, etc may be more suita ble. This tendency continued into her last pap er : He should write in a way that everyone would understand his meanings; I th ink his language is not so well, (Analysis Paper 8, August 4, 2008). Azita provided similar comments on the ideas of the articles as well This take on critical thinking may be indicative of her dismissive attitude towards this object or a differing conception of this object In one of her interviews, she admitted that she had to criticize something, so she would pick at least at the language in order to satisfy her instructor, which seem ed to be a signal of another object maintaining a good self image to be discussed next. As a result, her analysis papers received a lower grade for content or for the lack of revisions based on the the interview, her instructor mentioned that a missing unifying argument and justification of her opinion had a major need for improvement Her last analysis paper was the proverbial last straw in the downfall of the object of learning critical thinking. When discussing this paper in our last interview Azita admitted the reason of this loss of interest, "no, not lack of time. Maybe because of not paying attention [laughs]. Because of being tired of this semeste r, of work, of anything, (interview, August 17, 2008).

PAGE 173

157 participation in problem solution forums designe d to elicit critical analysis in real life situations were also indicative of the weak interest in critical thinking, or at least of her differi ng understanding of critical thinking. She tended to agree with what her classmates would say without adding much of her insight or without justifying her opinion, let alone analyzing the elements of critical thinking p rovided in the scenario. This is her response to a classmate in Problem Solution Forum 1 that discussed a scenario with a 7 year old boy playing video games and his mother concerned about his well being ( Problem Solution Forum 1 June 3, 2008): [Classmate] I think if she wants to solve this p roblem she should not repel playing video games in first steps by using violence, rather she should move beside her husband and son by using amour and politics. It means that she should make friendship by playing with them or at least by sharing in their h appiness till they play, so that they can accept her as their friend. After awhile she can suggest some other works beside playing video games such as going on a pick nick, watching a film in cinema, going park, and playing football with them. ... [Azita] I agree with you [classmate]. S he should have done so in order to solve the problem. I also agree that she should have consult with his husband to get help and assistance. A number of circumstances that have affected the object of critical thinking also af fected the other co existing objects in this course: improving English, maintaining a good self image. However, overall the data show that Azita did start developing an object of learning critical thinking which then lost its momentum possibly due to a di ffering conception of critical thinking imposed upon her by the course expectations, i.e. the rules of the activity system: the grading rubric of analysis papers and forum discussion the Guide for Analysis Papers, and perhaps her instructor I n the last i nterview, we can still observe

PAGE 174

158 some glimpses of her genuine interest in the course articles when I asked her to specify the reason for making effort in writing the papers: [Azita] meaning of the article. [Researcher] You were interested in the ideas of the article? [Azita] Yes, and the conclusion of the article. Thus, i t appears from the data that Azita planted a seed of the object of learning critical thinking at the beginning o f the semester which first changed its orientation from use value to exchange value and then became completely diminished due to strong underlying contradictions, which will be discussed in more detail in the section about contradictions. At this point, it is important to discuss the distinction between use and exchange value orientation in objects in more detail. To recall Engestrm (1987) discussion of primary contradictions in school going activities, in a capitalist socio economic formation, schools tend to promote a use and exchange value activity systems. This contradiction is manifested through the competition between learning for genuine use purposes of skills or knowledge and learn ing for the sake o f exchanging this learning for a grade. Thus, an academic object of a student subject inherently has two competing forces: genuine interest in the subject and interest in the grade. In this study, bjects changed their orientation from use to exchange value orientation, and Azita represents one such example. This evidence for this exchange orientation comes from the interviews and her responses in the background survey. For example, in the survey sh e indicated that one of her goals f or this course was to get an A In our interviews, she would bring up this subject course. And also we HAV E to pass [l aughs] this course, ( interview, June 1, 2008 ) Another

PAGE 175

159 source of evidence was her actions in the course. During the first month of the semester, Azita was not aware that the Problem Solution F orums were required assignments. When I explained to her t he gr ading policy, she replied take more grade interview June 25, 2008). This confusion possibly explained why she dismissed the Problem Solution F orums and instead directed her attention to the pre writing forums. According to her, she thought the pre writing activities were the required assignments. This also indicates her object of getting a good grade in the course. It is important to note, however, that while at the beginning she was motivated to get an A in h er last interview she made a statement that indicated a possible slackening of this exchange orientation (interview, August 17, 2008): [Researcher] Do you sometimes put less effort in your assignment and get a lower grade? Is it possible for you? [Azita] Y es, everything is possible. Elsewhere in the same interview, we had the following exchange about one of her analysis papers : [Researcher] Were you trying to get the best grade? The best mark? Or you were happy with an average? [Azita] Everyone likes to g et a complete grade, the whole mark, but .. I know how to This conversation took place after all the papers were turned in, including the last two analysis papers that were disappointing both to Azita and her instructor. A pos sible lowering the bar for the definition of a good grade was the demands of the course that she did not expect at the beginning of the course when she responded to the background survey about her am bitious goals. EFL

PAGE 176

160 Unlike critical thinking, the object of improving English had a much stronger footing due its previous long history. She studied in the department of English literature, as was mentioned above. Accordi ng to the interviews she took a TOEFL class outside of BIHE in order to improve her English. She watched movies in English, spoke English to her sister from time to time, and read articles in English on in the previous semesters ( background survey June 3, 2008). Azita liked the S tatistics for Business course that was also taught in English in her department. She explains that she appreciated that the instructor spoke in English and the book was in English. Regarding th e place of this activity system in the context of the course, Azita had the following to say, 104 [critical thinking course] ( interview June 25, 2008). This may indicate a possib le dissatisfaction with the critical thinking course due to the fact that it did not teach English as explicitly as the other EFL courses through vocabulary and grammar assignments and through feedback that focused on the language. In other wor ds, accordin g to her perception the context of the course was not very conducive to the transformation of her object of improving English although there were some except ions, which I interpret as a weakening of the EFL object. On the other hand, even at the end of th e semester Azita admitted that this course had helped her improve her English. According to her, s he had problems with writing due to the fact she did not like to write in general, and we had a discussion about some of the areas of improvement that her ins tructor indicated to her (interview, August 17, 2008) : [ Researcher ] Before [your instructor] told you [about your organization], did you know that your organization was not good? [Azita] Yes, I know I have problems in my writing. [ Researcher ] D id you know that it was about organization?

PAGE 177

161 [Azita] I have so many problems. [Researcher] Do you think your professor helped you understand your writing better? [Azita] Y es, 100%. Apparently because this course was not very accommodating t o her needs of improving EFL, or perhaps because there were too many strong contradictions in it, this object seemed to have weakened slightly by the end of the semester. Image In her dissertation that investiga (2007) found that some of her participants exhibited evidence of a motive that she called tentative evidence for a similar f inding with some part icipants, in particular, Azita. This object is hard to define because it was sometimes marked by a superficial attitude. Most of her responses to the optional and required forum discussions were short and did not provide any insights. Some of her revisions in the analysis papers were marked with this characteristic too. Below are several revisions that Azita made to her paper based on her k, which is given in parenthesis (Analysis Paper 4, June 9, 2008) [Draft paper] But, these explanations are not complete and enough. He should talk more about them. ... ( W hat would you lik e him to address, specifically?) [ Final paper with revisions] But, these explanations are not complete and enough. He should talk more about them. I think he should say the differences between these kinds and should explain how they are related to each other The following is a similar example from Analysis Paper 3 (May 26, 20 08): [Draft paper ] ... the author is always asking us some questions in order to make us think

PAGE 178

162 about the facts and materials mentioned here. ( How woul d you respond to his questions?) [Final paper with revisions ] ...the author is always asking us some quest ions in order to make us think about the facts and materials mentioned here. I would like to think to his questions and try to respond them logically and truly. Instances like these could be interpreted as actions motivated by the exchange value orientat ion of the critical thinking object a strategy to create an impression that the student piece of evidence that supports the existence of the good self image object. Th e following is our interaction in the last interview (August 17, 2008): [ Research er ] Did you sometimes have a feeling that I need to do that because [laughs] [Azita] Y es, [laughs] ... M ost of th e time I thought so. By the end of the semester, however, when according to her ( interview August 17, 2008). She did not even correct a number of capitalization errors and image dwindled if it existed.

PAGE 179

163 Summary of Central Activity Systems Figure 14 course. Of the three activity systems that Azita engaged in within the shell of this course some maintain ed some stability, others changed due to contradictions that will be discussed in the following section. Figure 14 attempts to provide a crude represen tation of the historicity of these three activity systems. It is crude because of the stated limitation in the

PAGE 180

164 methodology of this course. Unfortunately, interpretations had to be based on evidence collected via distance. Besides, being dynamic in nature, activity systems cannot be possibly represented with three activity triangles within the span of one semester. Nevertheless, this diagram gives an idea of what the student participants felt most (large triangle) and least (small triangle) motivated about. One can also observe that there is no growth of any of the three activity systems over time. Instead, most of them tend to shrink. This pattern in the given situation is not optimistic because with the weakening of the activity systems, the subject is los i ng the motives for her actions, and those are motives that facilitate learning in one way or another. If this state of af fairs had continued longer, Azita would p robably have lost the EFL object completely within the context of the course too. tradictions and Their Consequences Having contextualized course related actions performed by Azita in her centra l activity systems we can now discuss the contradictions and their consequences. As the section on Data Analysis describes, this process invol ved several steps. First, disturbances related actions were identified course assignments, Moodle logs and forums, and confirmed through interviews Second, these disturbances and in novations w ere formulated as sentences that put disturbances and innovations into the context of the action. Third, these sentences were reviewed to identify consistencies based on which contradictions and consequences were constructed. Primary Contradictions in Az school going activity discussed in the literature review (see p. 36 ) the use value orientation

PAGE 181

165 imp lies a meaningful learning directed towards real life use of the product of the school going activity. The exchange value orientation implies a grade driven approach, where learning actions are simply exchanged for a grade. All the other elements of the ac tivity system accordingly can change their orientation from being useful instruments, division of labor, community, or rules, to being conformist equivalents of these elements resulting in actions transforming the object at the superficial level The cont radiction between use and exchange value is t he most common type of primary contradiction cited in the literature ( Engestrm 1987; Ilyenkov, 1982). Regardless of their type, primary contradictions are said to be the engine s of all change and progress. The y do not get resolved in a given socio economic formation, but they create secondary contradictions in their activity systems that require resolutions, which when implemented lead to progress. According to Engestrm (1987), all elements of an activity syst em have primary contradictions. However, due to methodological and theoretical limitations of this study, I discuss only the most obvious instances of primary contradictions that emerged from the data (Table 9 ). Primary contradiction s in objects. Following the theoretical underpinnings, the primary contradiction in the academic objects of learning critical thinking and improving EFL has the dual nature of use and exchange value. When the actions are oriented towards the use value the student is striving to learn for the sa ke of genuine learning. When the actions are oriented towards the exchange value the student is interested in the grade. Methodologically, this distinction is ion, and some evidence from the student produced assignments. Azita exhibited some interest in learning critical thinking for its use value. She mentioned several times that she was attracted to philosophy, and at the end of the

PAGE 182

166 semester, as was discussed above. It is hard to state conclusively, but value orientation seemed predominant from the very beginning when she stated that she expected to get an A in this course in the background survey. This orientation was present more in the crit ical thinking object because she did not express much genuine interest or produced many actions that would indicate her orientation towards genuine learning of critical thinking As was mentioned above, this orientation ha d lost its power closer to the end of the semester, when she lowered the bar and was no longer ambitions about her grade plans, ( interview August, 17, 200 8) : first motivation was the grade, w ere yo u trying to get the best grade, t he best mark? Or you were happy with an average? [Azita] Everyone likes to get a complete grade, the whole mark, but, I know how to say that [a Persian saying that she could not translate] that in Farsi. ... [ Researcher ] Do you somet imes put less effort in your assignment and get a lower grade? Is it possible for you? [ Azita ] Yes, everything is possible. Her revisions were often superficial, and i n her last paper, as was demonstrated from the examples above. Th is primary contradicti on in the critical thinking object gave rise to secondary contradiction s For example, her orientation to get a good grade created a secondary contradiction between her object and 1) tight due dates (rules), 2) her misunderstanding of the G uide for A nalysi s P aper ( rule (community). Th e se three kinds of secondary contradictions are discussed in more depth in the next section

PAGE 183

167 T his primary contradiction in the object of improving English worked in a similar wa y except that this time A s actions were directed more towards the use value of the object. She actively used English for personal purposes, such as watching movies or reading websites. In her answer to the survey question about the role of English in her life, she wrote ( interview April 26, 2008): This is so important to me because it is the most common language in all over the world and it is going to become the international language. So everybody should learn it and know this language as well as t he native speakers. However, this object too lost its momentum closer to the end of the semester, when she was no longer interested in correcting simple spelling errors such as apposite for opposite (Analysis Paper 8, August 4, 2008). Just as with any prim ary contradiction, this one resul ted in secondary contradictions between object to improve E FL and her errors pointed out by her instructor (community). Given the nature of this object, the assumption is that Azita voluntarily makes effort to impro ve her English. Therefore, the feedback from the instructor may be viewed more as an instrument rather than a disturbance because it is expected and welcomed by Azita. Neverthele ss, for the sake of methodological consistency, I chose to view any feedback f rom the instructor as a disturbance, which in turn could be either facilitating or inhibiting. Concerning the primary contradiction in the object of maintaining self image, it is perhaps the most challenging to identify using the guiding theoretical unde rpinnings. Maintaining a good self image seems to be a purely psychological need. Following the theoretical framework, orientation towards the exchange value in this primary contradiction would mean using good self image as money to exchange for something. Orientation towards the use value would mean using it for its own sake, which appears to be a more

PAGE 184

168 image. However, the problem with this interpretation is that the other side of this primary contradiction the exchange value does not seem to exist. If a person has something that is of use value, by the law of contradiction, another person would want to have it as well and would propose to exchange it for something else. This mechanism does not seem to wo rk with the maintaining self image object It is also not clear what consequences this contradiction, if its one, created. A possible reason is b ecause these objects were weaker than the objects of getting a good grade and improving EFL. Primary contradic tion in technological instruments. Another primary contradiction worth discussing is in the technological instrument s of Internet and Moodle practice, such as medications and medical tools. Th ese instruments have use and exchange value in that they too exist as commodities. The doctor has to purchase them (exchange them for money) before he can use them to work towards his object of treating patients. This contradiction forces the doctor to thi nk twice before he purchases expensive instruments, and this hard thinking is a disturbance caused by the secondary contradiction between and the price of the instrument Azita had high speed Internet, according to the back ground survey. If we apply the same logic to define the primary contradiction in Internet as a mediating instrument, we find that Azita must have made a conscious decision to purchase this kind of I nternet connection, and her decision saved her from potent ial secondary contradictions between the Internet based technologies and, for instance, her objects that required the use of Internet From the data obtained, there were no disturbances due to poor Internet connection during the use of Moodle. Had she used Skype or Yahoo! Messenger, she would have experience d many disturbances wit h the connection. Despite being a high

PAGE 185

169 speed connection, it is not sufficient to utilize voice over IP technologies. During our interviews, we experience d numerous instances of del ays, disconnections, and background noise. Neither did she have any observed contradictions due to the quality of the CD materials These instruments were designed an d developed in house and as such had no cost for the students. This low exchange value of the CD materials could have resulted in systems. Primary contradiction in classmates as a community. s genuinely writing activity is the same that was cited above ( Pre writing Activity 1 May 12, 2008): Hi Dears, As you know we are going to write some analysis papers abo ut some specific articles. This is for the first time I am going to do that and I do not know enough a bout this work. But, as you know, we should mention purpose, questions, concepts, information, assumptions, perspectives, and implications of the author i n one article. Let's help each other and share ideas to do our best. I just wanted to start the discussion of pre writing activity. I am waiting for your co operation. This post was met with a silent wall for the rest of the semester. Regarding her overall have been a little more interested in the beginning. My impression was she attempted the ation, August 22, 2008). It appears that Azita must have been drawn to the use value in her classmates as community

PAGE 186

170 among classmates She wanted to use o facilitate her own understanding of the articles and assignments. This kind of relationship in the online community, where members share ideas that they have and receive in return helpful ideas from other members, is a desirable relationship. However, ha ving experienced a lack of interest from her classmates, she retreated and interacted with them minimally for the sake of the grade.

PAGE 187

171 Table 9 Contradictions Consequences in the three activity systems Le arning critical thinking Improving EFL Maintaining a good self image Use vs. exchange value in object s S econdary contradictions between objects and 1) rule (due dates rule), 2) community (instructor feedback), and 3) rule (G uide for A nalysis P apers) S eco ndary contradictions of community (instructor feedback) vs. object No theoretical contradiction but possible secondary contradictions between the object and 1) rule (due dates rule), 2) community (instructor feedback), and 3) rule (Guide for Analysis Pap ers) Use vs. exchange value in technological instrument s No observed consequences No observed consequences No observed consequences Use vs. exchange value in classmates (community) Created secondary contradiction of rule (participation in forums) vs. ob ject Created secondary contradiction of rule (participation in forums) vs. object Created secondary contradiction of rule (participation in forums) vs. object

PAGE 188

172 According my interpretation, classmates as a community element were present only in the exchang of learning critical thinking and improving EFL By definition, community should have a shared interest in their individual objects (Greenhow & Belbas, 2007; Kaptelinin, 1996; Wells, 2004). Azita apparently made an attempt to establish a shared interest in her community of classmates for the purpose of discussing the course content. However, this attempt was futile. In the end Azita tended to exhibit an exchange orientation towards her classmates, which was manifested through short and superficial instruct or noticed this exchange orientation in her group of students too was not much interaction. Especially at the beginning, it felt like 10 private tutorials that I ( interview August 22, 2008). While the course developers as an outside activity system, included the element of classmate community in the course shell this element did not have a use value orientation individual activity systems because they saw their act ivity systems differently. They saw no need in the classmate community to transform their own objects. They only needed their instructor and sometimes the cour se coordinator to resolve issues that the instructor is not able to resolve. of community as separate members versus a team of inquirers, a depiction of an activity oriented towards the exchange va lue of learning. Thus, orientation towards the exchange value of her classmates created a secondary contradiction between the rule to collaborate with classmates in the grading rubric and her grade orientation in her obj ect s of critical thinking a nd improving EFL, and perhaps her object of maintaining a good self image As one can see, most identified primary contradictions had the nature of use versus exchange value. The contradiction of maintaining a good self image, however, did not seem to have any contradictions. It was more of a psychological need, which was indeed a pre

PAGE 189

173 Further, these contradictions gave rise to the secondary contradictions that will be discussed in the following section. In this sense, these primary contradictions had a positive consequence value in her primary contradictions of learning critical thinking and improving EFL d id not last long and I would argue it was partly due to the culture of the other students as community to be overly orientated towards the exchange value. Another possible and more underlying reason is the setup of the course shell that encouraged a n exch ange value orientation more than the use value orientation Most contradictions that transpired in this study were at the secondary level. This is not surprising because these contradictions are the hear t of any activity. Engestrm (1987, 1999, 2001, 2007) in his discussion of contradictions in organization activity systems puts much emphasis on secondary contradictions that he refers to as inner contradictions of a ctivity systems. Insufficient EFL versus sufficient EFL as an instrument and her objects, meaning that EFL as an instrument prevent ed Azita from a smooth transformation of her objects. This contradiction was manifested through the instructor initiated disturbances in the feedback on draft analysis papers T here were a total of 12 such instructor initiated disturbances Some of this feedback was over what Azita wanted to say. Ano ther kind of feedback asked to restate an idea in a clearer way even though the original wording did not cause any misunderstanding Finally, the instructor also generated disturbances because

PAGE 190

174 epetitive, as the instructor herself indicated, or apparently because they were too noticeable, such as fragments. In addition to instructor initiated disturbances Azita had self initiated disturbances. Methodologically, it was challenging to tap into the se kinds of disturbances because I could not directly related actions. However, two sources of evidence provide some justification for this conclusion. One source included explicit statements about confusing par ts of the article in her papers for example, used, particularly in Western thought, implies accepting as true that which one cannot prove ch statements were followed up by the instructor initiated disturbances W hat do you think it source to identify self the inter views in which Azita would often mention how di fficult it was to read the course articles and to write papers based on them. When addressed t hese contradictions presumably had positive consequences for object of improving English One such posit ive consequence was a repeated use of dictionaries, hyperlinked glossary words, her grammar book. The most frequent way to solve those disturbances was re reading the articles many times to gain a better unders tanding some times, even more than 10 or 20 times to learn new thing ( interview June 25, 2008) When unresolved, this contradiction potentially could impede which I do not have data to support. Thus this secondary contradiction pushed for much more engaged interaction with the course read ings and resulted in the introduction of new instruments in her activity system. It is interesting to note that at the end of the semester when Azita felt exhausted of the many contradictions in the course, she tended to ignore many comments from her instructor

PAGE 191

175 including simple spelling errors such as apposite for opposite. Thus, even the exchange value orientation did not mo tivate her to perform actions oriented towards her objects. I attribute this to the considerable weakening of all her objects in the course by the end of the semester. Table 10 shows the summary of consequences of this secondary contradiction. Although I could not methodologically identify which of these consequences were other activity systems, it was possible to infer some impacts. For example, through a more active interaction with the readings and papers, Azita could facilitate th e transformation of her objects of l earning critical thinking. Conversely, this could seriously impede her motive to learn critical thinking and be a deadly consequence for this activity system. coul d facilitate the transformation of the object of maintaining a good self image. According to the instructor, what mattered most to her is the effort of the student to work on the comments rather than the correct answer. However, the consequences could be j ust the opposite when those comments were dismissed. caused by her misunderstanding of the requirements as outlined in the guide for analysis papers (rule) and her objects. feedback that asked to include missing elements in the analys is papers, for example, the The other source of evidence for these disturbances was the interviews with Azita, in which she attested to this challenge and claimed that she solved these disturbance s ( interview June 5, 2008): But after practicing and readi ng the guide and the feedback received from my instructor, I learned ... how to write these analysis papers. ... We should discuss the

PAGE 192

176 main ideas of the writer. The author and we should say his or her purposes, his goals, and we should mention ... his pers pectives and his opinions This is a relatively accurate response that she provided without much hesitation during the inte rview. In her pre writing activity discussed earlier, she also explicitly stated the parts to be included in the analysis papers. Ho wever, surprisingly, a cursory read of her papers showed implied questions, sometimes implications, and her personal thoughts mostly added after None of her papers included all the required elements This contradiction was never resolved because her analysis papers through the end of the semester missed those required elements and yet Azita was confident that she understood how to discuss them. I nterestingly, this contradiction did not have obvious negative consequence s on Azi a total of only three instructor initiated disturbances about missing elements of the analysis papers that the Guide required. The nature of focused on the development of strong coherent arguments in her papers. It is this drawback that concern it in the interview (to be discussed next) While there is no clear indication of negative consequences of this contradiction, we can infer some positive consequences in the form of more active engagement wit h t he readings and the Guide for Analysis Papers, according to claims in the interviews. Whether these actions affected the objects of learning critical thinking and improving English in any way is hard to claim. related expectat contradiction were exclusively instructor initiated, an d they were dramatically prevalent in

PAGE 193

177 here were a total of 21 such comments. Most of the time, the instructor challenged Azita to go beyond the surface reading and develop a strong coherent argument based on what she read in the articles and on her reasoning. The following excerpt from the instructor says it all ( interview August 22, 2008): Her drafts were always much weaker than her final paper. So I know she responded to some extend to my comments, but my disappointment in th e end was that her draft her first drafts were always like, you know, pulling te eth. ... I always felt like I had to point out. ... ... Her papers were like a list. ... There was no insight. Ther regurgitating. summary comments such as this (Analysis Paper 3, May 26, 2008 ) : Azita Your language is pretty good, and your organization is pretty good too. But overall the pape superficial level. It might be better for you to spend some time thinking about your paper before turning it in and go a little deeper. For example, you have responded to the ethica l examples above in two different ways. I wonder if you can explain why in the case of killing, you take a deontologist approach, but not in the case of stealing. Please take more time and think deeply about these chapters. You contradict yourself which w eakens your argument. You might want to say that you value life more than property, in which case you would do anything to save a life. But then you would have to explain why, especially if you believe that spiritual life is what matters, not material life These disturbances clearly are the evidence of the secondary contradiction, and they had some visible negative consequences. For example, Azita seem ed to have developed a

PAGE 194

178 set of strategies that would allow her to address the problem on the surface level: deletion of problem parts in her papers and providing superficial revisions. A s a result of failed attempts to go in depth with he receive d lower grades, which directly affected her exchange value orientation in the critical thin king object While there was no solid evidence for the other objects in her activities, we could infer that this contradiction also negatively affected her object of maintaining a good self image. On the other hand, there was some evidence for positive co nsequences of this contradiction. In our interviews with Azita, I ask ed her how she addressed comment s Most of the time such comments would push her to read the articles again. Sometimes, she would use a dictionary to clarify the language Then she would have to make corrections in her papers, substantial or not, depending on her understanding of the problem or willingness to persevere When she did not know what the instructor was asking for, she would delete that disturbing part of her paper. In other words, this secondary contradiction had some positive consequences that became transparent in the form of habitual regulative behaviors, such as those described above. Whether they affected the actual objects of improving English and learni ng crit ical thinking is hard to claim, but one can infer that these efforts resulted in superficial revisions, not much learning took place. Rather, it seems that Azita was oriented either toward the exchange value in her critical thinking object or toward maintaining self image object. objects. This secondary contradiction became visible through several instances of late paper submissions There were seven such instances throughout the semeste discussed as another secondary contradiction. While there is enough evidence to identify this consistent contradiction that Azita must have made some effort to address, there is no evidenc e on specific consequences of this contradiction. According to the course syllabus

PAGE 195

179 (rule), Azita would lose 10% for every day late. Yet, she did not because the instructor thought it unfair to drop points for lateness in the papers because this would wrong ly imply a poorer quality of the paper. In terms of positive consequences of this contradiction, the data do not tell us much except for one instance in the interview, where Azita expressed her opinion about due dates, each assignments for each course because it make the students to do the assignments on time and causes them to pay attention to interview August 17, 2008). This piece of evidence can tentativel y indicate be haviors to avoid late submissions, such as marking the calendar, pacing work on assignment s which in turn could evoke more intensive engagement with the assignments, hence improved critical thinking and English There could have been negative consequence s too that affected the transformation of image. However, this is again nothing but a tentative inference. Closer to the end of the semester, Azita felt sick, and this lasted a t least two weeks that fell on Modules 7 and 8. She also let her instructor know of this impediment. Thus, visibly this slight contradiction did not produce any negative consequences in that her grade did not suffer because of the late submissions. Her gra de, however, did suffer because of a lower quality of papers, particularly in these two last modules in the course. Both Azita and her instructor noted this during the interviews. According to Azita, this was partly due to her illness, but beyond that she mentioned the fact of being exhausted by the end of the interview August 17, 2008) Distance tec jects

PAGE 196

180 Th ere is a slight indication of a secondary contradiction between the distance technologies that Azita presumably found unsatisfactory and her objects. M ultiple disturbances can be attributed to this contradiction: late submissions, poor revisions of papers, poor communication with her classmates, and poor participation in online discussions. However, methodologically it is impossible to make this connection evident The only link that exists between some of these disturbances and the distance technologies is online education to interview August, 17, 2008). This s econdary contradiction did not seem to exist at the beginning of the semester when Azita expressed Thus, potentially we can infer that this contradiction negative ly affected all three of objects. There is also no evidence to show what Azita did to resolve this contradiction. It appears that this contradiction was caused by a quaternary contradiction between the government course rela ted activities This contradiction will be discussed in the following section. The u niversal course structure (UCS) related activities, for example, due dates, grading p olicy, weighting of assignments, and required and optional assignments. According to the data, Azita was unaware of many such rules because she did not read the UCS carefully. following response to my question about the grading policy demonstrates this confusion grade are analysis papers a nd the rest are the activities the pre ( interview June 25, 2008). Because of this disturbance, she effectively missed Problem Solution F orum 1, whi ch negatively affected her grade. On the other hand, because she

PAGE 197

181 was working on the pre writing activities, this compensated for her final course grade. I t is hard to say what consequences this contradiction had on the other activity systems.

PAGE 198

182 Table 10 S econdary C A ctivity S ystem s Contradictions Consequences in activity systems Learning critical thinking Improving EFL Maintaining a good self image Insufficient EFL (instrument) vs. object Use value orientation Possibly better u nderstanding of readings Possibly further impediment of the object Exchange value orientation improved the grade when comments addressed lowered the grade when comments dismissed Use value orientation More engagement with EFL: use of glossed links, grammar book, re reading articles and guide for analysis papers, revisions of papers introduction of new instruments: Exchange value orientation improved the grade when comments addressed lowered the grade when comments dismissed improved self image when comments addressed lowered self image when comments dismissed Misunderstanding Use value orientation Use value orientation No consequence or evidence

PAGE 199

183 requirements of the Guide for Analysis Papers (rule) vs. object More engagement with the guide and possibly better understanding of critical thinking More engagement with the guide and possibly added improvement of English content related expectations (community) vs. object Use value orientation More engagement with the Guide and possibly better understanding of critical thinking possibly more further weakening of object of critical thinking Exchange value orientation Lower grades when comments not addressed properly Avoidance strategies: deleti on of problem areas or superficial correction Use value orientation More engagement with the guide and possibly added improvement of English Possibly weakened self image when comments not addressed properly avoidance strategies: deletion of problem a reas or superficial correction Due dates (rules) vs. object Use value orientation Possibly more intensive Use value orientation Possibly more intensive engagement Possibly worsened self image

PAGE 200

18 4 engagement with assignments, hence improved critical thinking Exchange value orientation Possibly regulative behaviors to avoid being late: marki ng calendar, pacing work on assignments Or no consequence with assignments, hence improved English Exchange value orientation Possibly regulative behaviors to avoid being late: marking calenda r, pacing work on assignments Or no consequence when due dates no met (subject) vs. object Use value orientation Less engagement with assignments, hence no improvement of critical thinking Exchange valu e orientation Lower grades for some assignments Use value orientation Less engagement with assignments, hence no improvement of English Exchange value orientation Lower grades for some assignments Possibly worsened self image due to poor quality of pap ers Unsatisfactory distance technologies Use value orientation Possibly less engagement with assignments, hence no Use value orientation Less engagement with assignments, hence no English Possible impediment to the object of maintaining a good image

PAGE 201

185 (instrument) vs. object improvement of critical thinking Exchange value orientation Possible impediment to the object of getting a good gra de Exchange value orientation Possible impediment to the object of getting a good grade of UCS (rules ) vs. her objects Use value orientation No evidence of consequence Exchange value orientation Lower grade for Problem Solution Forum 1 Better grades for optional pre writing activities Use value orientation No evidence of consequence Exchange value or ientation Not applicable (no English related requirements in forums) No evidence of consequence

PAGE 202

186 The data show that there were two quaternary exterminate the community in Iran. When BIHE was established in 1 987, it functioned as a blended version of correspondence and face to face instruction. Students would come to the central facilities usually in Tehran to receive instruction from their professors, following which they would return home to self study and t hen come back again to the facilities for more interaction with their professors and for testing purposes. As persecutions intensified, the government started confiscating more properties from BIHE. In fact, the reason for starting the online EFL program w as triggered by this hostile activity of the government. However, until recently there were still many courses following the same correspondence and face to face format. In Spring 2008, the government closed down more facilities in Tehran making it impossi ble for many classes to meet face to face. The orientations for the online courses that had been normally conducted face to face also were restricted to the online environment. Many BIHE courses were forced to go online for the first time in Spring 2008. This possibly all four of had a negative consequence of creating secondary contradiction in became manifested through the need to transform her objects and the forced upon mediators typical of online instruction: differing kinds of instruments for interaction, differing kinds of rules and the division of labor in a different kind of commun ity. In our last conversation, she hard now, a nd they think they [students]

PAGE 203

187 has ... bad effect on students. ...Because BIHE became online interview August 17, 2008). Whether this claim about other students is true or overgeneralized is hard to say. However, this statement is telling something across all BIHE courses. One possible interpretation was that Azita is not satisfied with the level of interaction in online education. I attempted to probe this source of secondary contradiction by introducing a hypothetical scenario, and her response only confirmed her personal bias against online education in general ( interview August 17, 2008): [Researcher] If you had millions and millions of dollars, and you could make big changes in BIHE, but you could not change it to face to face, what would you do for BIHE? [Azi ta] My attempts to remind her of the conditions of this hypothetical scenario to remain online did not yield different resul ts. Azita seemed adamant about not wanting to have her classes online It is interesting to note that i n her background survey at the beginning of the semester, Azita was very optimistic about BIH E. It was a great ex perience to have online courses b ecause this kind of educating improves our English and internet skills. I prefer online courses interview April 26, 2008) A serious disturbance of an underlying contradiction must have created this dramatic O affected by external forces. Another possible reason is the sudden forced transition of all face to face classes to the online format. The closing down of facili ties took place a few weeks before the beginning of the spring semester 2008. The faculty virtually had no time

PAGE 204

188 to make reasonable accommodations to their face to face courses. Neither had they time to make adjustments to their own pedagogical styles and s trategies to better serve the students in the online environment. My interaction with other students in the course confirmed this possibility. Some of them explicitly stated that online courses of BIHE faculty in Iran were disorganized and hard to follow. This source of disturbances was also confirmed with the BIHE administrator I interviewed for the study ( interview August 23, 2008). Based on these data, I conclude that the quaternary contradiction between the course activities created a secondary contradiction between the new online instruments, rules, division of labor, and community in her other online classes that otherwise would have remained face to face and not disturbing. reinforced similar contradictions in her activity systems in the critical thinking course. Whether this link between other newly and hastily established online courses and the critical thinking course exists or not, it do es not change the nature of this quaternary contradiction. Table 11 shows how this contradiction potentially had negative consequences on all three of English, and maintai ning a good self image. work at a computer company and potentially all three of her activities. A number of disturbances could be a signal of this contradiction: late submissions, poor quality of papers and forum posts. Methodologically, it is not possible to establish this connection. However, in one of the interviews, Azita mentioned her work kept her busy and potentially could negatively affect her course related actions ( interview August 17, 2008): At the beginning of the semester I was more active. ... But after some time, ... I had so

PAGE 205

189 many jobs to do. I had to pay less attention to these kinds of discussions. I had little time to my assignments. activities between the due dates (rules) and some her course related object s, as was discussed in the section about secondary contradictions

PAGE 206

190 Table 11 Contradictions Consequences in activity systems Learning critical thinking Improving EFL Maintaining a good self image activities Created a secondary contradiction between distance technologies (instrument) and object Created a secondary contradiction between distance technologies (instrument) and object Created a secondary contradiction between distance technologies (instrume nt) and object her course activities Created a secondary contradiction between due dates (rule) and object Created a secondary contradiction between due dates (rule) and object Created a secondary contradiction between due date s (rule) and object

PAGE 207

191 Figure 15 Figure 15 ystems. By using the course shell, I can depict the contradictions and consequences in multiple course related activity systems in one single illustration I chose to concentrate only on those primary contradictions that became salient in the data analysi s. Among those are the primary contradictions of use and exchange values in the elements of object and community (classmates). The data showed that Azita was mostly driven to the exchange value in the objects of critical thinking and more use value in the object of EFL. S he was driven to the use v alue of classmates as community, but later she changed her orientation to the exchange value too The re is some indication that Azita naturally tended to be more attracted to the use value in the primary contradict ions in her

PAGE 208

192 activity systems, and this was unfortunate because the course shell did not seem to provide enough use value to her being grade driven The primary contradiction in technological instruments also had the use and exchange value, but due to Azita purchase high speed internet, she effectively resolved potential secondary contradictions. Her primary contradictions gave rise to the secondary contradictions. The primary contradiction in the classmates as a community created a seco ndary contradiction between the rule of forum participation in the grading rubric. The same consequence came as a result of the primary contradiction in the community node. The primary contradictions in the objects of activity system g ave rise to the secondary contradictions between the actual object and all elements that were connected to the of G uide for A nalysis P apers, insufficient EFL, ignoran ce of UCS, due dates and her illness. The secondary contradictions in turn resulted in several new instruments that Azita introduced to her activity systems as regulatory behaviors : a) re reading of the articles up to five times, b) re reading of the gui de for analysis papers, c) using glossed hyperlinks, d) revisions of analysis papers based dictionaries. It is important to note that a criti cal disturbance in many secondary contradictions was n the analysis papers. If not for this feedback, many of these contradictions would probably not have existed nor caused helpful regulatory behaviors and the introduction of news instruments. Apart from the positive consequences of the secondary contradic tions, there were some negative ones. Those resulted due to failure to address contradictions effectively either because of the lack of strength in the primary contradictions or because of the overwhelming strength of the secondary contradictions (e.g., il lness or duties at work) The general pattern of such negative consequences was

PAGE 209

193 assignments and the weakening of some objects: critical thinking, getting a good grade, and possibly maintaining a good self image. This finding imp lies that the strength of objects there were two quaternary contradictions. One such tentative contradiction occurred community in Iran. This contradiction caused secondary cont triggered another set of quaternary contradictions between those new online course objects i n the critical thinking course. The company, and this contradiction c aused a secondary contradiction between due dates The consequences of this contradiction are not visible. It is possible that Azita developed regulatory behaviors of marking a calendar or pacing herself. Otherwise, this contradiction might have contributed negatively to lowering the grades for the assignments and weakenin g of the course objects. Azad Azad 36 was the oldest participant in this study. He was born into a family. H e is married and lives in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. Three years prior to this course he lived in India with his wif e. His wife has an MA degree in the English language. She teaches courses in the English and L inguistics department at BIHE His personality strikes me as an interesting combination of sincerity and straightforwardness. He repeatedly mentioned his tendency to criticize people. I could attest

PAGE 210

194 portrait by observing his interactions in the forum discussions, his analysis papers and through our interviews. His criticism sometimes collided with emotions, which could result in a somewhat skew ed perception of the situation. Thus, while he highly respected his instructor in this course and praised the quality of her feedback, he also perceived her as being biased in that she would not allow him to include his emotions in his analysis thinking interview August 25, 2008). H e also describes himself as being a man of few wo rds. In his background survey at the beginning of the semester, he wrote that philosophy In his professional life, Azad is a full time executive manager in a computer software company. According to him, he h as extensive programming skills. H e also applied his expertise to serve BIHE for a few years. He speaks at least three foreign languages: English, G erman and Russian. He has a strong command of English, which singled him out from many of his classmates Th rough my interactions with him I learned that he gets to use these languages on a regular basis. He travels abroad. In fact, during the course, he left for Germany and Switzerland, for one month. In one of his forum posts, he said that he had a few hobbie s: photography, watching movies and browsing the Internet. During this semester, Azad was enrolled in seven BIHE courses while he was working at his full tim e job. His day would start around 8 :00 am. He would come back around 8pm. Most of his quality stu dy time would fall between 11pm 1 am. It appears that Azad had a very rich schedule, and that he managed to juggle many responsibilities quite successfully. Azad The data obtained indicate that Azad had t wo activity systems that corres pond to the following objects: 1) engaging in criticism and 2) learning critical thinking As was discussed

PAGE 211

195 earlier, the cou rse acted as a shell a convenient vehicle whose facilities (instruments, division of labor, community, and rules) were conducive t o the transformation of these objects. Although Azad did not express much interest in improving his EFL skills English was still one of the mediating instruments in his course shell O the r mediating instruments included the course assignments, the Guide for Analysis Papers ( Appendix B ) the articles, information about the authors and glossaries. The technolog ical instruments were: the Moodle content management system, the articles primarily in the pdf format, and high speed Internet connection. Unlike Azita Azad preferred the pdf articles because he printed them out and had them in front of him while working on his analysis papers. He rarely used the glossed vocabulary and relied on his guessing s kills. He claimed to have never used a dictionary for this course. The division of labor included three major roles: 1) the instructor in providing feedback, 2) his classmates role in forum participation and 3) in p roducing assignment s. L exchange orientation in his critical thinking object or else in the criticism object as we shall see in the discussion that follows. The rules were the same as those discussed Structure defined when the assignments were to be turned in, penalty for late submissions, and the 10 day grace period. The grading rubrics for the problem solution forums ( Appendix D ) ; analysis papers ( Appendix C ) ; optional pre writing activities ( Appendix I ) ; and optional conference calls ( Appendix J ) ; and the Guide for Analysis Papers ( Appendix B ) were part of the rules.

PAGE 212

196 Figure 16. Azad taking shel l Finally, community consisted of his instructor and his classmates Azad and Azita had the same instructor. Accordingly, Azad was mediated by the same kind of feedback that prioritized clarity of thoughts, consistency of the central argument, and use of evidence in support of the argument. M ost language related feedback was directed towards repetitive errors. Azad and his instructor were alike in some ways. They both had strong opinions, and they often expressed them point blank. His instructor saw this similarity too , E specially as a younger person I was like that ( interview August 22, 2008). Figure 16 three activity systems Because these activi ties co existed in the same course shell, they shared most of the mediating elements of the shell. Depending on the circumstances, one of the activity system s would become prevalent T hese activity systems had their own lives and historicity within the cou rse shell

PAGE 213

197 Engaging in Criticism was unique in this study. I believe this object played a major role in forming a new object of critical thinking that is discussed next. I chose to distinguish betw two objects T he discussion that follows provide s a rationale for this decision. A n Iranian colleague of mine, who provided some help with the development of the critical thinking course, made a joke once that BIHE students should benefit from this course because in their culture they know how to be critical but they do not know how to think critically. I believe the BIHE curriculum coordinator, who was the subject matter consultant for this course had a similar rationale for selecting cr itical thinking as a subject matter for the bridge course These tendencies to criticize instead of thinking critically were when finding fault with the English native speaking However, Azad is probably the only participant whose criticizing actions were so evident as to indicate to an activity of criticizing. Azad was fully aware of his own predisposition to criticize. The following excerpt from one of the interviews with Azad summarizes the r ( interview August 12, 2008). Of the six participants, Azad was the most generous in terms of sharing ideas about what did not work at BIHE and in the critical t hinking course and why it did not work In the second interview where the students posted problems from their real life for a group analysis, he shared his concerns about the the BIH E. Those you are working in it have learned a lot and it has improved much. Unfortunately it is now some times that some parts of it need improvement Problem Solution Forum 2 July 4, 2008). Then, he mentions several problems that concern ed him most: st udents not having voice in the university; half of the instructors not knowing how to

PAGE 214

198 teach ; exam system not being aligned with instruction; the administration being disorganized ; and the scheduling of events being messy. His critical attitude was evident in his analysis papers. This excerpt from his analysis of article about logical fallacies followed e s is illustrative ( Analysis Paper 7 August 5, 2008 ) : ...If he [the author] wants to say that he is intelligent be cause he knows all weird names of different kinds of fallacies and their definition with a good example, I think a dictionary is more powerful in the area of intelligence comparing to human being. If he wanted us to be encouraged to remember all these name s and their definition, he was wrong, because the detailed long list is not persuasive and I find it even discouraging. say this without being sarcastic). His instructor had a interview August 22, 2008): ...at the beginning I just thought he was trying to show how brilliant and smart he was, is instruction because his English was better than icism. It was just a criticism t hat this guy rite that he actually read the paper. So it just looked like he was trying to get by trying to ... schmooze, and then try to butter me up. So I was a little bit suspicious of Azad, and his work ethic Azad himself made a distinction between two different kinds of criticism in which he was engaged in this course ( interview July 25 2008 ) : [Researcher] D o you really think that [ your instructor ] is trying to force you to think the way she thinks or sh e is trying t o force you to think critically?

PAGE 215

199 [Azad] N not like that. I by that way. But if I go by my way nking s object of engaging in criticism According to my interpretation this object remained more or less stable throughout the semester In the last interview, he made a comment that supports this conc lusion interview August 12, 2008). This object interacted very closely with the objec t of critical thinking which is discussed next. Azad The activity of learning c r itical thinking is different in that I construct it as a n activity in which Azad engaged in a systematic method of analysis based on the principles of logic and ethics, which was fostered in this critical thinking course. In his background survey, Azad made his opinion about philosophy very clear by thinking when asked about his goals for this course in the survey either. In our first interview, he confirmed this initial attitude towards critical thinking as subject matter but he also added that it started changing ( interview May 26, 2008): My expertise is in computer, and as you know, in computer science everything is black and white: one or zero, nothing e for me. I interpret this emerging interest in the subject of critical thinking as a gradual development of a new object within the shell of the course In our last interview Azad made a few more remarks that indicated a further transformation of his object of critical thinking

PAGE 216

200 This one is particularly illustrative, e is the only course I will read again. The subject was very interesting interview August 12, 2008) It is hard to provide evidence for the transformation of this object looking actions because the quality of his forum posts or discussion in analysis papers may also be an indication of his exchange value orientation in the critical thinking object s or in the object of engaging in criticism However, we can perceive some glimpses of this object in the course specific language that Azad started to integrate in his papers such as assume, claim reasoning infallible unbiased, fa llibility interpretations perspectives, evidence logically accepted etc. Man y of these words are in fact an indication of the required elements of analysis papers, as outlined by the grading rubric and the Guide for Analysis Papers Here is an example of a sentence that integrates a few of his words reasoning was infallible, he mention s that the best thinkers or philosophers never agree to the conclusion that is reached by reasoning ( Analysis Paper 3, May 31, 2008 ) This is a very typical sentence in his analysis papers. He clearly picked up the discourse of critical thinking very well. He comments on his language in his analysis papers this way ( intervi ew August 12, 2008): ... while I study this critical thinking, I started to ...have long essays long sentences and In oth er words, Azad seemed to have been attracted to the notion of critical thinking presented in the course and developed this interest through the seme ster, which I interpret as a n emergent and further transformation of the object of critical thinking. While interest in critical thinking is interpreted as a use value orientation, according to Engestrm (1987), this student's interest in the grade is the exchange value orientation. Both his actions and words attested to it s presence In his survey, he w rote that He

PAGE 217

201 repeatedly mentioned this motive in our interviews. The following interaction explains and justifies his intentions very well ( interview August 12, 2008): It was something like three years that I was working for BIHE and there was no mention of having a certificate. Last year they told me that if you want to work in BIHE for so I can render my services to BIHE. Apparently, BIHE originally did not issue any certificates or grades. students would study for the sake of knowledge and skills, and the faculty and s taff would provide education out of service. They still do because most of the staff and all faculty members from Iran work for BIHE on a voluntary basis while still having their own paid jobs. However, the expectations of students, faculty, and staff are changing. Since recently the BIHE administration has been trying to raise their standards of instruction and administration to keep up with requirements current in western universities. According to Azad, this trend required him to obtain a certificate tha t he presumably does not have, hence his evident and justified orientation towards grades. were indicative of this orientation as well. His participation in the optional pre writing forums was one such piece of evidence. Half way through the semester, Azad attempted a pre writing activity. When asked the reason for thi s action, he responded this way ( interview August 12, 2008): [Azad] Because if you check my grades I have something like 80%, and I wanted to get an A instead of B. [Researche r] S o passing is not enough, you need to get an A, right? [Azad] N o, passing is important, but how you pass is more important. If there is a small effort between A and B, why miss it?

PAGE 218

202 Azad was also the only student in his group who requested the optional conference calls from his instructor, and he did so three times. He admitted that one of the reasons behind these actions was to earn extra bonus points although he was also genuinely s speaking abilities. grade due to late submissions. In our conversations, Azad would often demonstrate his knowledge of the grading system. He knew exactly how many f orum posts he was expected to make to get the grade he needed, and he knew how many extra points the optional assignments added to his final course grade. Th e Moodle log of his paper submissions indicates to an interesting pattern (Table 12 ) All of the dr aft papers before his trip to Europe arrived late, whereas his final papers came on time except for one paper that was only five hours late. Aware of the fact that the drafts are not graded unlike the final papers that lose 10% for every day late, Azad mus t have been careful not to lose his grades. Unfortunately, I have not been able to confirm this finding with Azad, so this interpretation however sound it may be, still remains tentative. Table 12 Draft Final paper A nalysis Paper 1 6 days late On time Analysis Paper 2 4 days late 5 hours late Analysis Paper 3 6 days late On time Analysis Paper 4 6 days late On time

PAGE 219

203 Summary of Central Activity Systems According to the data and my interpretations, none during the course. encountered. They all maintained stability, and the object of critical thinking even gained momentum. Figure 17 illustrates the historici discusses the contradictions and their consequences in the corresponding activity systems. Figure 17 Historicity of Azad

PAGE 220

204 Azad Pr imary Cont radictions in Azad use value nature Once again, because of the limitations in the methodology only selected primary co ntradictions will b e addressed Primary contradiction in objects. The primary contradiction in the object of engaging in criticism presents a similar theoretical problem to image. Orientation towards the use value would mean using it for its own sake, which seems a reasonable explanation interview August 12, 2008). However, th e problem with this interpretati on is again that the other side of this primary contradiction the exchange value does not seem to exist. If a person has something th at is of use value, by the law of contradiction, another person would want to have it as well and would propose to exch ange it for something else. This mechanism does not seem to work with criticism because nobody would naturally want to obtain criticism in exchange for anything else. A valuable opinion and constructive criticism do not belong to this category because Azad did not engage in these kinds of activities. His criticism had an absolutely personal psychological need. However, we can clearly identify consequences of this contradiction if it is one, in tic content related expectations (Table 14 ) The primary contradiction in the object of critical thinking has a use and exchange value nature. On the one hand, Azad was genuinely interested in knowing how to think critically for th e sake of thinking critically For example, he humorously remarked that know interview

PAGE 221

205 August 12, 2008). In other words, he wanted to use his critical thinking skills a s a mediating instrument in his object of criticizing other people. This use orientation in the object created secondary contradictions between his object of critical thinking and 1) insufficient EFL (instrument) related expectatio ns (community) and 3) classmates (community). On the other hand, Azad was oriented towards the exchange value of the critical thinking object. The discussion above shows that this orientation had a strong presence in overcome this contradiction had consequences in the form of secondary contradictions between his object on the one hand, and 1) due dates related expectations (community) on the other hand Observing these similar cons equences of different orientations of the same object and even consequences of completely different objects, it is important to note that when actions are poly motivated. It is hard to identify which motive in particular caused a specific secondary contrad iction. For example, in the case of the secondary contradiction between related expectations, both his motive to criticize and the exchange value orientation of the critical thinking object could have been the reason for this secondary contradiction. Methodologically, it is impossible to establish this connection conclusively. In such cases, I attributed the consequence to all primary contradictions that were most likely to have caused it. Primary contradiction in tech nological instruments. The finding about the nature of the primary contradic instruments is similar He also had high speed connection and did not report any disturb ances due to poor Internet connection. Moodle as another technological mediating instrument did not cause any visible quality of the articles in the pdf version that he chose to use to perform his actions related to

PAGE 222

206 analysis paper. A ccordingly, the consequences for this primary contradiction are marked as non existing in Table 13. Table 13 Primary Contradictions in Azad Contradictions Consequences i n activity systems Engagement in criticism Critical thinking Use vs. exchange value in object Secondary contradiction between his object of content related expectations (community) Use value orientation Secondary contradicti on between his object of critical thinking and 1) insufficient EFL (instrument), 2) related expectations (community), and 3) classmates (community) Exchange value orientation Secondary contradiction between his object of critical think ing and due dates (rule) Use vs. exchange value in technological instruments No observed consequences No observed consequences Use vs. exchange value Classmates not present in this activity Use value orientation Classmates no t present in this

PAGE 223

207 in classmates (community) activity Exchange value orientation getting a good grade; no visible secondary contradictions Primary contradiction in classmates as community. classmat es as a community in his activity systems of criticism and critical thinking had an orientation towards the use value He shared posts with his classmates where he clearly engaged in criticism and attempted to apply critical thinking skills (see the sectio n below on secondary contradictions). Despite the fact that he was taking this course because he was forced, he found it useful to interact lukewarm participation and felt somewhat offended that his posts were often left unnoticed was among those who supported the article. I wrote a paragraph about that, and nobody answered interview August 12, 2008). In this sense, this contradiction created a participation (community) and his objects of criticism and critical thinking. S econdary Contra dictions in Azad As with the case of Azita, m ost contradictions occurred at the secondary level. Many of them were caused by the primary contradictions discussed above, some by other secondary contradictions, and yet others by quaternary contradictions. Insufficient EFL versus Azad

PAGE 224

208 There is evidence to indicate that Azad was challenged by the complexity of the language in this course despite his strong command of English. This contradiction was manifested through the instructo r initiated disturbances in the feedback on draft analysis papers. There were a total of 37 such instructor initiated disturbances in Az ad sentences. Most o f these disturbances, however, were repeated errors such as 3 rd person singular in the simple present or use of articles In addition to instructor initiated disturbances Azad corrected his own errors in the process of content revisions based on the ins of turn ing on the Track changes function as he was working on his revisions. of the difficulty of the texts although he did not struggle with them much. He claimed to have used the article specific glossaries only 3 4 times per article, and this occurred only with a few articles. He never used a dictionary, but he did guess from context often, and he h ad to interview July 26, 2008). Azad addressed all these EFL related disturbances very well. In this sense, he only had positive co nsequences for his grade His grades never suffered because of the missing revisions of language errors. It is hard to say whether this contradiction had any consequences in for the use orientation of the critical thinking object and the object of criticizing. Table 14 shows the summary of consequences of this secondary contradiction. I chose to put the EFL r elated actions, such as careful reading, use of glossaries, and guessing from context as oriented towards the object of getting a good grade because the other objects have nothing to do EFL related actions. On the other hand, these actions may have been is olated and not oriented towards any object yet they forced Azad to become more engaged with EFL. In fact, despite the fact that Azad himself denied much English

PAGE 225

209 learning in this course due to miss ing language specific tasks, elsewhere he would repeatedly mention ed that his language became more complex. He also recognized that he own errors with the 3 rd person singular simple present tense and with articles ( interview August 12, 2008). related expectatio ns versus Azad Because Azita and Azad had the same instructor, much of the feedback they had to deal with was similar. There were 38 such instructor initiated disturbances papers, a strong evidence of this secondary contradiction. In f act, in Paper 2, Azad brainstormed and outlined his ideas before writing his draft, which may be tentatively challenge in this contradiction was to provide a coherent arg ument based on reasoning and not emotions. The consequences of this contradiction were evident I t forced Azad to change his thinking and then contributed to its transformation This is a major consequence found among all participants in this study. The analysis papers reveals many clashes of philosophical stances between Azad and his instructor. These clashes as he himself admitted ( interview August 12, 2008). At the end of the semester, Azad jokingly recognized that this course equipped him with the skills that would systematically ( interview August 12, 2008) This contradiction also changed his writing style by forcing him to write more complex sentences ( interview August 12, 2008): In terms of paragraphs, I said I should write long paragraphs instead of short use of the course. and I have to write complicated sentences to explain it

PAGE 226

210 These EFL related actions, however, do not belong to any of the identified activity systems of Azad. They may have been isolated actions or e lse oriented towards another activity that did not manifest itself given the limitations of methodology. In addition to positive consequences, there are some surface negative consequences that can be interpreted as having affected the exchange value orien thinking object Of the eight analysis papers, four received lower than 100% grade s due to faulty logic or lack of revisions in content. The reason for call ing them surface consequences is because there is no evidence as to how th ese resulting grades affected activities and efforts in the course. Methodologically, it was hard to establish, but one can infer possible positive impacts, such as added effort to obtain better grades. Due dates versus Az ad Because Aza d worked full time and happened to have traveled to Europe for about a month, an immediate consequence of these quaternary contradictions was the secondary contradi ction between the rule and Azad This contradiction became visible through many in stances of late submissions. None of his drafts were submitted on time. Four of his final papers were turned in on average 11 days late, which according to the more lenient approach to late submissions he only lo st one point on one of his papers. The consequences of this contradiction produced an interesting consequence. Half way through the semester, Azad decided to put less effort on his drafts so he could sa ve He also said that this approach reduced the amount of feedback from the instructor, hence less revision required for the final paper. His response about the reason for t his new strategy clearly indicates the orientation towards his object of getting a good grade, interview August 12, 2008). I interpret the introduction of this strategy as a modification of the instrument element in Az

PAGE 227

211 when engaging in the activity of critical thinking, and that led him to disappointment due to lack of responsiveness and interest from his classmate community In Problem Solution F orum 2, one of his classmates posted a problem about an adult friend of hers who spent too much of his money of DVDs and then used the home computer to watch them ins tead of letting his brother do his homework. The instructor posted her reaction to this problem, and Azad responded this way ( Problem Solution 2 June 10, 2008) : I could not resist to interfere in this discussion. Here in Iran our culture is totally differ ent form European country. ... I think that the question here is what is the best to do for the son no matter what the norm of society is? This question leads us to the assumption that our community norm is not well put and we need to change that. I interp ret this post as an indication of Azad engagement in the activity of critical thinking. His first sentence implies that he could not help participating in this discussion because of the topic. Further, in his discussion he clearly employs conceptual tool s of critical thinking fostered by the course: assumptions and perspectives of the society. Other evidence of his genuine interest in forums comes from his reaction to forum discussions in our interviews. For example, at one point, he expressed concern for the lack Nobody answered me. Instructor answered sometimes. We should somehow encourage the students to participate in the forum interview August 22, 2008). Later in the same are different topics from other students, and I answered them. But I also created my own interview August 22, 2008)

PAGE 228

212 community. I can only tentatively interpret the consequence of this contradiction as a reduced transformation of the critical thinking object. contradiction. In Problem Solution forum 2, where he so genuinely discussed his also posted his own problem Problem Solution Forum 2 July 4, 2008) This activity, so he took his chance. The language is indicative of his full engagement in his favorite activity ( Problem Solution Forum 2, July 4, 2008): Students as the main concern of the whole university does not have a voice in the university and they can not share their problems anywhere and be sure that somebody will consider their problems ... administration part is like a chaos ... In some cases you will find instruc tors with no experience at all. For whatever reason, his problem was not discussed by his classmates This example may serve as a small piece of e vidence indicating a possible negative consequence on s object of criticism. This secondary contradiction is quite unique to the study. It emerged due to the personality mismatches between Azad and his instructor an d was perhaps caused by their similarity as was discussed earlier. They both tended to be explicit and harsh about their intentions in this course ( interview A ugust 22, 2008): want to do their work. They think they are smarter than anybody, especially you, and

PAGE 229

213 support this opinion. Having interacted with Azad more closely, I have constructed a different identity of Azad. In my interpretation, much of this perceived flashiness comes from his perhaps life long activity of engageme nt in criticism. This flashiness is unlikely to be part of his activity of getting a good grade because his criticism was present everywhere including our conversations. Besides, the circumstances that forced him to take classes must have created resentmen t that his instructor happened to have experienced through his analysis changed her perception of him. Azad felt this secondary contradiction too although perhaps not as strongly. While he y of thinking differed from his (interview, July 26, 2008): [Researcher] gs that jeopar dizes your grade? [Azad] what she wants, I get the grade any visible consequences. The disturbances in papers a nd forums that became visible through the interaction between Azad and his instructor could equally belong to two different contradictions: 1) between instructor as community and Azad as subjects and 2) related expectations According to my interpretation, this personality contradiction remained concealed due to the interview

PAGE 230

214 August 22, 2008). There were at least two such papers where their opinions clashed: Papers 2 and 7 and the grade did not suffer because of the personality differences. This is another unique co ntradiction in the study that emerged as a consequence of two other secondary contradiction s within the shell of the course. Throughout the semester, Azad sent his instructor three requests for conference calls. Because conferenc e calls are not mandatory for the instructors, they could opt out of this obligation According to her, she difference and the language. interview August 22, 2008). She admitted that in this course, she had her first Skype experience and not a successful one due to technical challenges during th e instructor training Skype conference prior to the beginning of the course. Theoretically, this challenge is a secondary contradiction between the instructor as a community member and Skype as a mediating instrument. Another reason for the hesitation to s et up a conference call according to the instructor was her misperception of Azad personality discussed above. These two secondary contradictions had a consequence in the form of a new a community member. I interpret this contradiction as such due to the agency of the instructor as a community member. I t was up to her to offer conference calls or not, and she could if had she overcome the strong contradictions with the mediating instrum personality. This contradiction had one obvious consequence in the form of a reduced grade, which activity system of getting a good grade. On the other hand, this consequence might have resulted in more expressed attempts to work on his papers, more active participation in the optional pre writing activities, which are all

PAGE 231

215 oriented towards the exchange value of the critical thinking object. Otherw ise, it is hard to infer any reasonable consequences in the other activity systems. Table 14 S econdary Contradictions in Azad Contradictions Consequences in activity systems Engagement in criticism Critical thinking Insufficient E FL (instrument) vs. object No evidence Use and exchange value orientation More careful reading of articles Occasional reference to glossed words Frequent guessing from context Possibly more engagement with readings, hence enhanced understanding of content Exchange value orientation Better grades content related expectations (community) vs. object No evidence Use value orientation contribution to the emergence and transformation of the object of critical thinking Exchange value orientation Lower grades when comments not addressed properly Due dates (rules) vs. object No evidence Use value orientation No evidence

PAGE 232

216 Exchange value orientation new meditating instrument: putting less time on drafts to save time and to reduce am ount of feedback lower grade for one paper Or no consequence Classmates (community) vs. object Possibly reduced transformation of criticism object Use value orientation Possibly reduced transformation of critical thinking object Exchange value ori entation No evidence of contradiction Instructor (community) vs. Azad (subject) No evidence No evidence Instructor (community) vs. object No evidence Use value orientation No evidence Exchange value orientation Lower grades Possibly more effort i n analysis papers and pre writing activities Quaternary Contradictions in Azad BIHE administration versus Azad be an undergrad uate student while being a 36 year old professional established in his field was to get officially certified to serve BIHE. A ccording to Azad before he even became a

PAGE 233

217 BIHE student, he was engaged in the activity of serving BIHE. This external activity, or rather a contradiction within it forced him to take the courses he did not want to take. This emerged as a consequence in the form of a n object of getting a good grade. He explicitly and repeatedly men tione d this motive of his in the last interview interview August, 12, 2008). There is no evidence on what kinds of con sequences this quaternary contradiction Azad This quaternary contradiction was identified through the interviews with Azad. As was mentioned in his profile, he worked full time from 8 am until 4 pm, after which he had to do other duties until 8 pm. His typical study time was between 11pm and 1 am or during breaks at work. Enrollment in seven courses at a time created secondary contradictions between the due dates (rules ) and some objects in his activity systems. We were not able to discuss explicitly which activity systems specifically developed this secondary contradiction, but I would prefer to include all of them because tight due dates naturally lity to spend quality time on thinking about critical thinking, getting a good grade for assignments, and even engaging in criticism within the course boundaries. In the middle of the semester, Azad travel ed for leisure to Europe. His trip lasted about a month, and this outside activity affected his course activities by creating secondary contradictions. One such evident consequence is the secondary contradictions between the ject of getting a good grade. His instructor repeatedly expressed concern for his late submission in her comments in the analysis papers. His Paper 7 received 5/6 instead of 6/6 points because of the late submission, according to his instructor. This contr adiction also had a consequence of reducing the transformation of the

PAGE 234

218 activity of critical thinking. In his last interview, he admitted that because he was running late with so many papers, he had to spend less time on each paper. In fact, he submitted his three last draft Papers 6, 7, and 8 on the same day, and his final Papers 6, 7, and 8 arrived on the same day too 5 days later. There is no evidence how his contradiction Table 15 Quaternary Contradictions i n Azad Contradictions Consequences in activity systems Engagement in criticism Critical thinking BIHE administration vs. activities No evidence Emergence of the object, particularly its exchange value orientation s work activity vs. his course activities Created a secondary contradiction between due dates (rule) and object Created a secondary contradiction between due dates (rule) and object activity vs. his course activities No evidence Secondar y contradiction between leading to reduced transformation of the object Summary of Az ad Figure 18 summarize contradictions. the interac tion of his central activity systems. For example, the object of engagement in

PAGE 235

219 causing Azad to think and write differently, which according to him aroused his interes t. ntradiction of critical thinking had a use and exchange value nature. The same was true of the primary contradictions in technological instruments, and 3) in the community of classmates across all activity systems. In his primary contr adiction of critical thinking he was drawn towards both use and exchange value He was also drawn towards the use value in his classmate community. The primary contradiction in the technological instruments was driven by the use and exchange value. An unu did not seem to have the primary contradiction of use and exchange value. The data available did not provide insights as to the nature of this primary contradiction.

PAGE 236

220 Figu re 18. critical think ing shell These primary contradictions had their consequences in the secondary contradictions. The prima ry contradictions in the object of critical thinking gave rise to the secondary contradictions between thi content related expectations (community), 3) due dates (rule), and 4 ) classmates (community). There were no observed consequences as a result of the primary contradiction in the technological instruments. Azad effectively avoided potential secondary contradictions by purchasing high speed Internet. The other low exchange value materials such as Moodle and CD materials did not create any contradictions either.

PAGE 237

221 case, classmates were mostly pr exchange value orientation in his c ritical thinking activity In this sense, the primary contradiction of the object resulted in further successful transformation of the object towards the outcome of getting a good grade. There were no visible secondary contradictions that this primary contradiction created. The secondary contradictions resulted in a few consistent regulative behaviors introduced by Azad: a) more careful reading of the articles b ) occasional references to some glossed words, c ) frequent guessing of words from the context, and d) putting less time on drafts. Some secondary contradictions resulted in a positive outcome, such as higher grade due to the resolution of contradictions with the instr contradictions led to negative outcomes, such as lower grade due to tight due dates. It is actively transformed (critical thinking) due t their transformation (critical thinking or criticism) due to low participation of classmates. consequence of two other secondary co critical thinking instructor and the mediating instrument of Skype. One secondary contradiction (between nstructor), while it clearly existed, did not produce any visible contradictions or disturbances. There were no tertiary cont here were three quaternary contradictions. One ervice at BIHE and his activities in the course. This contradiction resulted in the new object of getting a good grade in the critical thinking course. The other two quaternary contradictions were

PAGE 238

222 leisure activities. These two contradictions resulted in the secondary contradiction that engaged the due dates. No ushin In describing Noushin, 20, her instructor made a statement that I think c aptures her personality well an artistic person. She discusses it communication, August 17, 2008). For this reason, her profile is perhaps the most challenging to construct given the data obtained in the study. She came across as a genuine person striving for human relationship. Whatever she did had to make sense to her, but this sense making was not always straightforward and interpretable using the methodology av ailable in this study S he was in her fourth semester during Summer 2008 Psychology clearly emerged in the data as her calling. In her background survey and in the Getting to Know You Forum she described her professional ch oice in the following way (personal communication, April 22, 2008): the weak economic of Iran and the bad social situation, more than 60% of Iranian youth are depres sed. It makes me sad, I want to help people and make them happy so like it so much and trying to use it. Her speech was always laid back and relaxed, and I believe so were her movements Noushin thrived on interaction with people, which made a big difference in how her activity systems became constructed. She always took the initiative to establish relationships. Her instructor was one of the people Noushin tried to co

PAGE 239

223 and this relationship blossomed thanks to the openness of the instructor (personal communication, August 17, 2008). Another Faith. In this respect, she is unique among the other participations in the study. While the other participants identified themselves as s, Noushin identify came across very explicit ly and y et sometimes unintentional ly according to my observations. For example, she recognized the challenges in BIHE administration, but unlike many others she remained detached and understanding which to me is an effort to maintain unity the center piece in the tenants (personal communication, August 11, 2008): my situation similar... how can I explain? I mean there are situation, some rules, some problems, and .. administrator cannot change something. Something are not at their hands. For example there are many problems that the government creates. Such statements that demonstrate her faithfulness to the tenants of the Faith were often present in her pape rs, email messages, or interviews. This aspect of her personality also affected the way her central activity systems were shaped. During Summer 2008, Noushin was taking five courses from BIHE. All the courses were in Farsi and related to her major. Her En glish proficiency was lower compared to the other student participants. According to my interpretation, English had a pragmatic purpose for her She was interested in it as a mediating instrument for her interactions. As such, she did not l ike to be focusi ng on accuracy (personal communication, May 26, 2008): I like the part in E FL 104 that the grammar is not important because all the time I have grammatical mistakes and it is really hard for me to think all the time about grammar and think okay is this s entence correct or not. ... For example, when the student wants to write about his or her ideas it is really hard to think about the gra mmar and the

PAGE 240

224 setting of words, and things like that, and at the same time think about the subject. On the other hand, s he worked diligently to follow up on the feedback from her instructor. This is one of the pieces of evidence for the way her activity systems were constructed. The profile of Noushin above is but a brief introduction of her pers onality, which is continued in this section. systems were hard to identify distinctly. According to my interpretation, Noushin was engaged in three activities in the shell of the critical thinkin g course: 1) engaging in intellectual self improvement, 2) being a and 3) socializing (Figure 19 ) Many of the mediating instruments that Noushin employed to transform her objects belonged to the course shell. One of them was EFL because it was the primary medium of interactions within the course shell. Other instruments included the course assignments, materials, guides, and dictionaries that were part and parcel of the course and were shared with the other study participants. The technological ins truments were for the most part the same except for a few differences. Noushin preferred to use the html version of the articles that provided immediate access to the glossed words through hyperlinks. She also used Yahoo! Messenger and Yahoo! Mail to inte ract with her instructor and her classmates. According to Noushin, she had a high speed Internet connection, but this did not save her from some contradictions due to the Internet quality. The division of labor included roles some which were similar acro ss all four activity systems, whereas others differed. There was a role of the instructor to provide feedback or depending on which object her actions were directed to T he role was to p roduce

PAGE 241

225 assignments exchange messages, or project a identity depending on the activity system. Figure 19 summarizes the division of labor in the three activity system s The rules were partly defined by th e course syllabu s, referred to as the Universal Course Structure The syllabus stipulated the order of assignments to be submitted, the due dates, and weighting of the assignments towards the final course grade. The due date for the final papers, however, was adjusted by the instructor. She chose not to drop points if students submitted their papers late. T he rules were also defined by t he grading rubrics for the problem solution forums ( Appendix D ), analysis pap ers ( Appendix C ), optional pre writing activities ( Appendix I ), and optional conference calls ( Appendix J ) Another rule in Appendix B ) The activities of socializing and being a were less regimented and included one social rule of politeness when for example, Noushin or her instructor r or IM messages.

PAGE 242

226 Figure 19 shell instructor and classmates Possibly d ue to Noushin her activities. She introduced her friends in the first interview and then mentioned them on other occasions ( interview May 26, 2008): For example, when I have problem, I call one of the friend. Most of us ... have this course, and I call them and ask ..., fine in your idea or not? However, two me mbers of her community played a major role: her instructor and Shirin her female friend from the same group. Shirin mentioned her n interacted most actively

PAGE 243

227 with Shirin They also talked to each other outside of the Moodle environment through telephone and instant messaging. In fact, at the beginning of the semester, Noushin visited her friend in her city that is more than 400 miles away from Tehran. According to Noushin, they did the first assignments together. Her instructor was aware of their friendship (personal communication, August 17, 2008): She worked with Shirin not iced that when Shirin was tangible, so was Noushin. But when Shirin went abstract, and their thoughts were different, but their style was very similar. That fact that Noushin had a close friend like Shirin in her group makes her case unique. Because they collaborated on consequences had more favorable dynamics in mo st of her activity systems. r was by far the most influential mediato activity systems I attribu background. Sh e received her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from a U.S. university, and was in the process of being hired at a university in Europe, where she resided. She is a native speaker of English and a European language of her parents. She had extensive experience teaching ESL and EFL. She also taught a number of graduate and undergraduate courses in applied linguistics both face to face and online. Of all instructors in the course, she was the most experienced in distance teaching. As a coordinator of the course, I was impressed with her efficiency and ability to reach out her students in the distance environment C ritical thinking as a subject matter of a course She could easily relate to it having obtained a doctoral degree, but s he preferred to rely on the framework of the course when she provide d content related feedback. This distinguishes tended to follow her own professional sense of

PAGE 244

228 teaching critical thinking. Most of the content rela ted feedback that Noushin received was based on the Guide for Analysis Papers ( Appendix B ) and the grading rubric for analysis papers ( Appendix C ). In terms of language, she provided extensive feedback in the form of short explanations using the c omments function in Microsoft Word, and a number of corrections using the t rack c hanges function, such as deletions, additions, or replacements of wo rds, letters, and punctuations. there were a total of 281 such language related comments in the eight analysis papers. Some of them targeted grammar and vocabulary errors. Others were related to mechanical erro rs, such as punctuation, spacing, and capitalization. Noushin was the only student participant who received such profuse amount of language related feedback. According to her instructor, she was aware of the controversy regarding the amount of feedback. Ho wever, she made a interview August 17, 2008). From her experience English language learners tend to perceive lack of language related feedback as negligence on the part of the teacher. Thus, she was concerned that coupled with the missing face to face contact, her selectiveness in feedback could result in losing trust and confidence of her students. Noushin reacted positively even defensively to my question about this kind o f feedback ( interview June 29, 2008): [Researcher] I also noticed that your instructor sometimes ... deletes certain words, and she adds new words. What do you think of this kind of approach? [Noushin]: I like it! [Researcher] Aha. Tell me why. [Noushin] clear. I like it.

PAGE 245

229 Whether due to the amount of feedback or their intensive interaction during the semester, Noushin was able to establish a very close relationship with her inst ructor. In her last analysis paper, she left the foll owing comment for her ( interview August 4, 2008) : I want to appreciate every single moment which you spend to teach us, God bless you. I want you to know I am so thankful and promise you to be a good p sychologist and try to help human kind as you did. I will pray for you as I did this semester. Noushin in Intellectual Self improvement. This activity benefited most from the course shell and its elements, which is why I start the participants in this study, Noushin had a general drive for self improvement. She did mention how English and critical thinking were i nteresting and important to her, and in fac t how they were her goals in this course. Her actions also demonstrate her genuine interest in both English and critical thinking. For example, she chose to read the Bible for Problem Solution 3 in English although she struggled with it. She also met a per son who, according from whom she solicited help on one of the articles in the course ( interview June 29, 2008) She also made effort when writing her analysis paper and making forum posts. Unlike all other participants she initiated interaction with her instructor through instant messaging, email, and the Moodle messaging system. actions more as a general need for intellec tual self improvement. She mentioned this idea assignment t o learn about critical thinking, a nd the main point of studying especially in university is learning ( interview May 26, June 29, 2008) Noushin sincerely strived to learn anything that was offered to her, even if it did not make a perfect sense to her. For example, having written eight analysis papers, she still did not understand the elements of

PAGE 246

230 crit long conference call, and multiple instant message exchanges, she was able to follow the expected pattern of analysis paper and address the purpose, implied questions, p erspectives, implications, and other elements of critical thinking of the article s However, this pattern lasted only for two three papers. At the very end of the semester, she raised the same concerns of misunderstanding the elements of critical thinking to her instructor who was rather puzzled ( inter view August 17, 2008) need for learning. She trusts her instructors whole heartedly. In the interviews, she expressed her gratitude to BIHE for providing education to young people like her, believe everything course in BIHE has some benefits: ... forum conversations, assignments. ( interview May 26, 2008). This attitude is radica lly different from many other students who tended to accuse BIHE of diso rganization. This object for intellectual self improvement goes beyond the BIHE setting. She mentioned two books that she read because they had been recommended to her. Both books wer e written by authors and were in English. Unasked, she made insightful connections between the contents of the course and those books self improvement. While Nou shin was not particularly interested in achieving perfect competence unlike Azita, she still performed actions that demonstrated her orientedness towards improvement. She diligently corrected all 281 language related errors that her instructor marked, exc ept for one that she may have missed due to inattentiveness. I interpret these actions as motivated by her need to self improve intellectually. Because she

PAGE 247

231 trusted her instructor, she did whatever her instructor thought beneficial for her self improvement. To conclude, Noushin seems to be a rare example of a student whose actions are strongly directly towards the object of learning that I term as engaging in intellectual self impro vement. According to the data, this object proved strong and stable througho ut the semester. Being a ed a very active life. This dedication to the Faith was also evident in this course. Many of her thoughts in the analysis papers related t o her beliefs. In the paper on evaluating evidence, she wrote the following ( interview July 16, 2008): We need to evaluate evidence to understand which information is trustworthy. I think I can see one of the clearest examples about this matter, there ar e lots of anti sites and weblogs, which all the information on them are lie and slanders about faith, Iran government blocked and filter all them without anti filters. It is on Iranians to judge that the information they find in anti sites is right or not, they should evaluate evidences and decide which information is reliable. However, beyond this, Noushin came across as a in the personal interactions with her instructor. During the cou rse, she sent her instructor four excerpts from the Writings on topics such as obedie nce to government or detachment from difficulties. She also sent her three links to websites that either explicitly discussed related issues, such as persecu tions of in Iran or highlight ed the ideals of the Faith, such as unity of religions and equality of men and women. Her instructor appreciated these messages and shared her quotes that also emphasized human values.

PAGE 248

232 One particular event in the allegiance to the Faith. In the last Problem Solution Forum, the students worked in two groups: one defending the article against the Faith written by Martin Walter (1965) and the other oppos ing it. Noushin was in the first group. W ithout going into much detail because this event will be discussed further in the section on secondary contradictions this is what she posted in the forum, in first line; th e author mentioned the faith as a cult as we know it is not correct, ( Problem Solution Forum 3 July 28, 2008) Noushin overcame this shock after a number of exchanges in the forum. Her instructor and I made emphasis on the fact that by learning h ow to defend Martin Walter, she would learn much about defending the Faith against such attacks. Ever since, she took this assignment to heart. Her instructor was impressed with her attitude to this assignment, by responding with the items from the article ... she o her Faith comes in here again, ( interview August 17, 2008). Noushin, in fact, started learning about Christianity, and she did that by stud ying the Bible in English. In one of the last posts, she said the following, Shirin I want to thank you for being a part of discussion. As a believer I enjoyed this forum, because it makes me to understand Later, s he also shared a psalm from the Bible ( Problem Solution Forum 3 August 13, 2008). Besides her use value orientation in the object of int ellectual self improvement, Noushin was also drawn to its exchange value Most of the time, Noushin expressed lack of interest in the grades. This motivation seemed inappropriate to her. Whenever I asked her about the grades she had received for the course s in the previous semester or on the

PAGE 249

233 course assignments in this course, she claimed not to remember them. She also claimed to follow the grading rubrics closely. Despite the fact that she denied the importance of grades on several occasions, some of her ac tions unequivocally indicate the existence this activity. It is interesting to note that unless there was a reason to worry about the grades, Noushin appeared oblivious to them. As soon as the quality of her assignments became questionable, her object of g etting a grade would receive much attention and produce remedial actions. Such increased transformation of her grade object occurred twice during the semester: 1) at the beginning of the semester after she received three out of six points for her first ana lysis paper, and 2) at the end of the semester. One source of such evidence was her instructor. During their was the one who that brought up the percentage points ... and I tried to calm her down and of the semester, she raised concern about her grades again through the interactions with her instructor, such as this on possible, Please tell me is there any chance for me to receive an A for this course? if not is That is when sh e discovered that her second analysis paper was not completed, and she panicked. When asked to comment on the change in her attitude towards the grade in our semesters t value orientation exhibited an uneven dynamic throughout the course from being active to dormant and then active again. Socializing

PAGE 250

234 articipation in this course, it is easy to notice her outward orientation. She reached out to the people in the course by all means accessible to her: forums, instant messaging, email, telephone, and even means of transportation, when she had to travel to her friend who lived in another city. Some of her interactions were directed towards engagement in intellectual self improvement or being a However, beyond that Noushin was driven to interact because of her orientedness to socialize. She underlined the role of socializing several times in the interviews ( interview August 8, 2008) : I think human being are love to live in a society and connecting with people is interesting for human, so face to face university may help ... ot relationships. For example, in a face to face university, I learn how to make friends, how to act, how to talk in front of [inaudible], a Some of her actions were also clearly directed towards the object of socializing. For example, she maintained connections with her previous EFL tutors. She emphasized the value of human connection when talking the benefits of EFL courses for me and other students is that we have a really good feeling about it, b o really care about us, and ... spend time interview Ma y 26, 2008). In the interviews, she also mentioned how she met people and involved them in her activities. When asked what she would do if she had no friends in the course, she said ( interview June 29, 2008): I will try to ... connect with another person and make friends. I think I need another try to find some friends who are translate. I mean their job is translating. I ask them to help, at least

PAGE 251

235 Her instructor had a first activity ( interview August 17, 2008) : She was trying to connect to me, more so than anyone in the class. She is the one who keeps on communication ... we did have a conference call, and we struggled a lo t. I W ith the language barrier ... she learns. Throughout the semester, Noushin connected with her instructor at least 20 times via Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, or through the Moodle message system. This activity of socializing exhibited a stable pattern according to my observations. Summary of Central Activity Systems Figure 20 illustrates the historic ity of the four activity systems that Noushin was engaged in most actively in the course shell. All of her activities remained stable through out the semester except that the exchange value orientation exhibited some change.

PAGE 252

236 Figure 20 Historicity of N oushin Contradictions and Their Consequences Primary Contradictions in Activity Systems secondary contradictions in Noushin activity systems seemed to overlap as well. This is due to the poly same consequence in the form of secondary contradiction to all primary contradictions that were most likely to have caused it. Primary contradiction in objects.

PAGE 253

237 The primary contradiction in the object of intellectual self improvement h ad the nature of use and exchange value and Noushin seemed to be more oriented towards the use value of this object. Fr om the examples demonstrated in the above section, Noushin was interested in learning for the sake of learning. Depending on the circumstances, she became more oriented towards the grade. This primary contradiction resulted in the secondary contradictions between her motive to self improve and 1) insufficient EFL (instrument), 2) content related expectations of her instructor (community), 3) misunderstanding the requirements of the Guide for A nalysis P apers (rule), 4) due dates (rule), 5) poor internet qual ity, and 6) requirements in Problem Solution Forum 3. The primary contradiction in the object of being a seems to have the use and exchange value nature as well. In the latter case, it would imply adherence to the tenants in order to feel se cure or using the theological terminology in order to exchange this obedience for salvation. In the former case a person could be attracted to the Faith or any other religion, for pure motives, just as a child is attracted to his or her mother w ithout expecting anything in reward. This contradiction had some consequences in the form of secondary contradictions between her motive to be a and 1) poor Internet connection (instrument) and 2) requirements of Problem Solution Forum 3 (rule). Th e primary contradiction in the object of socialization is simila image. Socialization as an object does not seem to have a clear exchange value, and as such there cannot be a use value either. However, it was a distinct object, i.e. motive according to the data, and according to my interpretations, she experienced a secondary contradiction between her motive to socialize and 1) the poor Internet connection and 2) the requirement of Problem Solution Forum 3 (rule). Primary contradiction in technological instruments.

PAGE 254

238 Noushin participated in a conference call with her instructor unlike Azita and Azad. This required the use of Yahoo! Messenger and Internet connection. According to her i nstructor, the quality of the conference call was very poor presumably because of the Internet Internet as a commodity is based on the use and exchange value contradiction. Noushin must have made an effort to arrange for a more efficient use of Internet. However, apparently due to the poor service across Iran paying more for Internet was not enough. Thus, while Internet as a commodity did have the primary contradiction of u se and exchange value, it did not cause the secondary contradiction between poor Internet activities and that of the Internet provider. Like the other participants, Nou shin also used Moodle and CD materials as a technological instrument. Both of these instruments had a low exchange value because they were provided to her for free. These commodities were based on the primary contradiction of use and exchange value. Being an open source application, Moodle did not come with support services. This trade off in exchange value caused a few disturbances in five students to larger groups of 10 12 stu dents to increase student participation in the forums. This merging removed some of the previously made posts by the students. Noushin was among those students who expressed this concern to her instructor. However, because this disturbance did not occur, n o consequences due to this primary contradiction emerged in any of the four activity systems.

PAGE 255

239 Table 16 Primary Contradictions in Activity Systems Contradictions Consequences in activity systems Intellectual self improvement Soc ializing Use vs. exchange value in object Use and exchange value orientation Secondary contradiction between improve and 1) insufficient EFL (instrument), 2) content related expectations of her instructor (community), 3) misunders tanding the requirements of the Guide for analysis papers (rule), 4) due dates (rule), 5) poor internet quality, and 6) requirements in Problem Solution Forum 3. Secondary contradiction internet quality, and 2) requirements in Problem Solution Forum 3. Secondary contradiction socialize and 1) poor internet quality, and 2) requirements in Problem Solution Forum 3. Use vs. exchange value in technological No consequ ences identified No consequences identified No consequences identified

PAGE 256

240 instrument s Use vs. exchange value in classmates (community) Use value orientation opportunity to solicit help transformation of the object Use value orientation opportunity to talk about re ligions and human values transformation of the object Use value orientation opportunity to socialize transformation of the object

PAGE 257

241 Primary contradiction in community. In the activity of intellectual self improvement, Noushin clearly was orient ed towards the use value of her classmates and other members that shared her interests. Sometimes, she posted questions to the forums because she re ally wanted to know the answer. This is an example of her question in the pre writing activity in Module 4, Pre writing Activity 4 June 6, 2008). As we discussed earlier, she closely worked with many of her classmates, particularly Shirin in order to facilitate the transformation of her objects. She also reached out her friends outside of the course to help her with translation or family members such as her uncle from the U. S. This attitude to classmates and other members of her outside comm discussion of a use oriented community in school going activities. The consequences of this use orientation benefited Noushin in many ways. As she herself attested, she was able to solicit help from many of h er friends and have many of her disturbances resolved. in her activity of being a had a use value orientation too because it was marked by the spirit of team inquiry. This community was mostly represented by her instructor with w hom she shared excerpts from Writings and links to the websites with related content. Her instructor responded with mutual interest and shared her own excerpts that also highlighted human values. No visible consequences of this use oriented c ontradiction were identified, if it was a contradiction in the first place. I had the use value orientation because their interaction was mutual. While it is hard to te ase apart the same classmates as a community safely infer that this use orientation was beneficial to the transformation of her object. Secondary Contradictions in Activity Systems

PAGE 258

242 Insufficient EFL versus objects. participants this contradiction was rather strong in most of her activity systems. First, t his indications of the difficulty of the articles She tried to reproduce typical actions while working on the analysis papers. She wou ld start by reading the article and taking notes on paper in English and in Farsi. She would look up new words hyperlinked i n the article o r in a dictionary. Sometimes she would re read the whole article one more t ime. Most of the time, she would re read the most challenging parts of the article three or four times orientation, she tended to reach out people to seek help. She also had friends to work with. She posted some questions to the pre writing forums, where her instructor and sometimes group mates responded. She asked a friend whose job was translating to help translate parts of the articles. She also solicited help from a new acquaintance ( interview June 29, 2008). Another source of disturbances due to this secondary contradiction came from the instructor. There were a total of 169 grammar o r vocabulary related errors, 60 mechanical errors, and seven organization related comments. As was mentioned above, Noushin conscientiously corrected all the errors, except for one that she must have overlooked. According to her, she would spend two to fou r hours on the revision process during which she would re read parts of the articl e Noushin highlighted two areas that according to her reading articles, we become fa miliar with new words. For example, never we ... read about ( interview process. interview June 29, 2008).

PAGE 259

243 According to my interpretation, this contradiction caused these cons equences in the activity system o f intellectual self improvement Possibly, her regulative behaviors also transformed the object of being a because there is much emphasis in the Writings mention as findings. related expectatio ns versus objects. Content paper except for those related to the elements of thinking outlined in the Guide for Analysis Papers ( Appendix B feedback, Noushin received only 16 content related comments. Ano ther source of disturbances was the articles themselves. In this sense, it is impossible to distinguish between the contradictions due to insufficient EFL and content related expectations of the instructor. The following is perhaps a typical comment from N hard, and lots of theories, and lots of ideas, and it was really long. I think all of the students interview June 29, 2008). Because the contradictions due to content and EFL are impossible to distinguish methodologically, the consequences of these contradictions would have to be combined as well. Table 17 shows a summary of these consequences. objects. copious comments and exhortations ns. Her instructor made elements to discuss and how to do it. In addition to this, she also provided similar directions

PAGE 260

244 on five occasions through instant messaging and emails that were initiated by Noushin sampli ng of the with specific examples of how to word the discussion of required elements .. Thus, the questions the author address es are: ... One of the main implications or co ( Analysis Paper 2 May 23, 2008). During the interviews, Noushin did not express specific concerns about the required elements in h er analysis papers. Perhaps, they were not as critical to her the overall understanding of the articles ( interview July 7, 2008): [Researcher] Did the understanding of those elements of thinking change from the beginning of the semester to now? ... I mea n again, perspectives, assumptions, and concepts, questions, and purpose. Those elements of thinking? problems with them. I just remember we had the problem because we did not und erstand the meaning of sentences, so when we do not understand we cannot understand what perspectives and another things. Thus, I conclude that this contradiction activities existed solely due to the feedback from her instructor who in turn was mediated by the Guide for Analysis Papers I attribute this contr adiction to the activity system of engagement in intellectual self improvement only, in particular, its exchange value orientation because Noushin did not exhib it much willingness to grasp these elements. likely prompted some re reading o f the articles. Thus, this contradiction presumably led to more active transformation of the grade and self improvement objects when Noushin the contradiction

PAGE 261

245 occasionally resulted in lower grade feedback effectively. Whether this contradiction caused any frustration and possible weakening of the objects is not clear from the data. Due dates versus Articles as Instruments re on average 3.75 days and final papers 2 days late, excluding the final paper from Module 2 that Noushin forget about until the end of the semester. Interviews with Noushin suggest that she was disturbed by the due dates in this course ( interview July 7 2008): ime on reading it. During our discussion of an ideal online course, she said that due dates should matter only when students are 20 days late or more Given this position of hers, I conclude that she felt frustrate d having to meet the due dates in this cou rse. What is important to note in respect to Nous hin is that this contradiction occurred is different from what transpired in Azita and s, where they di d not link lack of time to the difficulty of the articles, although this could as well be a reasonable supposition. Unlike them, Noushin made a strong emphasis through statements such as above that he r challenge was not simply time but the level of diffic ulty of the articles coupled with the time pressure It was impossible to identify consequences of this contradiction in the form of specific regulative behaviors based on the data available. However, two conclusions can be made with some degree of certain dropped points for late submissions because she chose to adjust the late submission policy

PAGE 262

246 experie nced any consequences of this contradiction. Second, given the frustration that Noushin expressed about the due dates and the level of difficulty of the articles, one possible consequence could have been a weakened transformation of her object of intellect ual self improvement. It is impossible to make any interpretation on the con sequences of this contradiction in the activity systems of being a and socializing due to the methodological limitations. Internet As was mention ed in the section on primary contradictions above, Noushin was disturbed by the poor Internet connection and this was caused by the quaternary Her instructor expr essed concern that the internet connection during their first and last conference call was poor ( interview August 17, 2008): I wanted to assist her, and we did have a conference call, and we struggled a lot. I had the language barrier in this case, I would have loved to speak her language and talk to In an interview, Noushin mentioned that after the first conference call, she s ent instant messages to her instructor instead of requesting conference calls There may have been other reason s why Noushin and her instructor chose not to have more conference calls. However, t he one time disturbance with the first conference call implie s that Internet was viewed as a potential contradiction that could impede the quality of their interaction. Had the connection been more seamless, Noushin would have benefited from a more engaged and in depth discussion of the contents of the course, Faith, or Christianity, which in turn could have resulted in better grades for Noushin. As such, I interpret that this disturbance

PAGE 263

247 as an emerged secondary contradiction that had negative consequences on the transformation of all four objects in this cour se. Prob In Problem Solution Forum 3, students were divided into two groups. The first one was expected to defend the position of the author Martin Walter (1965) who wrote an article where he argues that the Faith is a cult. The second group was expected to oppose the author of the article. The purpose of the assignment was for the students to apply their understanding of course readings on the evaluation of evidence and identification of logical falla cies. This set up of the a ssignment intellectual self improvement and getting a good grade. Noushin adamantly opposed to this rule which we can see in one of her forum posts addressed to the instructor ( Problem Solution Forum 3 July 28, 2008): I am totally confused after reading the source of this forum. Will you help me? This article was full of mistakes, even in first line; the author mentioned the faith as a cult, as we know it is not corre ct. In the interview we can see two big mistakes in the answers of that person. Now please tell me how I should defend this article? There is a definition for historical research, and this article is not follow that ... Now after reading all of lessons in this course I say it is against critical thinking to defend something that you know it is not true! Tell me am I right? What should I do? May be I do not understand the meaning of the topic of forum. Please guide me. This post clearly expresses her contr adiction between the forum requirements and her understanding of critical thinking and historical research, which I interpret as belonging to object of intellectual self improvement. T here is also some evidence of how this rule may have affected her orientation towards the exchange value of the object of intellectual self improvement. The next after

PAGE 264

248 the post above, Noushin sent this message to her instructor ( email communication July 29, 2008): I am ready to write a post for forum! if it is not a problem, I can do it, and it is good because the discussion will begin soon! ...I think the group who are not agreeing with the writer should begin discussion, what's your idea? [smiley] I can write a post about the definition of cult today, but I think it should be from the other group i want to complete all the EFL assignments as soon as possible, Please tell me is there any chance for me to receive an A for this course? if not is there any assignment which could raise my grade? While Noushin was on th e subject of Problem Solution Forum 3, she brought up a subject of grades. This link is not obvious, but it could be for her grade, and Problem Solution Forum 3 was one of the last assignments that she could use to rectify some of the points lost throughout the course. T he dat a do not suggest any connection between this rule and the other objects in the The object of being a is in the fact the one that prompted this seconda ry contradiction. As such, this contradiction was caused by a quaternary contradiction which will be discussed in the subsequent section. The consequences of this secondary contradiction were somewhat unexpected. Despite the initial strong resistance, Nou shin suddenly diametrically changed her attitu de towards the forum assignment which is reflected in the following forum post from her ( Problem Solution Forum 3 July 30, 2008): In order to do this assignment first we should become familiar with Christian ity teachings, as you know we live in a Muslim country so we know lots of things about Islam. I think it will be helpful if you explain about similarities between Islam and Christianity. In order to support the author I need to know Christian beliefs. ... I am trying to learn to see the world how he saw! ... I should say it seems I can see the

PAGE 265

249 interesting part of assignment now! I read bible in Farsi some years ago but reading it in English seems more interesting! I found some websites, which include bibl e verses, but I am not sure that all of them are one translation. In order to support the author I think it will be good if I found some verses in bible. Her instructor supported Noushin by sharing relevant links to Christian web sites She performance in this forum was outstanding. She was particularly impressed how Noushin went as far as to read the Bible in English and use it to support her argument in defense of Martin Walter ( Problem Solution Forum 3 August 4, 2008): Test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets are Jesus mentioned it in Bible for all of his students to be sure that none of them will not beguile by false prophets. Noushin admitted that reading article and the Bible was challenging. She had to make a frequent use of her dictionary. She also asked some of her friends to translate and explain parts of the Bible to her. She even called her uncle who lived in the She produced a total of seven posts including the first ones where she was expressing her concern about the assignment. He r posts totaled to 1,335 words, which is roughly the size of two three analysis papers she would write for this course. In my interpretation, this secondary contradiction had a positive consequence on all three activity systems (intellectual self improvement, being a and socializing) in that it facilitated the transformation of thei r objects. One piece of evidence for this transformation is a number of actions that were directed towards these objects such as those discussed above The following is an example coming from one o f the last forum posts ( Problem Solution Forum 3 August 8, 2008): This week I spend most of my time on reading an unusual book for me, ... I cannot stop

PAGE 266

250 reading, its writer William sears was a Christian who believes in faith. The book explains that he had lots of question about 1844. He wants to know why in that year it was t he beginning of his journey, with the help of questions and critical thinking he started to read Bibles again and again, ... The true critical thinker is somebody who is ready to hear new ideas and have this ability to change his ideas with new ones, if he fined new ones more useful. ... I believe so that it is wrong to decide about a faith by actions of its followers, yes! It is true that educating believers is important but we cannot judge about a faith by the doings of its followers. This excerpt represe ect of intellectual self improvement and being a It also demonstrates that this forum provided much opportunity for meaningful interaction which is key to her object of socializing What prompted Noushin t o resolve this contradiction so boldly is not clear, but there assignment. First, it is her object of being a She must have seen in this assignment an oppor tunity to become more prepared to talk about the Faith to people from the Christian background. Another motive that might have also prompted these actions is the concern for her grade, as we see above from the question she sent to her instructor.

PAGE 267

251 T able 17 Secondary Contradictions in Activity Systems Contradictions Consequences in activity systems Intellectual self improvement Socializing Insufficient EFL (instrument) vs. object Use and exchange value orientation Re reading of articles 2 4 times Use of hyperlinked definitions Use of a dictionary Active collaboration with classmates posting questions to forums seeking help from instructor, translators, subject matter experts presumably improved EFL and u nderstanding of critical thinking Exchange value orientation better grades No evidence No evidence Content Use and exchange value orientation No evidence No evidence

PAGE 268

252 related expectations (community) vs. objects Re reading of articles 2 4 times Use of hyperlinked definit ions Use of a dictionary Active collaboration with classmates posting questions to forums seeking help from instructor, translators, subject matter experts presumably improved EFL and understanding of critical thinking Exchange value orientati on better grades Misunderstand ing requirements of the Guide for Analysis Papers (rule) vs. object Use and exchange value orientation clarifications from the instructor extra effort to revise papers possible re reading of articles possibly improved EFL and understanding of critical thinking Exchange value orientation No evidence No evidence

PAGE 269

253 better grades when comments addressed successfully lower grades when comments addressed unsuccessfully Due dates (rules) vs. ar ticles (instruments) Use value orientation Presumably decreased transformation of object due to lost opportunity to engage with the assignments for longer time Exchange value orientation submission rule N o evidence No evidence Internet (technological instruments) vs. object Use and exchange value orientation Presumably decreased transformation of object due to lost opportunity to communicate via conference calls Presumably decreased transformation of o bject due to lost opportunity to communicate via conference calls Presumably decreased transformation of object due to lost opportunity to communicate via conference calls Problem More active transformation of object d ue to: More active transformation More active

PAGE 270

254 Solution Forum 3 (rule) vs. objects active reading of the assigned article active reading of the Bible frequent use of dictionary soliciting help from friends, instructor, and uncle in the US making meaningful connections between the course readings Exchange value orienta tion Better grades due to active participation in the forum of object due to: emerged opportunity to Faith through Christianity potential opportunity to a person with a Christ ian background transformation of object due to increased opportunity to interact with people for meaningful purpose: friends, instructor, her uncle from the U.S.

PAGE 271

255 Quaternary Contradictions in Activity Systems High speed Internet connection is a recent development in Iran. For this reason, BIHE instructors who teach online strive to reduce the amount Internet use for their courses. With the advent of high speed connect ion, the quality changed, but apparently it is still not up to the expectations of Western Internet users. Despite the fact Noushin had a high speed Internet connection, conference calls held over Skype or Yahoo! Messenger were accompani ed with frequent de lays, drops, and background noise. This quaternary Internet provider had repercussions in the form of a secondary contradiction between Internet as a mediating instrum three objects. This contradiction was discussion in more detail in the section on secondary contradictions above. activity versus course activities activity of being a obviously existed outside of the c ourse, and it found its way in the shell of the critical thinking course due to favorable conditions the shell provided for it. a affected her course activities. First, Nou shin felt it was her duty to be part of the study circles, where they study Writings and try to implement those ideals in their daily life. This caused some time pressure disturbances in her course activities along with the duties she had to fulfill for her other classes ( interview June 29, 2008): circles and other things to do. So it was really hard for me to do the assignment on time a nd it was hard, but I think it did it.

PAGE 272

256 This quaternary contradiction had consequences in the form of secondary contradictions between the due time as a rule and the articles as mediating instruments in her activities. This contradiction was discussed in more depth in the secti on on secondary contradictions above. identity, which was the result of the long term activity of being a clashed with some of her course activities at the level of the action oriented towards the goal of completing Problem Solution Forum 3. As was discussed above, Noushin found it contradictory to her beliefs to defend an article that attacked the Faith. This quaternary contradiction resulted in the secondar y contradiction between the rule of Problem Solution Forum 3 and her ob ject of intellectual self improvement

PAGE 273

257 Table 18 Quaternary Contradictions in Activity Systems Contradictions Consequences in activity systems Intellectual self improvement Socializing Internet provider activity v s. activities Secondary contradiction between internet as a mediating instrument and improvement Secondary contradiction between internet as a mediating instrument and Bah Secondary contradiction between internet as a mediating of socialization vs. course activities Secondary contradiction between rule of Problem Solution Forum 3 and ct of intellectual self improvement

PAGE 274

258 Summary of contradictions and consequences. ntradictions in the objects had two different patterns: 1) use vs. exchange nature (intellectual self improvement and being a ), and 2) undefined nature of contradictions (socializing). Noushin seems to have been oriented more towards the use value of the two first objects. All these primary contradictions generated secondary contradictions between the objects and one of the mediating e lements: 1) insufficient EFL (instrument), 2) content related expectations of her instructor (community), 3) misunderstanding the requirements of the Guide for analysis papers (rule), 4) due dates (rule), 5) poor internet quality, and 6) requirements in Pr oblem Solution Forum 3. Figure 21.

PAGE 275

259 The primary contradictions in the technological instruments had the nature of use and exchange value, with an orientation towards use value This contradiction did not cause any visible consequences. s activities (intellectual self improvement, being a and socializing) were mostly oriented towards the use value of the community members. None of the se primary contradictions resulted in any identifiable consequences. Among the secondary contradiction some had positive and some negative consequences. Among the former were the secondary contradictions between objects of intellectual self impro vement and getting a good grade on the one hand, and a related expectations (community), 3) misunderstanding of the requirements for the Analysis Papers (rules) 4) requirements in the problem solution forum. These contradictions caused Noushin to be more engaged in the course materials by a) re reading the articles, b) making frequent use of a dictionary and hyperlinked words, c) spending time on revising draft pape rs, d) collaborating actively with classmates, e) seeking help from instructor, English Farsi translators, and subject matter experts who spoke Farsi Some contradictions tended to cause negative consequences: a self improvement and getting a good grade versus poor Internet connection, and b ) due dates (rules) versus difficulty of articles (instruments). These contradictions yielded tentative consequences in the form of lost opportunity to a) engage more actively in the course materia ls, and b) communicate via conference calls. It is interesting to note that the objects of being a and socializing as least related to the course, received fewest number of contradictions and consequences.

PAGE 276

260 There were no tertiary contradictions in quaternary contradictions. Internet provider and her course activities. This contradiction caused secondary contradictions between poor Internet connect ion and her objects. The other quaternary and her course activities. This contradiction yielded two secondary contradictions: 1) requirements for Problem objects and 2) due dates (rules) and articles (instruments). Na zanin interview described her I agree with this comparison, and I would add that she would make a just and sympathetic attorney. She comes across as an independent minded person with a strong will who knows how to be tolerant of and detached from challenges that cannot be avoided, but voices her opinion on issues that can and should be changed. Nazanin has an older brother and sister who have their own families. She lives with her parents and likes to spend time with them. During the course, she traveled for a family re union, for which she willingly sacrificed time from her coursework. She also reserves time for activities, such as study circles where, besides reading Writings, they work on projects related to women rights. These activities occupied her for about six hours per week. own conscious and determined interview June 30, 2008). During the course of the study, she was taking 16

PAGE 277

261 credit hours, all of which were related to her field, and one had a textbook in English. She had to travel to Tehran during the semester, as her program required, and this caused major disturbances in her course related activit ies. Nevertheless, s he came across as a well organized and disciplined student. She carefully budgeted her time considering efficiency a primary criterion, and she seemed rather precise about her plans ( interview June 30, 2008): So it takes me all my day light hours to do my paper, almost 12 hours per week. ... I think and the time it takes me to type it Due to her efficient distribution of time, she chose not to take the background survey or make a self introductory post to the Getting to K now Y ou forum at the beginning of the semester. She justified her decisions without hesitation but with dignity and respect interview June 30, 2008). S uch decisions on her part somewhat reduced the sources of data for the study. However, her active participation in the required assignments and those that she deemed worthwhile was sufficient to enable me to construct her objects, contradictions, and their consequences in the course. Nazanin In many ways, Nazanin represented an easy case. Her actions were straightforward and much easier to pinpoint in the context of her activity systems. The data show that she had two well defined activi ty systems that emerged in the shell of the course : 1) learning critical thinking and 2) improving English ( see Figure 22 ). Depending on the circumstances, s he was oriented either towards the use or exchange value in the primary contradictions in her objec ts, which are discussed in the section on primary contradict ions below. The mediating instruments in her activity system were for the most part the same as described with the previous participants. She obviously use d English as a linguistic

PAGE 278

262 mediating instr ument. She used the same course assignments. She highlighted the importance of the Guide for Analysis Papers that she referred t o from time to time when needed. For this reason, I placed this document in the instruments corner of her activity systems. Of t he three formats of the course articles, she preferred the Microsoft Word format. Sometimes, she used the glossary at the end of the Word document, but she preferred to search for the new words in her computer based dictionary to save time from scrolling t he document back and forth. She also used Yahoo! Messenger and the Moodle message tool to interact with her instructor. Judging by the quality of the Internet connection during our interviews, Nazanin had a dial up connection. The division of labor includ ed roles, which were mostly consistent across the two activity systems. Her instructor provide d timely and detailed feedback and guidance. The s role was to produce assignments She knew and followed the rules very well except when she had to compromise them due to her other obligations These rules were defined in the Universal Course Structure and in the grading rubrics for the analysis papers, Problem Solution forums, and conference calls.

PAGE 279

263 Fig ure 22 central activity systems in the course shell. community consisted of her classmates and instructor She was in the same group with Noushin but was familiar with many of her classmates despite having a different major As a membe r of the community, her instructor had a similar approach when working with Nazanin, in terms of accessibility flexibility, and amount and nature of feedback. She followed the gradi ng rubrics and provided content related comments mostly based on the Guide for Analysis Papers. Her language related comments were also generous although as compared to Noushin She appreciated every effort of her instructor made in guiding her, but this did not prevent her from disagreeing with the instructor on certain points.

PAGE 280

264 Nazanin Critical Thinking Unlike any other participants, Nazanin had developed an intere st in critical thinking outside of the course shell, which I defi ne as an object of her activity of critical thinking, but her view of critical thinking differed slightly ( interview May 28, 2008): My goal is to write critical essays and articles. For exam ple, I always wanted to be a very common in Iran, I really want to know how to think critically. Her interest in the subject matter had both practical and more abstr act aspects For example, s he indicated an interest in being a movie or theater critic. Outside of the course, she was engaged in actions directed towards this object, such as reading movie and theater critiques, which had their influence on her style ( int erview May 28, 2008): This is my hobby. I really like articles like movie critiques, and other critiques like theater critiques. When I read I try to learn which process they choose to use in their essay. Also I try to find factors that they used in their article. A few times during our conversations, she mentioned how important it was to provide a summary like opinion and at other times it had a favorable effect, which is what her instructor indicated at one stage critical analysis? And interview May 28, 2008) interview May 28, 2008). For this reason, she appreciated the Problem Solution forums, wh ere she could apply critical thinking to real life situations.

PAGE 281

265 On the other hand she was also attracted to a less practice aspect of critical thinking ( interview May 28 2008): The first article was a little bit difficult because it was full of professi onal and scientific happy when I know something about philosophy or critical thinking. Half way through the semester she expressed a heightened interest in philosophy, really want to know more about philosophy. ... You know, the concept of philosophy, and ... ( interview June 30, 2008). However, according to her, she was never able to transform this aspect of her object perhaps due to time constraints. Her object of learning critical thinking changed its orientation from being use to exchange value driven, according to my interpretations. While she still expressed interest in becoming a critic, she was severely constrained by time and this forced her to concentrate on the grade the exchange value of learning Her paper s lost the initial touch of insight and originality and Nazanin herself attributed this to the pressure to produce paper after paper during the last days of the semester. She was never able to do the last Problem Solution forum. Her instructor sensed this contradiction too and felt sorry that she had to rush her last papers in the course (see more discussion on p. 275 ) Activity of Improving English Nazanin started le interview May 28, 2008). Her parents introduced her to E nglish through their relatives who knew good English. In school, she took private English classes. She maintained this object very well. At BIHE, she could apply English in English medium courses in her major which she rarely struggled with, according to her words Outside of school, she listened to English news, read books, and watched movies. She made this

PAGE 282

266 object of hers explicit in our conversations too ( interview May 28, 2008). This object was also evident in so me of her actions. When looking through her papers, she sometimes felt embarrassed having made the kinds of errors she did because of the high expectations she had of herself She was also picky e my assignment papers interview June 30, 2008). English changed its orientation to being more exchange value driven. Sh e herself as well as her instructor recognized that she lost the initial focus on English. Summary of Nazanin A closer look at the data in the following section show s that Nazanin experienced a strong secondary contradiction bet ween the demands of the course regulated by the due dates, which in turn was caused by the quaternary contradiction between the activity of the BIHE administration and her course activities. This time pressure changed orientation from use to exch ange value in the primary contradictions of the objects of improving English and learning critical thinking. Figure 23 illustrates this dynamics in Nazan

PAGE 283

267 Figure 23. Dynamics of activity system s overtime.

PAGE 284

268 Contradictions and Their Consequences Primary Contradictions in Nazanin This section discusses three primary contradictions following the format of the previous and corresponding technological instruments and communities (see Table 19) Primary contradiction in objects. value in the primary contradictions of her objects. At the beginning of the semester, her actions were oriented more towards the English and critical thinking objects. She was also interview May 28, 2008). She could also afford to spend a whole day on one analysis paper at this stage of the semester. Already in the first half of the semester, she started expressing more concern for her grade. On June 8, 2008 she sent a message to her instructor inquiring about her grade for Problem Solution F orum 1, which she received on June 26. Her grade was 2/3 points, one point dropped because she made only two posts. In the subsequent interview, interview June 30, 2008). At the same time, she claimed that she was satisfied with her grades at this point of the semester. In the following interviews, she continued expressing a concern for her grade, and communicating with her instructor regarding the status of her performance in interview August 8, 2008). Thus, in terms of the object of critical thinking, d uring the first half of the semester, Nazanin exh ibited more a use value orientation in the primary contradiction of the object of learning critical thinking As the semester progressed, and the time pressure increased, her orientation changed to the use value in that she was striving to obtain a decent grade. This

PAGE 285

269 primary contradiction resulted in the secondary contradictions between her motive to learn critical thinking and 1) insufficient EFL (instrument), 2) content related expectations of her instructor (community), 3) requirements of the Guide for A nalysis P apers 4) due dates (rule), and 5 ) poor internet quality These secondary contradictions were generated regardless of whether she was oriented towards the use and exchange v alue of the object. However, the way she resolved the secondary contradicti ons changed depending on the orientation in the primary contradiction. This is discussed in the section that follows. In terms of the object of improving EFL, t he primary contradiction in the object of improving English had the same nature and dynamics I nitially, the consequence of the use oriented contradiction were such regulative behaviors as: 1) spending one daylight worth of time per paper 2) being sensitive to her word choice in papers, and 3) self correction of her own papers while copying them fr om paper to the computer With time pressure, she had to submit paper after paper at a fast pace, which change d her orientation to the grade This affected the quality of papers, as her instructor admitted (see p. 275 ) Thus, during the use value orientation this contradiction generated regulative behaviors that helped Nazanin engage in improving EFL more actively. During the exchange value orientation, her regulative behaviors reduced, and the quality of papers worsene d. Primary contradiction in technological instruments. functions, and Internet) had the use and exchange value duality I n one of the interviews Nazanin said that the techn solved by our CTA [course technology assistant] interview May 28, 2008). This is despite the fact that these technologies were provided at no cost to Nazanin, i.e. at a very low exchange value. The Internet connection, however, was problematic. Nazanin had one conference call with her instructor, which was recorded and emailed to me for analysis. The quality of the

PAGE 286

270 call was obviously hindered by repeated drops of connecti on. Our interviews occurred under worse conditions. Nazanin was the only participant with whom I chose not to speak because there was a delay of 10 15 seconds before she could hear my utterance. Instead, I typed questions in the instant messenger to reduce the delay time, while she responded orally. In one of the in is a little expensive in Iran and interview August 13, 2008). She also mentioned that Internet left much to be desired in interview August 13, 2008). It is not clear whether Nazanin did have high speed connection or not. From the evidence provided above, I tend to conclude that there were two in up which is the primary contradiction between use and exchange value of Internet and a general quality of Internet connection in Iran, which is a quaternary contradiction between th As such, this primary contradiction has a tentative conse quence in the form of a secondary contradiction between Internet as a s objects in the course.

PAGE 287

271 Table 19 Primary Contradictions in Nazanin Contradictions Consequences in activity systems Learning critical thinking Improving EFL Use vs. exchange value in object s Use and exchange value orientation: Secondary contradiction between ct and 1) insufficient EFL (instrument), 2) content related expectations of her instructor (community), 3) requirements of the Guide for Analysis P apers 4) due dates (rule), and 5) poor internet quality Use value orientation: R egulative behaviors: self correct ion of errors while ty ping up her hand written papers spending one day per paper; improving her word choice Exchange value orientation: spending less time per paper D ecreased quality of papers Use vs. exchange value in Internet (instrum ent) Secondary contradiction between Internet as a mediating instrument thinking Secondary contradiction between Internet as a mediating instrument EFL Use vs. exchange value in forum gra ding rubric ( rule ) Exchange value orientation more frequent posts higher grade Exchange value orientation more frequent posts higher grade

PAGE 288

272 Primary contradiction in rules ta. As the semester progressed her orientation towards the exchange value in the primary contradiction of the grading rubric of the Problem Solution forums intensified. In Forum 1, Nazanin made two posts. After she received the ratings from her instructor she became more motivated by the grade and increased her participation in Forum 2 ( interview June 30, 2008): participating in forums. Then my tutor told me that if you want to get a better grade in some activities you should ... plan my schedule to participate more in this activity. Thus, the consequence of this shift towards the exchange value in the rule of the grading rubric generated more active participation from N azanin. Since it is impossible to distinguish between the actions directed towards critical thinking object and EFL object in the forums the consequences are applied to both of them. Whether this shift adversely affected the meaningfulness of these action s for Nazanin is not clear from the data. Secondary Contradictions in Nazanin Insufficient EFL versus Nazanin object This contradiction im plies systematic disturbance s between EFL as a mediating lea s data, these kinds of disturbances became evident through the feedback where the instructor asked Nazanin to change the language in order to clarify her thoughts about the subject matter. There were a total of 10 instan ces of such contradictions in six analysis papers The last two papers did not contain such comments

PAGE 289

273 of the modal verb could com ment in parenthesis ( Analysis Paper 2 May 28, 2008): The author chooses to begin his article from a definition standpoint. He could perfectly clarify the definition of different levels of process of critical thinking for the reader with simplified keywo s own words. She attested that some readings were challenging although she was not dismayed by th is challenge. She particularly referred to the articles in the first and fourth modules. This secondary contradiction caused a few con sequences in the form of pedagogically favorable regulat ive behavior s, such as le I use the ( interview May 28, 2008). She also guessed some words from context. Another set of regulative behavior was taking notes while reading the articles and wri ting the essay on paper before typing it on the computer. However, these actions, according to her, were not eason ab May 28, 2008). related expectations versus As was mentioned earlier, instructor feedback could be viewed as facilitating and inhibiting. The student always looks forward to the facilitati ng kind of feedback and works and in that sense it usually does not lead to the desirable improvement. In N azanin there was some evidence that her instruc s feedback on the content was an inhibiting disturbance. This evidence comes from repeated failure to address the comments from the instructor. There were a total of nin e such insta s thinking further and she did not address her feedback Only once did she leave a note

PAGE 290

274 saying that she did not understand what her instructor asked of her. I nterviews shed some light on this behavior. Nazanin explained that she either did not remember why she did not address them or d id not do so and examples of the author and my teacher said it's better to use your own words. I didn't interview August 1 4, 2008). In the last papers she was also under time pressure, which implies her grade orientation to learning. Thus, while Nazanin did address a total of eight content related comments from the i nstructor, which I interpret as facilitating feedback she also missed a number of other comments because she 1) was pressed for time, 2) did not understand the comment, or 3) of the object. The consequences of this secondary contradic tion did not produce any remedial actions from Nazanin. As such, they did not contribute to the transformation of the object of critical thinking. Some of the feedback provided from the instructors was b ased on the requirements of the Guide for Analysis Papers. Nazanin addressed most of them. However, there were a total of seven such comments that she did not address in four different papers. Her reasoning was the same as that which she provided for the m issing corrections of the content related issues: 1) pressed for time, 2) not understanding the comment, or 3) disagreeing with the instructor. Because this kind of feedback was at best not followed up by any actions on her part, or confused her, the conse quences were not conducive to the or improving EFL. Due dates versus objects Nazanin comes across as a disciplined stu dent. Of the first four final papers, she was only late with one paper for two days. However, starting from the second in the second half

PAGE 291

275 of the semester, all of her final papers arrived late, on average eight days late She attributes this to the necessity to travel. She admits that one reason was her own choice when she traveled to a family re union. However, she was adamant about the second reason the necessity to travel to Tehran for a face to face class for a long period of time that removed her from the course activities ( interview July 10, 2008): I am sorry that I was late for my final papee for module 5, it is because I am in a 20 days of my classes. It is very long and I have difficulties to access to the Internet. Would you please give me some times? ule with the late submissions and decided not to penalize for lateness, this contradiction did not affect her grade. However, it had a dramatic consequence on her objects of improving EFL and learning critical thinking. Her papers lost their original quali ty, and her instructor felt that too ( interview August 17, 2008): Nazanin, I know that you are submitting your remaining papers (final 5, draft 6, 7, and 8) to me the last few days of class and I am assuming that you are rushed.... I am not sure, but it seems that you were quick to write this draft and some of the comments that I included in your draft were not used to revise your final paper. In addition to analysis papers, this contradiction affected her contributions to the last Problem Solution forum. She was not able to make any posts because she was pressed for time to completed analysis papers that were more heavily weighted. primary contradictions of her objects. This is reflected in the motive of her efforts: the rush ing of papers to meet time deadlines instead of the re reading of the articles and meticulous word selection. Internet versus Objects. Just as with Noushin, Nazanin struggled because of the poor I nternet connection. Nazanin had one conference call at the beginning of the semester, which occured under

PAGE 292

276 tough conditions due to frequent drops. Later, they arranged for another conference call, and Nazanin look ed an conference call and talk interview June 12, 2008). However, her instructor had a conflict in her schedule, so they had to postpone it. The next time, Nazanin did not s how up for the conference call, and this is the instant message that her instructor left for her ( interview June 19, 2008): Just to let you know that I was waiting for you this morning. I have another conference call waiting for me so I will go to them....just in case you come on line. Let me k now if you would like to schedule another conference call. These interactions show that the main reason for the missed conference call was not the Internet connection. However, it indicates that Nazanin was genuinely interested in conference calls. It is also clear that the Internet connection was poor. I conclude that Nazanin did experience this secondary contradiction due to poor Internet connection although it is not clear whether it had any consistent consequences on any of her objects. Table 20 summa

PAGE 293

277 Table 20 Secondary Contradictions in Activity Systems Contradictions Consequences in activity systems Learning critical thinking Improving EFL Insufficient EFL (instrument) vs. object Use value orientation: Use of a dictionary Guessing words from context Re reading of the articles Presumably improved understanding of critical thinking and improved EFL Exchange value orientation: Reduced quality of papers Theoretic ally no contradictions Content related expectations (community) vs. objects No follow up actions, hence impeded transformation of object No follow up actions, hence impeded transformation of object Requirements of Guide for Analysis Papers (rule) vs. o bjects No follow up actions, hence impeded transformation of object No follow up actions, hence impeded transformation of object Due dates Exchange value orientation: Exchange value orientation:

PAGE 294

278 (rules) vs. objects Reduced amount of time spent on revisions Presumably decreased t ransformation of object due to lost opportunity to engage with the assignments for longer time Reduced amount of time spent on revisions Presumably decreased transformation of object due to lost opportunity to engage with t he assignments for longer time Internet (technological instruments) vs. object No evidence of consequences No evidence of consequences Quaternary Contradictions in Activity Systems Nazanin ties. As was mentioned, Nazanin experienced poor Internet connection during the conference call with her instructor. Beyond that she expressed much concern for the poor Interne interview August 13, 20 08). She also mentioned this disturbance in another discussion about the quality of BIHE education. She referred to poor Internet connection as one of the serious obstacles for BIHE because of its move towards online education. It is not solid evidence, b ut we can related activity systems. Together with primary contradiction in the mediating instrument of Internet, this quaternary contradiction created secondary contr objects and Internet as a mediating instrument. BIHE administration versus course activities.

PAGE 295

279 Nazanin was in general very disturbed by the BIHE administration. She admitted that all these challenges stem med from the g s to stop the functioning of BIHE Yet she strongly believed it could do more to accommodate the students. She felt pressured having to travel to Tehran for several weeks and be disconnected from Internet, which jeopardized her online cou rse s She felt pressured having to take several difficult exams in one day. She was pressured having to take semester long courses within a matter of several weeks. She had many concerns, but h er biggest concern in this re spect t the things that students want. ...First, we must schedule better, ( interview August 13, 2008) This quaternary contradiction caused secondary Table 21 summarizes the discussion of the quaternary contradictions and their consequences. Table 21 Quaternary Contradictions in Activity Systems Contradictions Consequences in activity systems Learning critical thinking Improving EFL Internet provider activity vs. Nazanin course activities Secondary contradiction between Internet as a mediating of critical thinking Secondary contradiction between Internet as a mediating improving EFL BIHE administrat ion Secondary contradiction between due dates (rules) and Secondary contradiction between due dates (rules) and

PAGE 296

280 course activities thinking produced exchange value orientation produced exchange value orientation Summary of contradictions and consequences. primar y contradictions in the object of critical thinking generated secondary level contradictions between the objects and one of the mediating element s: 1) insufficient EFL (instrument), 2) content related expectations of her instructor (community), 3) requirements of the Guide for Analysis P apers 4) due dates (rule), and 5) poor internet quality. The primary contradiction in the object of improving EF L produced regulative behaviors, such as self correction of errors and prolonged engagement with paper assignments. However, when orientation changed to the exchange value, the quality of papers decreased, which could have happened because of the reduction of these regulative behaviors.

PAGE 297

281 Figure 24. Contradictions in Nazanin The primary contradictions in the technological instruments had the na ture of use and exchange value. Of all technological instruments, Internet w as the only one that had a visible primary contraction, which in turn caused a secondary contradiction between The primary contradictions in the rule of the forum grading rubric increased its exchange value orientation. Thi s produced more active participation in t he subsequent forum discussion, but whether this participation contributed to the transformation of the use value of the object is not clear. Of all secondary contradictions, only the one between insufficient EFL ( instrument) and

PAGE 298

282 guessing words from context, and re reading the articles, which presumably facilitated the transformation of her object of critical thinking. These reg ulative behaviors also presumably and indirectly facilitated the transformation of her object of improving EFL. caused serious negative consequences on both objects: critical t hinking and EFL. As a result of pressure, Nazanin had to develop innovative techniques that helped her cope with this contradiction. Among them was reduced amount of time spent on her analysis papers. ck that perhaps was not immediately clear. This resulted in poorer quality of her work. Finally, she had to abandon orientation in the primary contradictions of her objec ts from being directed towards use to exchange value that prioritized the grade above all. Another secondary contradiction contradictions. There were two other secondary contrad ictions that had negative consequences: related expectations and 2) the requirements of the Guide for Analysis Papers. Because of these contradictions, Nazanin abandon e fforts to improve her papers. related activity systems on the one hand, and the activities of 1) BIHE administration and 2) Internet providers, on the other hand. The firs t one resulted in the secondary contradiction Shahin

PAGE 299

283 Shahin Of all participants, I have connected most closely with Shahin. Partly, it is because he was one of my students, but I think more importantly he had a personality that I could relate to. Shahin spoke slow ly both in Farsi and of course in English; his English proficiency was more lim ited compared to the other participants. His leisurely and low voice invoke s an image of Al Pacino in The Godfather. Yet h is personality was just the opposite. He often mentio ned his mother and sister several times during our four conference calls. He apologized many times and was willing to do more than I expected without asking for anything despite his hectic schedule. He sound ed like a very humble and hard working person A t the age of 21, Shahin was already a successful professional. He was working full time for a computer company as a network specialist. His responsibili ty included set ting up and support ing computer networks in organization s and companies. He was often on call and had to travel to other cities. Shahin was goal oriented and determined. Besides taking sev en BIHE courses during this study he was also taking a Microsoft certification course. His ambitions, however, were not limite d to being simply am expert co mputer engineer. He aspired to knowledge in many fields for the sake of intellectual growth. His next academic goal was to continue his education in the United States or Canada towards a doctoral degree in computer science In fact, in the sec ond half of the semester, he took a teaching job at a private university t o teach two programming courses, and he enjoyed this experience tremendously. Shahin failed the critical thinking course and other courses too He never bargained, unlike many other BIHE students. He accep ted this fact matter of factly admitting that he would rather re take the course to learn more from it. Because he participated in the course

PAGE 300

284 only during the first two modules, the discussion of his activity systems as well as contr adictions and consequences are not as extensive as with the other participants. Activity Systems clearly: 1) improvin g EFL and 2 ) intellectual self improvement (Figure 25 ). mediating instruments in the course shell included English as a foreign language, technological instruments, dictionaries, and his mother and sister who knew good English. Of the three formats of the course articles, he preferred the Microsoft Word format because he printed out the articles to take notes on them He had a high speed internet connection. He also used t he Guide fo r Analysis P apers to mediate his course related actions. Just as Nazanin, Shahin seemed to have placed this d ocument in the instruments corner of his course related activities. When I asked him to recall the process of writing his analysis paper, he mentioned referencing this Guide for Analysis P apers to facilitate his writing process. Rather than controlling and disturbing his actions, which was the case with some other participants, the guide helped Shahin facilitate his thinking and writing processes During his recall, he could easily remember the elements of analysis papers. Because his second draft paper mis sed many of those elements I asked him to explain the reason. H e admitted that he had had read the guidance [guide] again, and I just read the article, and then I write my assignment. I think I must ( interview June 26, 2008). This incident restricting rule. In terms of division of labor h is instructor provided guidance through written feedback and conference calls Shahin also collaborated with his classmates, but this collaboration

PAGE 301

285 I have a hard time special problem, I call them on th interview May 26, 2008). T he rules were defined by the Universal Course Structure as well as t he grading r ubrics for analysis papers and possibly conference calls. Because he did not participate in any forum discussions, their rubrics are not included in his rules. Figure 25 Shahin Shahin his instructor and fellow students who instruments node because he only asked them for help occasionally. They were not engaged in the same

PAGE 302

286 course taking process as his classmates or instructor so as to be included in the community node. As an instructor, I tried to support him as much as I su pported the other students. However, because he was one of my participants, I inevitably spent more time with him and sent more messages to him than I did to the other students. I relied on the Guide for Analysis P apers when providing content feedback beca use I assumed the students read it, and I could use it as a reference document. Besides, I had not taught much critical thinking as a subject matter of a course per se Although I was instrumental in designing and developing the course, it was safer for me to follow a familiar path than experimenting with instructor did. Overall, I made every effort to encourage my students to make connections between the articles and their analysis papers. I also provided language related feedback. In doing so, I tried to find patterns of errors and focus only on them. Sometimes, I would simply underline segments with errors; at students to ask me where they wanted words and phrases that they were not sure about. Some students developed this habit. Shahin did not, perhaps because he had a chan ce to write only 1.5 papers. His last submission was the draft for the second analysis paper. Intellectual Self improvement Shahin did develop some interest in critical thinking, but this subject matter seemed to belong to the category of many other of his interests ( interview May 26, 2008): I like philosophy and critical thinking. I think all people must know about them a little. I think we must know a little about everything. We must know about math, computer science, and philosophy And I think all of us should know about critical thinking.

PAGE 303

287 On the surface, according to his accounts, his actions could indicate a special interest in critical thinking. For example, he read additional online sources on critical thinking in Farsi. On the other hand, he did the same for the other courses, such as math. According to my interpretation, Shahin had a tendency to be a perfectionist. He often said how important it w as to do his best in everything. When I asked him about this attitude he told me of a n interview July 17, 2008 ). This in a way contradicted his overall performance in the critical thinking course and a few other courses that he had to fail, but it could also be viewed as his attempt to excel in the number of courses he could take and complete his BIHE education so oner. It could also be his hunger for knowledge and growth, which coupled with a lack of time management skills could lead to the opposite results His rationale for attending BIHE seems to be based on the same object of intellectual self improvement ( int erview August 27, 2008): BIHE makes me a person that ... learn and learn. I go to my certification from Microsoft and other company that give certificate. But it think BIHE is very nice even in my life and open door to new world. mproving English It was in many ways a vehicle to transform many other objects of his, such as intellectual self improvement, becoming a professional in his field, or receiving a P h.D. in computer science ( interview May 26, 2008): I like the words, the new words. ...I think ...a foreign language help us make relationships with other people, ... any nation, any language. ... I want to continue my

PAGE 304

288 education. ... W hen we want to lear n Ph D in for example computer science, you must know English language because all of the resources for subject is English. confirmed the presence of this object. For example, he purposefully learned certain words form the articles ( int erview June 26, 2008): I try to write the vocabulary in a paper, and I try to learn them in my free time in work. I breakfast or lunch. He would also write his own draft of the analysis paper and then copy and paste it below and edit it for grammar mistakes. He could not explain why he did it, except that it was his habit. Given his drive for excellence and a number of other long term ambitions such as studying abroad, on those objects, rather than belonging to the object of improving English. After all, he frequently places English in the context of his other plans, such as access to information, stud ying abroad, or connecting to people. However, I interpret his interest in English as an obj ect in its own right. English occupies an intermediary position in his web of activity systems in that it serves as a mediating instrument to transform those other objects. However, this only supports the assertion that Shahin has formed a separate activity instrument producing activities. Science and art are examples of such i nstrument produci ng activities that produce instruments to mediate other activities. Summary of Central Activity Systems Shahin proceeded to work on course assignments until Module 6, according to his words. He also claimed he had hand written drafts of the analy sis papers for Modules 3 and 4, but was never able to type them up and upload online. In the end, he virtually had no

PAGE 305

289 time left for this course and some of his other courses. I interpret this as a weakening of the transformation of his objects of critical thinking and English in their use value orientation. At the same time, Shahin did not develop his exchange value orientation in his objects. He did not seem to increase his effort because of the grade, which can be interpreted as a weak yet stable exchang e value of these objects. Figure 26 demonstrate s this dynamic Figure 26.

PAGE 306

290 Contradictions and Their Consequences Primary Contradictions in Shahin In primary contradictions could b e identified: in his objects, technological instruments, and the rule of the forum grading rubric. Primary contradiction in objects. From the very beginning, Shahin did not shy away from his interest in t Sure, I would like to get a top grade interview May 28, 2008). However, his actions were strongly oriented towards the use value in many elements of his activity systems. First, in the object of intellectual self improvement Shahin was ori ented towards its use value We must know about math, computer science, and philosophy. And I think all of us should interview May 28 2008). He did not change his orientation to exchange value despite the increasing time pressure. Instead he attempted to read the articles in small parts during short breaks at work and hand write his analysis papers. This will be discussed in more detai l in reference to the secondary contradiction due to time pressure. However, this demonstrates that he remained faithful to the quality of learning, which possibly caused his failure of the course. There is clear evidence, though, that this use oriented co ntradiction caused a number of secondary contradictions between his object of self improvement and 1) insufficient EFL (instrument), 2) the Guide for Analysis Papers (instrument), 3) due dates (rules), and 4) inadequacy of forum grading rubric (rule). Seco nd, in his object of improving English was also motivated by its real life use for speaking country, for connecting with people, and accessing information. According to him, he remained steadfast in his use v alue

PAGE 307

291 ( interview June 26, 2008). This contradiction generated several regulative behaviors, such as copying translations of words and sentences from articles on paper for memorization and seeking help from his sister and mother. Primary contradiction in technological instruments. The primary contradiction in technological instruments was identical to that of the other participants. CD materials, Moodle, and Internet had the use and exchange value nature The CD materials did not work smoothly for Shahin, but because the same materials were uploaded online, he was able to resolve this p otential contradiction by downloading the materials from the course site. He had a high speed Internet connection and did not complain about its quality although our conversations did have noticeable delays, drops, and noise. Even if the poor connection ha d affected the transformation of his objects, it Primary contradiction in rules In his orientation to the forum grading rubric as a rule Shahin likewise looked for use value and disregarded any exchange value I n that sense, he was a rebel according to the use value orientation to rules. He did not make a single forum post during the course, not even i n the Getting to Know You forum, and he had two reasons for this decision. First, he thought forums due to their asynchronous nature were inefficient to address the questions he had about the assignments. Here, he referred to the optional pre writing activ ity where students could discuss the articles ( interview June 26, 2008): For example, I try to do my assignment. When I read the article and I face one problem I post it to the forum, and ... at least two, three or four hours later, you ..post the answer when I ask my question ... my sister for example, she send five or six minutes for me.

PAGE 308

292 The second reason was his apprehension to lose face in front of his group mates ( interview May 26, 2008 ): opinion because I think about my mistakes I worry about them. T hese two reasons that clearly have real life use value orientation prevented Shahin from participating in the forum discussions The consequence of this contradiction is the secondary contradiction between forums and his actual objects. At this level, his adherence to the use value actually had effects on his course grade. consequences. Table 22 Primary Contradictions in Activity Systems Contradictions Consequences in acti vity systems Intellectual self improvement Improving EFL Use vs. exchange in object s Secondary contradictions between object and: insufficient EFL (instrument) the Guide for Analysis Papers (instrument) due dates (rules) inadequacy of foru m grading rubric (rule) Secondary contradictions between object and: copying translations of words and sentences from articles on paper for memorization seeking help from his sister and mother Use vs. No visibl e contradictions No visible contradictions

PAGE 309

293 exchange value in Internet (instrument) Use vs. exchange value in forum grading rubric (rule ) Secondary contradiction between Inadequacy of the forum grading self improvement Secondary contradiction between Inade quacy of the forum grading rubric (rule) and EFL Secondary Contradictions in Activity Systems Insufficient EFL versus Shahin Perhaps because he only wrote two drafts and one final paper, there were no insta nces of unclear thoughts in his sentences due to his insufficient English proficiency. This contradiction the challenges that he encountered while reading the articles and writing analysis papers. According to him, limited vocabulary knowledge was one serious obstacle in his effort to transform the object of intellectual self improvement ( interview June 26, 2008): B ecause critical thinking ... you need to find vocabulary you need find sentence and understand the sentences, but with other courses you need to work with them ...F or example, ... vocabulary. He also mentioned that sometimes he was not sure how to word his ideas in his anal ysis papers.

PAGE 310

294 The consequences of this secondary contradiction included the following regulative behaviors: 1) soliciting help from his mother and sister when he was working on his papers, 2) use of dictionaries, and 3) copying challenging words and senten ces on paper with corresponding translations for memorization during his free time. He also occasionally read online resources about critical thinking in Persian. It helped him to make connections between the ideas discussed in the course articles written in English. Guide for analysis papers versus objects. According to my interpretation, the Guide for Analysis Papers belonged to the his analysis paper s. This instrument had some drawbacks which resulted in disturbances. There is not much evidence for this claim because he only submitted one revision of his draft paper. However, there is a pattern in the data that allows for tentative identification of t his secondary contradiction. In the draft of his first analysis paper, Shahin received five comments from his instructor based on the Guide for analysis papers. He attempted to address all of them except for one that asked him to add his own reflections on the article. Of the four comments that he addressed, only two were corrected according to his In his final paper, he left the following note ( interview May 14, 2008): Dear teacher. I read your feedback carefully and it was very helpful for me. I try to learning from this article. I really wait for your feedback He made a conscientious effort to revise his paper, but he realized that there were gaps. In one of the interviews, he alluded to the fact that the guide should have been designed better have it a conversation before that assignment because we have ma ny questions and want

PAGE 311

295 interview May 26, 2008). His reference to the Guide for analysis papers in this statement is clear. He consistently referred to it as guidance. There was no evidence of regulative behaviors that would have come about as a result of this contradiction. However, it is possible to identify a negative consequence of this contradiction in that it inhibited the transformation of his object of intellectual self improvement, which in this course was critical thinking. It is no t clear how this contradiction could have affected his object of learning EFL. Due dates versus objects. This secondary contradiction was by far It was present at the beginning of the course when we had our first interview, [do] ( interview May 26, 2008). This concern was one of strongest themes in our interviews, and it incr eased as the course progressed. As I me ntioned above, his draft for the second paper lost its quality due to the lack of time, which he himself admitted. This was his last paper he submit ted Half way through the semester, he started a teaching job at a private university, which further aggrava ted this contradiction. In our last interview, he reflected on his experience in this and other BIHE courses ( interview August 27, 2008): I think [I passed] four or five courses [out of seven]. I have my job. I must continue my job because I have to supp ort the network in the companies I work. But I must stop teaching. It takes so much time. Shahin attempted to resolve this contradiction by introducing innovative solutions to facilitate his course related actions at his work ( interview July 17, 2008): I put [divide] my article into five part s b ecause I forget. ... and sometimes I have to stop reading and go to another work, go to explain [something] to my friend. And sometimes my manage r want me to do a task. And I must stop reading and do my job. I

PAGE 312

296 breaks of the articles in several part s. He also hand wrote his analysis papers for Modules 3 and 4. I tentatively attribute this change of behavior to his attempts to resol ve the secondary contradiction between due dates and his objects. tive consequence on both of the objects in that he was not able to engage in course related actions. This inhibited the transformation of his objects. Rules The final secondary contradiction was objects and the forum grading rubric as a rule in his activity systems. In the discussion of the primary contradiction in the rules Sh ahin had a strong orientation towards the use value of rules. Because the rules did not provide any useful benefits he resisted participating with them. At the secondary level, Had it not been for the pr esence of his objects this secondary contradiction would not have existed. As the data show, t he consequence was negative Shahin was not willing to seek help from his instructor through forums which possibly interfered with the successful transformation improvement and EFL learning. contradictions of his objects from use value to exchange value. He explicitly stated this gr ( interview July 17, 2008). It is impossible to distinguish which of these consequences were present in which of objects. B ecause this cont radic tion affected both objects, I presume its consequences likewise apply to both objects as well. Table 23 provides a summary of the secondary contradictions and their consequences

PAGE 313

297 Table 23 Secondary Contradictions in Sha Activity Systems Contradictions Consequences in activity systems Intellectual self improvement Improving EFL Insufficient EFL (instrument) vs. object Use value orientation Use of dictionaries Seeking help from mother and sister Copying w ords and sentences with their translations on paper for memorization Reading additional sources about critical thinking in Farsi Presumably improved understanding of critical thinking and improved EFL Theoretically no contradictions Guide for Analysi s Papers ( instrument ) vs. objects No follow up actions, hence weakened transformation of the object No evidence Due dates (rules) vs. objects Use value orientation Splitting articles into smaller sections and reading them during Use value orientation Reduced am ount of time spe nt on analysis papers

PAGE 314

298 breaks at work Hand writing his analysis papers at work Reduced a mount of time spent on analysis papers Presumably decreased transformation of object due to lost opportunity to engage with the assignments for longer time Presumably decreased transformation of object due to lost opportunity to engage with the assignments for longer time Inadequacy of forum grading rubric ( rule ) vs. object Use value orientation decreased interaction with his instr uctor and classmates Presumably decreased transformation of object due to lost opportunity to engage with his instructor and classmates Potentially, change of orientation from use value to exchange value in the primary contradiction of the object Use v alue orientation decreased interaction with his instructor and classmates Presumably decreased transformation of object due to lost opportunity to engage with his instructor and classmates Potentially, change of orientation from use value to exchange value in the primary contradiction of the object Quaternary Contradictions in Activity Systems course activities. From the discussion above, it is obvious that the secondary contradiction between the due dates from his work activities. He had at least three such activities: his job as a network specialist,

PAGE 315

299 his Microsoft certification course, and his teaching job at a private universi ty that he undertook later in the semester. BIHE administration versus course activities. quaternary contradiction is one such finding that was difficult to identify in an example of his statement regarding this contradiction stemming from the BIHE system and how he changed his attitude towards BIHE after its transition to the online mode of instruction ( interview August 27, 2008) : BIHE it was my top because I learned many things in it, but after online I think it decrease. I think BIHE is after my job and other studying ... by my computer. I like to g o see my classmates and friends a nd visit my professors. ... onality. I like to meet new people. ... While Shahin underlines his personal preference for face to face instruction, he also makes it clear that it is not simply the mode of instruction. The quality of instruction interview August 27, 2 008). In this particularly course, this quaternary contradiction seems to have caused a secondary contradiction between the due dates and his objects in the course ( interview May 26, 2008). for us. I think we must establish unique university that manage better, and all courses do their job in unique rules.

PAGE 316

300 He linked the BIHE system t o the time pressure several other times. It could be due to his overload at work, but it could also be due to the lack of smooth administration of other BIHE courses, similar to what Nazanin mentioned. Therefore, my conclusion of this consequence in the fo objects is tentative. Finally, Shahin friendship activity apparently caused the secondary contradiction between the due dates in the cour se and his objects. He mentioned his friend in two different i nterviews. He also sent me a message via Moodle ( interview June 17, 2008): I challenge with many problem and one of my friend have hard illness and i try to help him. but after midterm i try t o cover all assignment and i upload them 3 or 4 days later. i am so sorry. This quaternary contradiction lasted at least for one month. He chose not to discuss it hi s assignments. Table 24 Quaternary Contradictions in Activity Systems Contradictions Consequences in activity systems Intellectual self improvement Improving EFL activities vs. his course activities Secondary contradictio n between due dates (rules) and object of intellectual self improvement Secondary contradiction between due dates (rules) and object of improving EFL BIHE Secondary contradiction Secondary contradiction

PAGE 317

301 administration vs. course activities between due dates (rules) and object of intellectual self improvement between due dates (rules) and object of improving EFL friendship activity vs. his course activities Secondary contradiction between due dates (rules) and object of intellect ual self improvement Secondary contradiction between due dates (rules) and object of improving EFL Summary of contradictions and consequences. primar y contradictions in the object of improving EFL generated at least two regulative beh aviors: copying translations of words and sentences from articles on paper for memorization and seeking help from his sister and mother. His primary contradiction in the object of self improvement produced a number of secondary contradictions: 1) insuffici ent EFL (instrument), 2) the Guide for Analysis Papers (instrument), 3) due dates (rules), and 4) inefficiency of forums (instrument). The primary contradictions in the technological instruments had the nature of use and exchange value. None of these contr adictions caused any visible consequences. of intellectual self development had positive consequences in the form of frequent use of dictionaries, seeking help from his sister and mother, copying and translating new words and sentences on paper for memorization, reading additional subject matter resources in Farsi, which presumably facilitated the transformation of his objects of intellectual self improvement and learning EFL.

PAGE 318

302 Figure 27. The secondary contradiction between the Guide for A nalysis P object of intellectual self improvement did not produce any visible consequences possibly because he cho se to ignore it. Without resolution, this contradiction impeded the transformation of his object of intellectual self improvement. The secondary contradiction between the due dates (rule) and objects produced two regulative behaviors: hand writing analysis papers and splitting articles into smaller parts in order to read them during short breaks at work. Despite these attempts, this contradiction had major negative consequences on both objects He had to decrease his involvement with the assignment s, which interfered with the transformation of both objects.

PAGE 319

303 The second ary contradiction between forum grading rubric (rule) produced negative consequences because he chose not to resolve this contradiction and it possibly affected t he transformation of both objects due to the lack of interaction with his instructor a nd classmates. related objects and: 1) his work activity, 2) friendship activity, and 3) BIHE administratio n activity caused a secondary contradiction between the due dates and his objects in the course. Amir Amir, 19, was one of the youngest participants in the study. He was in his second semester studying biology According to the background s urvey, he chose this major because of his personal interest in natural life. His father was a doctor, which may have had some influence on Amir withdrew from the course, or perhaps from BIHE in the first half of the semester. I was able to talk to him only once. He left an impression of being an ambitious young man. I would not be surprised if he withdrew from BIHE and moved to the U.S. or another country to continue his higher education. He shared his thoughts open ly and somewhat pr oudl y. I thought he was a typical young man of his age who was very intelligent and was never shy to demonstrate it. At the same time, he was obliging. He immediately responded to my request to take note of his actions during his work on the course assignm ents. After he withdrew, he sent me an email informing me of his decision and added notes that he took while he was working on his last analysis paper. An interesting fact about Amir is that he spent a few years of his childhood in the United States ( inte rview May 26, 2008): I went to American when I was nine, and then we stayed there a year. Then we came

PAGE 320

304 o prove your immunity. It was sort of like that. I went there. I learned a little English, and just when I He managed to maintain his Englis h since then. He spok e fluently and confidently, and his English contained many colloquialisms. All of his family members spoke English. His mother had lived in the United Kingdom. He had two sisters who moved to the United States. This experience shaped his identity according ly, which became manifested in the way he constructed his activity system in the course. that emerged in the course shell. There was no evide nce of him striving to grasp the subject matter or even English. He did not attempt to satisfy his instructor either, or else his attempts would have been deemed unsuccessful too often. Yet, he was oriented towards an object that kept escaping me until I r an into his own definition of his object in the self interview May 26, 2008). If Amir did have an object in this course, it was m aintaining his self esteem of a competent English user. Amir indeed had a strong identity as a proficient user of English. One could say i t was a matter of maintain ing his English, not improving it, study, but I try to keep my knowledge from drifting away by re interview May 26, 2008). On the other hand, it may be an overstatement to say he was no longer interested in improving his English In his response to my question about grades, he said the following ( interview May 26 2008):

PAGE 321

305 [his instructor] do anything unfair. ... The only purpose of grading is to understand my the grade, at least exactly know M aybe because I never need a good grade ba dly in English, b ut maybe ore interested in the learning something than getting a grade. Amir seemed to have recognized that there was room for improvement, but he was never seriously challenged. There was no need for improvement as such. Therefore, he must have shifted his motive to ensuring that his English did meet the ex pectation s of those who set the standards in his environment, and whenever there was a gap, he made effort to close it. In this sense, Amir was trying to maintain his self esteem of a competent English user. The following excerpt demonstrates that sometime s his self esteem was jeopardized and then he had to exercise actions to transform his object ( interview May 26, 2008) : I remember the first time I saw it [ the first article ughs], and everything changed... The first word. ... The mental effect was so high that I decided not to look at it that day and started working on it tomorrow. ...But what was disturbing more is my hope, mental image of myself. I thought I was invincible. Nobody can beat me in English, and stuff. But it changed. ... it took me like four sessions. ... I wrote the assignment and sent it, and expected instructor to like get mad. image as a competent English user had similar elements because it manifested itself in the shell of the course. Hi s mediating instruments included his laptop with installe d dictionaries and Encyclopedia Britannica. He had a dial up I nternet connection, and he occasionally used Google. Of the three formats of the course articles, he preferred the html version. He praised Microsoft Word because of the facilities it afforded t o him, such as copying and pasting text or spell checking. He

PAGE 322

306 admitted that he did not use the Guide for Analysis P apers because he preferred to ask his instructor for guidance In terms of division of labor, his instructor would challenge him with her fe edback, and he would respond to her to the extent that maintain ed his self esteem He also asked questions and his instructor would provide guidance. Amir had a laid back attitude towards the rules of his activity system. Nevertheless, they were there, and sometimes they clashed with his preferences. He was aware of the due dates and submitted all of his papers including drafts on time, except for one draft that arrived an hour late. However, h e admitted that he did not rely on the Guide for Analysis Pa pers. He made an impression that he did not follow the grading rubrics either. Instead he relied on th intervi ew May 26, 2008). Figure 28 central activity systems in the course shell.

PAGE 323

307 In terms of community there is little if any evidence that classmates were part of it. He never mentioned his classmates in our interview, except once in referen c e to a pre writing activity , you interview May 26, 2008). His participation in the other forums was minimal too. Therefore, his community consisted of his instructor only. variety of classes in a variety of settings. She also taught English content based courses with a focus on philosophy for college bound students. Content based instruction w as her professional interest, and this is one of the reasons she volunteered to teach this course. She also had much experience developing and teaching other online EFL courses for BIHE. In terms of feedback, she prioritized content because of the nature o f the course. She mostly relied on the Guide for Analysis Papers from which to provide feedback to her students. She did provide language related feedback too, but that was secondary after content. She considered spelling errors inappropriate at this level of English proficiency and was sensitive to them. Figure 29. Historicity of activity systems in the course.

PAGE 324

308 Figure 29 it progressed while he was taking the course. Unfortunately, it was impossible to t esteem of a competent English user throughout the whole semester. It appears that it remained stable because his instructor challenged him with content related comments and of the three of his analysis papers, two re ceived 4/6 points and one 5/6 points. Thus, according to this interpretation, his actions were constantly charged with the need to transform his self esteem object. Contradictions and Their Consequences Primary Contradictions in Amir stems Primary contradiction in the object image, esteem as an English user had the undefined nature of the primary contradiction. However, being a n object, it had to be transformed, which caused several secondary contradictions between his object and: 1) insufficient English (instrument), 2) Guide for Analysis Papers (rule), and 3) Internet (instrument). Primary contradiction in technological instruments. The primary contradiction in technological instruments was the same as with the other participants. Amir had to download his CD materials from Moodle because his package arrived late. Once this disturban ce was resolved, no others emerged in respect to the CD materials. His Internet connection, however, caused visible disturbances. Because he had a dial up connection, he was not able to use Skype freely. This was one of the reasons he preferred not to deal

PAGE 325

309 The use and exchange value contradiction played pay less for the Internet connection, and this caused the secondary contradiction between the Internet as an instrument and his object. Table 25 summarizes the primary con activity system. Table 25 Primary Contradictions in Activity Systems Contradictions Consequences in the activity system Undefined nature of primary contradiction Secondary contradictions between the object and: 1) insufficient English (instrument), 2) Guide for Analysis Papers (rule), and 3) Internet (instrument). Use and exchange value in Internet (instrument) S object Secondary Contradi ctions in Insufficient EFL versus object. in the course was particularly instrumental in this regard. He realized that sometimes his Eng lish was not sufficient and this fact created a contradiction with his object of self esteem ( interview May 26, 2008): My biggest problem was that I extracted the meaning, and then I had to find out what that meaning was trying to say. When you look a di

PAGE 326

310 know too. And then get that word and mix it all together, and in the process of doing it hope, mental image of myself. I thought I was invincible. Nobody can beat me in English, and stuff. His explicit references to the disturbances due to vocabulary are one source of related feedback. I n the total of three papers, Amir received 13 grammar vocabulary and mechanics related comments. Amir fixed eight of them and left five unaddressed. His instructor did not have any insights why Amir chose not to correct such simple errors as the refere nt pronoun it or part of speech for Greece. According to this interpretation, he corrected errors to the extent that satisfied his self esteem as a competent English user. Those were minor errors, rather mistakes, slips, which he must have not considered serious. This interpretation was not confirmed with Amir; therefore, it is not conclusive. his English a nd even his understanding of critical thinking. He engaged in active reading, use of glossed vocabulary items, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and occasional googling. Guide for analysis papers versus subject Amir explicitly said in the interview tha t he was not willing to study the Guide for interview May 26, 2008). He preferred to rely on the feedback from his instructor. A s a rule, the g uide did mediate actions by creating disturbance s. These disturbances were introduced by his instructor. Of addressed only three. The others were either dismissed or partly addressed. This is an example of his instru up comment in one of the final papers ( Analysis Paper 2 May 17, 2008):

PAGE 327

311 You have reported on the information presented in the article. You have discussed the implications of the article. You have a minimal amount of reflection. I do not see a discussion of the author's purpose or the questions he answered in the article. In many ways, this is a report, not an analysis. I hope you will look at the sample analysis paper as you are working on the paper for Module 3. Amir did contact his instruct an analyzes is different from what it should be. Isn`t analyze a type of report that talks about ( mail c ommunication May 26, 2008). He admitted the presence of this contradiction in the interview too. From the above said, we can tell that this contradiction entailed some remedial actions on the part of Amir. Ho wever, apparently because of his personal pref erence not to study the Guide for Analysis Papers he was not able to feedback. I maintain that due to the lack of resolutions, the consequences of this secondary contradiction were negative. In the interview, he explicit ly said that he was confused about the nature of the analysis papers, which serves a piece of evidence for the missing resolution of this contradiction. Internet versus the poor Internet connection. It originated from the primary contradiction of use and exchange value in the instrument of Internet. H e mentioned it on several occasions. His first indication on this contradiction came from the background survey where he s hared his previous experience with Internet internet April 2 5 2008). Because he did not express a particular interest in having a conference call w ith his instructor in this course, this contradiction was not strongly present in this course if at all However, potentially it

PAGE 328

312 was there and, had he chosen to opt for a call during the rest of the semester, this contradiction would have become manifest again. Otherwise, it did not produce any visible consequences. consequences.

PAGE 329

313 Table 26 Secondary Contradictions in Activity Systems Contradictions Consequences in the activit y system Insufficient EFL object active reading use of glossed vocabulary items, dictionaries, encyclopedias occasional googling partial correction of errors in papers esteem object Guide for A nalys is P apers versus personal preference (subject) clarifying messages to the instructor partial correction of errors in papers presumably continued lack of transformation of the object Poor Internet object no evidence S ummary of contradictions and consequences. Perhaps, due to the limited data on Amir, only primary and secondary contradictions were identified in his activity system. The only object that Amir had in this course was that of maintaining a self esteem as a comptenent English user, which had the undefinfed nature of a primary contradiction. It caused secondary contradictions between this object and: 1) insufficient English (instrument), 2) Guide for Analysis Papers (rule), and 3) Internet (instrument). The pr imary contradictions in the tech nological instruments had the nature of use and exchange value. This contradiction could have caused a potential secondary contradiction between poor Internet (instrument) and his object.

PAGE 330

314 There were three secondary contradi ctions : 1) between insufficient EFL (instrument) 2) between the Guide for A nalysis P apers ( rule ) referencing to it (subject) and 3) The first two contradictions y esteem and presumably enhanced his improvement of English and understanding of critical thinking: active reading, use of glossed vocabulary items, dictionaries, encyclopedias, occasion al googling, sending clarifying messages to the instructor These contradictions, however, also resulted in partial remedial actions. Amir tended not to correct all the errors indicated by the instructor. He also was never able to resolve the contradiction with the Guide for Analysis Papers. Figure 30. Contradictions in activity system of self esteem. Conclusion to Chapter Four Chapter Four discussed the results of the study. The following chapter provides a synthesis of these results in light of the research questions and a following discussion of implications, significance, and theoretical issues pertaining to the study.

PAGE 331

315 CHAPTER FIVE : DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS Introduction to Chapter Five This final chapter starts with a synthesis of the res ults in light of the research questions. The bulk of the chapter is dedicated to the reflection of these findings. I first, discuss the significance of the study. Then, I revisit the original purpose of the study, and how the results contributed to address ing this purpose. Further, I highlight several pedagogical implications and theoretical issues that emerged in the process of data collection and analysis. Next, I discuss future directions based on the findings. The chapter concludes with a reflection on the activity systems in schooling and the nature of primary contradictions. Summary of the Results The following are the guid ing questions in this study : 1. What types of contradictions arise in the central activity systems of individual learners of the tar get course? 1.1. What primary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 1.2. What secondary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 1.3. What tertiary contradictions arise in th e central activity systems of learners in the target course?

PAGE 332

316 1.4. What quaternary contradictions arise in the central activity systems of learners in the target course? 2. What are the consequences of the identified contradictions? 2.1. What are the consequences of the identified primary contradictions? 2.2. What are the consequences of the identified secondary contradictions? 2.3. What are the consequences of the identified tertiary contradictions? 2.4. What are the consequences of the identified quaternary contradictions? Wh at follows next is the synthesis of these research questions starting from the participants objects that defined the activity systems of interest. Further, I discuss each level of contradictions and their consequences. One general c onclusion one can draw from the findings of the six cases is that all participants had multiple activity systems in their course shells, except for one person who only had one. The most obvious pattern is the objects of EFL and critical thinking. There wer e three participants who had either of these two objects. Another two participants had a more general object of intellectual self development that subsumed either EFL or critical thinking learning. Another category of objects can be defined as personal ps ychological need oriented objects. There were a total of four participants who had four different objects of this category: maintaining self image, maintaining self esteem as a competent English user, engaging in criticism, and socializing. While this cate gory of objects may stand out as unusual in the context of the course, they match the theoretical understanding of objects. existence when a subject finds an object that meets his or her needs. Thus, the need state

PAGE 333

317 of the subject is fundamental to the formation and transformation of the object, which is what transpired in the case of the four non academic objects above. Primary Contradictions and T heir Consequences Relate d to the above, most objects had the nature of use and exchange value, and this consistently coincided with academic oriented objects, such as improving EFL, learning critical thinking, or intellectual self improvement. The participants had different orien tations in their primary contradictions. Most part icipants shifted from being use value oriented to exchange value oriented. There was only one student who changed her orientation from exchange value to use value, but then she shifted back to the exchange value at the end of the semester. Otherwise, reversing this shift from exchange to use orientation was rare. On the other hand, there was one participant who exhibited a stable use value orientation and another o ne who remained mostly exchange value orient ed. As Table 21 shows, three kinds of primary contradictions were addressed in this study: within the objects, technological instruments, and community Among those, some object contradictions had the nature of use and exchange value, while the others had an unidentified nature. Theoretically, it was impossible to identify the use and exchange value force in them. The contradictions within the technological instruments and students as community also had a use and exchange value. All primary contradictions led to secondary contradictions between that element (e.g., object, instrument, or community) and another element of the activity system.

PAGE 334

318 Table 2 7 Summary of Primary Contradictions and Their Consequences Primary contradictions Consequences Use versus exchange value nature Object: Improving EFL Secondary contradictions between the object and other elements of the activity system Use value > more engagement Exchange value > less engagement Object: Learning critical thinking Secondary contradictions between the object and other elements of the activity system Use value > more engagement Exchange value > less engagement Object: Intellectual self improvement Secondary contradictions between the object and other elements of the activity system Use va lue > more engagement Exchange value > less engagement Object: Secondary contradictions between the object and other elements of the activity system No identified differences between use and exchange value orientation Instruments: In ho use No visible consequences perhaps due to good

PAGE 335

319 produced CDs, Internet, Moodle quality of low exchange value instruments (CDs & Moodle) Secondary contradictions between Internet and Community: Classmates Secondary contradiction of rule ( participation in forums) vs. object Unidentified Nature Object: Maintaining the self esteem of a competent English user Secondary contradictions between the object and other elements of the activity system Object: Maintaining a good self image Secondar y contradictions between the object and other elements of the activity system Object: Socializing Secondary contradictions between the object and other elements of the activity system It is interesting to note that the course encouraged exchange oriente dness in the participants. Those who resisted this tendency risked failing the course. Yet, paradoxically less positive consequences for learning. Such orientation tended to reduce the amount of engagement with the course materials and compromised the transformation of the objects oriented towards real life use. Practically speaking, one may conclude that grades tend to dampen the students On the other hand, this relationship is not clearly established. It is more feasible to conclude that grades replace the function of a

PAGE 336

320 genuine interest in learning when students face secondary contradictions because of the inadequate instruments or external a ctivities and resulting conflicts with the due dates. Another finding worth mentioning is that the orientation in the primary contradiction of the object sometimes spread to the same orientation of the other elements of the activity. For example, when a p articipant had an exchange value orientation to learning ( i.e. for the sake of the grade), such orientation would spread to the community and rules elements of the activity system. Simply put, a grade orientation towards learning promoted individualistic l earners who bend to the rules, such as a grading policy, and become regulated by them. The data provided this evidence only for three elements of the activity system: community, rules, and instruments. The latter did not seem to be affected by the orientat ion in the object possibly because these instruments were obvious commodities, such as Internet and content management systems. Secondary Contradictions and Their Consequences Engestrm (1987) discusses mostly secondary contradictions in activity systems argument. All the primary and quaternary contradictions inevitably led to secondary contradictions. This course produced a number of consistent secondary contradictions. Fi rst and foremost is the contradiction between the insufficient EFL proficiency of the participants and their objects. All six participants had this contradiction, and it resulted in a number of anticipated and innovative solutions. The participants activel y used glossaries that came with the course articles. They used their own dictionaries and encyclopedias. They re read the articles up to five times. Many of them sought help from their family members, friends, classmates, and instructors. Among other inno vative solutions were translating the articles into Farsi, translating unfamiliar words and sentences on paper and memorizing them. It is

PAGE 337

321 interesting to note that the participants with low English proficiency used such translation solutions and not those w ith higher English proficiency Regardless whether the participants had use or exchange value orientation to their objects, they all engaged very actively in the course materials in order to resolve this contradiction. On the other hand, this contradiction frustration. This was particularly the case with the first article in the course. Another common secondary contradiction is between the Guide for Analysis Papers and stu contradiction due to his personal resistance to use this document. This secondary contradiction generated a few solutions such as asking the instructor for help or re reading t he Guide several times. However, a common consequence of this contradiction was I attribute this contradiction to a weakness in the course design. s was the next most typical contradiction. In most cases this contradiction was resolved by the instructors who adjusted the rule and did not penalize the students for late submissions. However, because this secondary contradiction was primarily caused by quaternary contradictions that could not be negotiated and resolved, their consequences were drastic. These consequences always caused considerable weakening of the object transformations, which manifested itself in the shed quality of work. It also resulted in the shift of the orientation from use to exchange value. agement in the readings, or the abandonment of any solutions which normally resulted in the lowering of the grades.

PAGE 338

322 T hree participants had a secondary contradiction between the poor Internet connection and their objects. More often than not this contradic tion was caused by the quaternary contradictions coming from the Internet provider activities. Sometimes it was combined with the primary contradiction between use and exchange value of Internet connection. This contradiction was resolved by a reduced use of Internet which in turn negatively affected A few students experienced contradictions with distance technologies as instruments. Asynchronous means of communication such as forums and email were not appea ling because of the missing immediacy of responses. Synchronous means of communication, such as Skype, Yahoo! Messenger, or the phone bridge were not satisfactory because of the poor Internet connection and/or inflexibility with scheduling the calls. The d ata show that this contradiction had only negative consequences in the form of a reduced engagement in the course assignments and frustration. The remaining secondary contradictions were not as common among many participants. One of them is the contradict ion between the lack of familiarity with the course not to pay attention to the expectations of the course and instead rely on the guidance from the instructor as needed. This contradiction sometimes did not have any consequences, for example, in the case with the due dates that many instructors decided not to enforce through grade penalties. Ignorance of the syllabus also resulted in losing grades on assignments th at were required and gaining extra points on assignments that were optional. There was also a secondary contradiction between classmates as community and the and sou ght genuine interaction with their classmates. The findings on the consequences

PAGE 339

323 are not conclusive, but there are some indications that this contradiction resulted in the shift from use to exchange value orientation. One unique secondary contradiction was and his instructor. These clashes, however, did not yield any empirically identifiable consequences because the instructor did not allow h er personal opinions affect the quality of her feedback or grading appro ach. Another secondary contradiction was also due to one of the instructors who felt unconfident using Skype for the optional conference calls with her students. This ourse assignments for the sake of the use value of their objects and to earn extra points for the exchange value oriented objects. One of the students experienced a strong contradiction between the rule of Forum Discussion #3 and her objects. Being a devo had to defend a position of an contradiction by studying engaging fully in the assignment as a result of which she learned much about the central beliefs o f Christianity and made many posts to the forum discussion. Another student had a secondary contradiction between the grading rubric of the forum as a rule in his activity system and his object. He was dissatisfied with the requirement to participate in t he forums and chose not to do so for the rest of the semester which negatively affected his grade and the transformation of his learning object. Finally, there was a This contradiction ne gatively affected the transformation of all her objects. Table 21 summarizes the secondary contradictions and their consequences. Table 22

PAGE 340

324 Summary of Secondary Contradictions and Their Consequences Secondary contradictions Consequences Insufficient EFL (instrument) and objects of critical thinking/intellectual self improvement Using glossaries/dictionaries Re reading articles Seeking help from family, friends, classmates, and instructors Translating the articles into Farsi, Translating & memorizing un familiar words Frustration & potential disengagement lower grades Guide for Analysis Papers (instrument) and objects of critical thinking/intellectual self improvement Re reading the Guide for Analysis Papers Seeking help from classmates and instruc tors Frustration & potential disengagement Lower grades Due dates (rule) and objects of critical thinking/ intellectual self improvement/EFL Frustration Use value > exchange value Diminished quality of work expectations ( community) and objects More engagement with articles > higher grades Abandonment of solutions > lower grades

PAGE 341

325 of critical thinking/intellectual self improvement Poor internet (instrument) Frustration, less engagement Unfamiliarit y with object Grades: lower, higher, no difference depending on the instructor and assignment Poor distance technologies and Less engagement > lower grades Classmates (community) and subject No clear evidence of consequences Instructor (community) and subject No evidence of consequences Instructor (community) Lower grades (missed opportunity to earn bonus points) Problem solution forum object More engagement with course readings, and Christian literature Higher grades Inadequacy of forum Decreased interaction with the instructor and

PAGE 342

326 grading rubric (rule) vs. classmates Possibly use value > exchange value (subject) and he r object Less engagement > lower grades Two Types of Consequences A very important observation based on the findings is that secondary and perhaps other kinds of contradictions have two kinds of consequences: 1) those of missing resolutions, which are de trimental to the activity system, and 2) those of implemented resolutions. Implemented resolutions, in turn, can be of two kinds: a) those that lead to further transformation of the activity towards its use value and b) those that lead the transformation o f the activity towards the exchange value, such as obtaining a decent grade. For instance, due to the lack of participation in forums, a student may chose to resolve the contradiction by adding extra posts to match the grading rubric and/or maintain his or her good self image. This is a resolution, but it is orientated towards the exchange value of the object. On the other hand, the student may raise the concern and discuss this with his or her community and if necessary with the subjects in the external ru le making activity. Assuming the involved decision makers are interested in promoting the use value contradiction will lead to the use activity. Instructor F eedback as a D isturbance in S econdary Contradictions the category of facilitating disturbances rather than inhibiting disturbances. In the form er

PAGE 343

327 case, the participants expected the feedback and followed up on it eagerly because it facilitated the transformation of their corresponding object, be it critical thinking, EFL, or another academic oriented object. In the latter case, the feedback was a nuisance, indeed the object (grade) and the instructor as a member of the community. However, this distinction is not easy to make due to methodology. It is impossi ble to identify when the student accepts the feedback as a facilitating disturbance or views it as an inhibiting disturbance standing in the way of getting a grade or another object. Tertiary Contradictions and their Consequences According to my interpret activity systems. Engestrm (1987) suggests that parents and teachers often represent sources of tertiary contradictions in that they try to introduce a culturally more advanced object into object of having fun at school with an object of true learning. These kinds of influences were not observed in this study perhaps because of the college level setting. For this reason, the Quaternary Contradictions and their Consequences There was a clear pattern of certain qu aternary contradictions. One such repeated related activity systems and their work activities. This contradiction consistently caused secondary contradictions between the due dates (rules) and the pa resulted in isolated innovative solutions, it predominantly led to the weakening of the

PAGE 344

328 orientation. Another em course related activities and BIHE administration. This contradiction similar to the previous t also which again negatively affected the transformation of the objects. T here were two cases of quaternary contradictions between the activity of Internet provide weakening of the object transformations. Three other quaternary contradictio ns were single occurrences with three participants. They included a leisure activity, activity, and an activity that emerged as a result of a illness. All these quaternary contradictions caused secondary contradictions objects and the due dates as rules in their activity systems. Table 23 provides a summary of these quaternary contradictions and their consequences. Table 23 Summary of Quaternary Contradictions and Their Consequences Quaternary contradictions Conseque nces Course activities vs. work activities S econdary contradiction between due dates (rule) and

PAGE 345

329 Course activities vs. Internet provider activity S econdary contradiction between internet (instrument) Course activi ties vs. BIHE administration/ system S econdary contradiction between due dates (rule) and Use value > exchange value S econdary contradiction between due dates (rule) and S econdary contradiction between due dates (ru le) and S econdary contradiction between due dates (rule) and Significance of the Study The findings of this study make some contributions to the field s of second language acquisition (SLA) and pedagogy, distance edu cation and to the theoretical framework of CHAT. Of all SLA and pedagogy related studies on content based language instruction (CBLI), there is none that would investigate this pedagogical framework in light of CHAT despite the fact that this theoretical lens inherently matches the philosophy of CBLI. The main premis e of CBLI is that language is an instrument of learning the content, and as the content is tackled, the instrument become s improved too. This study confirmed that indeed no matter whether the participants were oriented towards improving English or any learning

PAGE 346

330 at all, they all had to place EFL in the instrument corner of their activity systems. This inevitably triggered a number of regulative behaviors that transpired as a result of the inadequ acy of English as a mediating instrument. As much as a case study methodology can afford it, we can conclude that CBLI courses at a minimum elicit a number of regulative behaviors that are often viewed as pedagogically favorable. The results of the study also confirmed many previous findings. For example, despite creates unbearabl e challenges for the students. The detrimental consequences of the lack of coordination at BIHE, unfortunately, very strongly confirmed the findings about this challenge in the literature too. The importance of linguistic support when dealing abstract subject matter is another highlighted theme in the literature. This oversight o n the part of the course designers caused many disturbances for students with lower English proficiency. Along these lines, the study found that lower level students tend ed to rely more on their first language as a scaffolding device in grasping the new co ntent. Perhaps this can be integrated as an optional mediating instrument for some students. In terms of distance education (DE) this study likewise corroborates the proposal of many DE models. The six participants of this study can be well re interprete d in terms of the three k ey factors that Morgan (1993) proposes in his transaction distance theory: dialogue, structure, and student autonomy. While structure was mostly consistent across all students, the dialogue factor different from one group to anothe r. In groups where the students had more access to their instructors, the participants exhibited less frustration. The concept of the l earner autonomy wa orchestrated approach to solving their contradictio ns. which played out very clearly in the current study. In this respect, the ecological systems

PAGE 347

331 theory of Kurt Lewin and Urie Bronfenbrenner with microsystems, mesosystems ex osystems, and macrosystems is a good complement (Gibson, 1998a) One astounding similarity in the findings comes from the study of Ramsden (Morgan 1995), where h e refers to the notion of deep versus surface learning, which corresponds to the use and exch ange value orientation in this study. Beyond the theoretical significance of this study, there is a local practice oriented significance which in my opinion is of paramount importance given the original purpose of the study, and this is discussed in the section that follows. Revisiting the Purpose of the Study At the beginning of the study, I set out to address two problems: 1) lack of information for the implementation of online content based courses at BIHE and 2) a more theoretical issue with the lack of understanding of the nature of expansive cycles of growth in second language acquisition (SLA) in the distance content based language instruction (CBLI) environment In this section, I would to like address these problems in light of the findings. Con cerning BIHE the study yield ed a wealth of information about the cultural historical nuances of this educational setting. There are tremendous secondary contradictions in s. These contradictions have detrimental consequences. It seems to me that BIHE as a learning activity is experiencing a number of primary contradictions between use and exchange value at the level of individual faculty and staff. According to the BIHE adm inistrator perspective, many of them have their own jobs and they try to combine them with the ir responsibilities at BIHE ( interview August 22, 2008). In my interpretation, because BIHE traditionally has been relying on the service orientated attitude of its local and many outside faculty and staff, there is not much time and perhaps commitment of resources left to provide quality service to the students. There may be other reasons beyond this primary

PAGE 348

332 contradiction that did not transpire in this study. The fact that the government is the source of many of the identified secondary contradictions is undeniable. However, as an autonomous activity that has its own clear object and a strong community, BIHE has to devise means to overcome these contradictions sooner or later. Given the CHAT methodology, I would like to propose a solution that is very obvious to any identifying inner contradictions in activity systems, and promoting the expansive cycles of growth is a consultation I deliberately use this inspired concept, which is not present dology, all involved members of the community should come together and openly discuss their disturbances. Video recordings of on the job actions are available for a n insider perspective of disturbances. The participants are engaged in often heated discussi ons that are facilitated by trained mediators whose primary goal is to identify underlying contradictions and elicit their resolutions. In other words, resolutions are devised in collaboration and open discussion between the subjects that experience contra dictions in their everyday work actions and their surrounding activities, such as the rule and division producing activities of administration, the instrument producing activity of related departments that produce instruments, and the like. From my inter action with the participants of my study, I conclude that such consultation is missing in BIHE. Perhaps BIHE administration could establish regular sessions where selected representatives of students, local and outside faculty and staff could come togethe r and discuss the disturbances that prevent BIHE as a learning activity from further expansion.

PAGE 349

333 Regarding the second problem, t he findings of this study surprised me in that they changed the direction of my investigation from focusing on the nature of exp ansive cycles of growth in SLA to more global, indeed, cultural historical issues surrounding content based online courses. This study revealed that in order to capture the cycles of growth in SLA and tap into the internalization and externalization proces ses, I may need to employ actions that were manifestations of the secondary contradiction between insufficient English as a foreign language and their objects. Howeve r, the proposed methodology and the research questions were able to capture only regulative behaviors as re solutions to disturbances, some of which became consistent and were introduced into the activity systems as mediating instruments. It was impossible to identify whether and how these papers did grow more complex, at least in lexical terms due to the fact of the repeated use of certain concepts such as perspectives, implications, purpose, information and the like. Some participants also integrated hedging techniques, such as seems to be, probably and perhaps which were part of the Guide for Analysis Papers. A more in depth analysis of these textual and discourse f eatures would certainly shed more light on this phenomenon. CHAT constructs will be enlightening in this kind of research because they contextualize the participants SLA on the background of their motives and contradictions. The nature of feedback as a dis turbance versus as a mediating instrument may have different outcomes on SLA. Pedagogical Implications To further develop the discussion above, I would like to consider a few pedagogical implications resulting from this study and directions for future re se arch.

PAGE 350

334 One overarching implication that applies to any pedagogical setting and, in particular, the distance environment is the consideration of cultural historical contexts of the students. This has been repeatedly highlighted through a number of studies on distance education (Jegede, 2000; Gibson, 1998). However, what this study underlies is the differing understanding of the same phenomena by students and their instructors because they represent different cultural historical perspectives. For example, th e same forum discussion tool is seen dramatically differently by some BIHE students and their instructors. It transpired that for some students it is not appropriate to utilize this tool to exchange ideas with unfamiliar people or even get to know them for the first time. Another example is the different from that of their instruct ors educated in the West who placed much emphasis on the syllabus and made erroneous assumptions about the role the course syllabus played in Thus before introducing mediators course designers nee d to tap into some underlying assumptions of those mediators in the target culture if they are to carry a mediating rather than a constraining function in the course. Another implication is based on the emerged construct of a course shell. What transpired in this study is that some students felt constrained performing certain actions in the course, and some of the most notorious examples were the Guide for Analysis Papers, forum discussions, and due dates. T hese constraints tend ed to provoke students to pe rform exchange value oriented actions If students were given a chance to construct their own activity system to fit their needs, this would transform their objects more effectively. This idea is not new. With the advent of humanistic and constructivist vi ew s in pedagogy, students are placed in the center of the learning process. BIHE curriculum is missing this

PAGE 351

335 element perhaps due to the cultural peculiarities or the distance nature of the education. The simplest and most cost effective solution in this sit uation would be establishing regular consultation sessions where students and their professor would come together to voice their concerns openly and seek solutions. This approach would eliminate the unnecessary contradictions and highlight those that are c onducive to learning along with mediating elements that facilitate the solution of these contradictions. Fin ally, instructor feedback had a crucial role in the study. As was mentioned earlier, feedback that emerged in this study could be categorized as ei ther a facilitating disturbance or an inhibiting disturbance. The findings demonstrated that the former elicited more use value oriented actions, while the latter tended to be exchange value oriented. The nature of tions implies a two way endeavor. The student needs to have the right object, and the instructor should provide feedback conducive to the transformation of the object. Future Directions One possible future direction I would like to pursue as a result of t his study concerns the nature of second language acquisition as it is viewed through Vygotskian theory of cognition The question about the nature of second language acquisition may appear trivial as it may have been addressed fully in the field However, to me, as a researcher, this is a starting point for any further research on second language acquisition within the Vygotskian theoretical perspective. Is it about levels of linguistic attainment of the learner manifested across complexity accuracy, and f luency (Skehan, 1998), which implies investigation of outcomes of the developmental process? If so, t his runs against the epistemological assumption understanding and explaining higher, culturally organized, forms of human mental

PAGE 352

336 Thorne, 2006, p. 28). I believe clarifying this foundational assumption is a pre requisite to any other inquiry that I would w ant to undertake within Vytoskian view of cognition. Havin g clarified this question, another worthwhile area of inquiry would be re addressing the nature of second language acquisition in a content based language course. This kind of research may or may n ot require discourse and textual methods of analysis depending on the assumption of language acquisition. There is yet another possible avenue for investigation based on the above. T his study demonstrated that along with a content oriented object, some st udents had an object of improving EFL, and some did not. The data show that regardless whether students had the EFL object or not the y exhibited active engagement in EFL related actions, such as use of a dictionary, translating key words or parts of the t ext into Farsi, re reading the text for better comprehension, and seeking help from other people. Given this pattern does the acquisition in a content based course? In my opinion, this question is the key to understanding the processes of language acquisition of adults engaged in content based yet they successfully acquire langua ge s via human interaction Language as a mediating instrument becomes transformed without a conscious effort of the child subject. The findings of this kind of research may provide promising insights for language pedagogy Following the line of thought a bove, what kind of mediators promote second language acquisition in a content based course? However much the motives of an adult learner define his or her success in language acquisition there are other mediating circumstances that impact the processes of language acquisition. For example, from the activity theoretical perspectives, there are mediating instruments, division of labor, community, and rules. This area of inquiry could contribute to the improvement of language curriculum design.

PAGE 353

337 Theoretical Issues This research revealed a number of theoretical challenges with CHAT constructs that call for methodological considerations They include: the placement of mediators in the activity system, a distinction between object of activity and goal of action the nature of primary contradictions, and the nature of secondary contradictions. Identifying Mediators in Activity Systems The literature often presents hypothetical scenarios by which to illustrate the structure of human activity and how its mediators (instruments, division of labor, community, and rules) are to be positioned in the system The hunting activity of primeval humans by he same time they may mislead a researcher w ith their simplicity. Real human activities tend to have many uncertainties when it comes to their theoretical interpretations. In this study, the For the sake of consistency, I chose to view instructor feedback a s disturbances, but I had to distinguish between those that are facilitating and inhibiting. However, one may potentially place feedback in the instrument It could also belong to the rule corner of the activity if the students are expected to foll ow up on it in order to fulfill the requirements and receive a grade they deserve. There is never a lack of such possibilities in CHAT interpretation s, which may raise eyebrows of even staunch naturalistic and interpretive researchers. Activity theorists are not oblivious to this complexity of h uman activity. Engestrm (1987, 1999a) talks about the dynamic nature of activity by highlighting its multivoicedness, histori city, expansiveness, and interaction with neighboring activity systems. However, the literature does not bring up the complexity of decision making when placing the different

PAGE 354

338 mediating elements in the activity system. I maintain that this complexity is due to the complexity of human activity, and not the flaw of CHAT. No matter how close a theory comes to modeling reality, when it comes to human behavior, nothing can capture its complexity with satisfactory precision. In other words, feedback could indeed b elong to different mediating elements in the activity system depending on the function it fulfills in the activity. However, this has many implications for the methodology. If two researchers cannot easily agree on where in the activity system a particular mediator belongs the research cannot proceed without risks to trustworthiness Further, it may undermine the assumption that CHAT is a unified framework, where the language used by one researcher is understood by any other activity theorist. Perhaps, the re is no such assumption, or there should not be. As an interpretive model, CHAT may serve the needs of researchers differently as long as foundational premises are aligned, and there is a consistency in the application of devised interpretations, which is what had to be done in this study. Methodological Distinction Between Object s and Goal s The second theoretical issue concerns the distinction between actions and activity or goal and object. While the hypothetical examples of these two constructs appear to illustrate this distinction clearly in some research settings this distinction may present serious problems. One such problematic setting is distance research. This distinction assumes a close and prolonged observation of participants in their everyday life, which was without even seeing their facial expression and without having a solid triangulation through direct observation undermine this assumption of CHAT methodo logy. H owever, these two constructs are hard to tease apart beyond a distance setting In this study there were m any times when it was unclear whether a student expressed interest and performed actions

PAGE 355

339 confirming this interest because of being oriented tow ards an object or a goal. Engestrm (1987) talks about school going as a host of isolated actions not oriented towards a unifying object. Perhaps performing actions outside of the course may confirm an existence of a potential object, but how consistent s hould such actions be before a researcher could make a distinction between object and goal? This leads us to the same methodological concerns. Contradictory Contradictions Lastly, the construct of contradictions was a source of much theoretical struggle i n this study. First, the nature of primary contradictions is elusive and hardly possible to grasp methodologically. One clear assumption we can make from the literature is that this construct is based on the dialectical understanding of reality (Engestrm 1987; Ilyenkov, 1982 ; Wilde, 1991 ) There are two opposing forces that interact with each other. The contradiction between use and exchange value is the most typical in the literature, and it applied well to some cases in this study. However, there were also cases when a moving force did not seem to have a dual nature The basic internal contradictions of human activity is its dual existence as the total societal production and as one specific production among many ( Inner c ontradictions of human activity ) Engestrm applied this definition to schooling going activities too, and yet it does not seem to be able to interpret readily the primary nature of certain objects. Examples include the tain self image or self esteem, and engage in criticism or socializing. Perhaps, I as a researcher was not able to identify their nature properly due to my personal intellectual limitations or due to time constraints that I created for myself The prima ry contradiction in the objects appeared more or less consistent when they had use and exchange value in this study. However, viewing learning as use value oriented

PAGE 356

340 (genuine interest) or exchange value oriented (for the sake of the grade) is necessarily th e same kind of contradiction as the use and exchange value in commodities. Commodities have an inherent dual nature, which indeed propels economy in the capitalist socio economic formation. However, learning does not have an inherent dual nature of use and exchange value. People can learn for pure self development, and no other force will impose upon them the exchange value. This distinction seems to be more of two different objects: one of pure learning and the other of getting a grade. These motives often interact, which human activity. However, perhaps there are other ways to in terpret such findings. Further, assuming t he pr imary contradictions within elements of the activity have use and exchange value contradiction, they still present serious challenges that may undermine consistency of interpretations For instance, a student being affected by a lack of forum participation of his classmates may be interpreted as a primary contradiction between the use and exchange value of 1) his community (classmates), 2) instrument (forum), or 3) rules (requirement to respond to a number of classmates). Perhaps, this contradiction equally applies to all these nodes and causes the secondary contradiction between these among other activity theorists to determine if this construct promises worthwhile for research. Finally, regarding secondary contradictions, this study followed the operational definition of contradictions as having a dual nature. Accordingly, secondary contradictions had to have two conf licting forces. While it appears a simple task, the actual interpretation of secondary contradictions may demand the close attention of activity theorists. For instance, if a student experiences a conflict with the due date, I chose to interpret this as a

PAGE 357

341 of the due date. On the other hand, one could also interpret this as a conflict between the subject and the due date. The borderline is rather vague. Mwanza (2002) found a clever solution by identifying those contradictions in sub triangles, which in this example would come out as subject object rule. While this resolves the methodological puzzle, it creates a rift in the theory, the assumption that a contradiction h as a dual nature. If there are three elements involved in a contradiction, where does this conflict exactly occur? Possible Solutions to Theoretical Issues I have not been able to find answers to many of the issues discussed above. However, I would like to propose a methodological solution that may address some of these issues. Autoethnography, as a post modernist theoretical perspective, offers an interesting approach to research It puts the researcher in the shoes of the participant. As a result, the res earcher becomes the center of his or her own inquiry. According to Goodall (2000), cited in Lincoln, 2005). I would like to propose another purpose that autoeth nography could fulfill. It could help a researcher understand his or her theoretical framework and devise methodological solutions to tap into critical theoretical constructs. Being so complex, CHAT seems a good candidate for the autoethnographic approach. CHAT requires much interpretation. Coupled with methodological challenges of inability crogenetic processes, this interpretation may lead to undermining trustworthiness of this qualitative research. Autoethnography effecti vely removes these methodological challenges by merging the participant with the researcher. As such, a researcher would become a subject in his or her own activity system and would have a most intimate understanding of his/her microgenetic processes, whic h will yield data

PAGE 358

342 that meet the rigor of naturalist research. Interpretation of these data within the CHAT framework would be a much less daunting task too. Being a subject of the activity, the researcher would immediately know whether an element of his or her activity was constraining or facilitating and accordingly whether it belongs to the corner of rules or instruments. If I were to enhance this study with the authoethnographic methodology, I would have to put myself in a position of a language learner Because I am interested in content based instruction in distance education, I would seek a course that would satisfy these conditions. During the course, I would employ meta cognitive techniques to observe my own actions and notice my thoughts and emotio instrument of data collection. Such log would detail the shifts in my orientations towards genuine learning obtaining a grade, or perhaps other objects. My role as a researcher would force me to apply the emer ging data to CHAT constructs and makes sense of the data through the theoretical lens. With this methodology there would be little room for the breaches of trustworthiness. However, I predict many a struggle with the theoretical interpretations of the data which is critical for a beginning activity theorist. Autoethnography could be used as a starting point for a beginning activity theorist. Having grasped the theoretical construct of CHAT through first hand experience, he or she would be more sensitive t o the experiences of his /her other participants, and perhaps would devise methodological instruments that would allow activity theorists to capture some of the elusive distinctions in CHAT such as object and goal. A body of authoethnographic research cond ucted by a number of activity theorists could serve as a source of data for meta analysis the results of which could enhance both the theoretical and methodological understanding of CHAT. On the A ctivity S ystems in S chooling

PAGE 359

343 Because the following discuss ion concerns grades, I will use the concept of use and exchange value orientation for the sake of consistency. This study demonstrated how online community members in a BIHE course tend to interact with each other. Most often than not it i s brought to act ion due to the exchange value in it s primary contradiction, with little interest in genuine discussion and collaboration. Students exchange their posts like commodities to satisfy their grade oriented motives little us e for them. Using CHAT as a n analytical instrument provides some potential implications as to how orient ing students towards a grade could be detrimental to the quality of learning. When a grade orientation in a class, it acquires the quality of commodity. This commodity of ten becomes equated to learning, which is yet another problem with assessment in modern schooling. The presence of grades in schooling seems detrimental because activity systems of different orientation s at the p rimary c ontradictions within the same shell cannot co exist productively. For example getting a good grade (exchange value oriented activity) does not co exist productively with the activity of learning EFL (use value oriented). U se and exchange values co nstantly compete with each other, and from the results of this research, the exchange value always prevails. Perhaps a pedagogical implication is to separate students activities oriented towards use and exchange values. What happens if there is no grade in a course? One may conclude that it effectively eliminates the grade object s This, however, may likewise eliminate the actual object and activity itself due to the missing primary contradiction in the object. It appears tha t a grade becomes a surrogate of learning, a wolf in the disguise of the sheep. Unless and until the system of education as a total production activity changes its quality, the subordinated learning activity systems of schools and individual systems cannot

PAGE 360

344 change their quality. Engestrm (1987) raises this concern too when he talks about a paradigm shift in education. One possible route of this paradigm shift is removing the grade from the primary contradiction and representing learning by the artifacts pr oduced by students. If a student learns how to write, his or her composition will be the evidence of his performance. This shift is in fact emerging, and portfolio assessment is one such obvious manifestation. Another route for this paradigm shift is creat ing a separate activity whose sole object will be or other consumers of assessment. This trend is present too. The Educational Testing Service in the United States is an example of such as activity. Finally, I see a possible the actual consumers of knowledge and skills Rather than rely on the grade, employers or graduate schools could per deem effective. This solution is also common among employers and graduate programs in countries, such as the USA It appears that this paradigm shift is occurring. However, unles s and until the grades are removed from schooling the primary contradiction of use and exchange value will continue undermining the quality of learning. On the other hand, remov ing the grade from the equation destroys the primary contradiction in a school going setting, which is not consistent with theory. It would be interesting to investigate primary contradictions in this kind of school going context to see whether the theory needs adjustment, or i ndeed a new kind of primary contradiction arise. Nature of Primary Contradiction in Subjects Despite much theoretical contention discussed above, the theme of primary contradictions is appealing, particularly when it comes to subjects of human activity.

PAGE 361

345 According to the ontology of CHAT this life is driven by dialectical relationships within and among human activity systems (Engestrm, 1987; Ilyenkov, 1982). Engestrm (1987) says that in slave and feudal societies, the primary contradiction was based on force. To further develop his thought, the duality in the se kinds of societies was between force and weakness. Those in power would subordinate those underneath them, and the latter would accept it as a given. That is how society was structured at the level of individuals, families, and nations. With the advent of capitalism, the primary contradictions assumed the dual nature of use and exchange values. Individuals, societal bodies, and nations have something to share that is not of use to them in exchange from something that is. This exchange is mutual; everyone has something that they do not need but others do, and this carries on the development of the society and individuals in this socio economic formation. This study addressed primary contradictions in the elements of object, instruments, and community. The primary contradiction of the subject has not been discussed yet. However, knowing the nature of this primary contradiction may shed insightful ideas on practice and theory. If by definition, a contradiction has a dual nature, what is the contradiction that drives an individual subject? Engestrm (1987) defines this contradiction in a student engaged in a learning activity as a sense maker vs. grade maker, in that as subjects students struggle bet ween being oriented towards use value of learning and exchang e value of learning. I would interpret this contradiction in more general terms and in very philosophical terms as a contradiction between good and evil. This is a struggle between wanting to give and having to take. As humans, we are often inspired to do good, but doing only good to others eventually jeopardizes our comfort and existence. If we are completely disinterested while helping others, we will not have food and shelter with which to subsist. Therefore, we have to engage in taking as well. Being d riven only by the evil side of the contradiction leads to the

PAGE 362

346 destruction of human activity too as history has demonstrated amply. This primary contradiction in the subject does not seem to change from one socio economic formation to another because the qu estion of good and evil is as old as the human history. One can conclude that it is the other elements of human activity systems (instruments, object, division of labor, community, and rules) that are affected by the socio economic formation of the society A question that may be of interest in the context of BIHE is what happens to an activity system where subjects are oriented towards the good side in the primary contradiction of themselves. When BIHE first formed as a reaction to the expulsion of students and dismissal of faculty from universities in Iran, the community devised a plan to establish their own university. Being marginalized, this university was not subordinated to the total production of education in Iran, and as such, it broke the connection between specific production of knowledge and skills of one institution and the total production of knowledge and skills in Iran (Engestrm, 1987). In other words, BIHE became independent of the knowledge and skill producing activity system in Iran. As such, it was no longer mediated by the instruments, division of labor, community, and rules of the school going activity in Iran. Most importantly, BIHE had to acquire a different kind of object that could not be oriented towards the ex change value in its primary contradiction. Graduates of BIHE would not be able to safely exchange their acquire d knowledge and skills in the society for the useful goods in the society because BIHE was and still is not an accredited university, hence not r eadily recognized in the society. According to the BIHE administrator who was involved in the establishment of BIHE, the object of their activity was to create a venue for self education, almost for the sake of education ( interview August 23, 2008). This kind of school going activity had different rules. Students did not receive grades that would

PAGE 363

347 demonstrate exchangeability of their knowledge and skills in the society. They were expected to learn for the sake of learning. The faculty and staff, as subject s of this unique school going activity also served BIHE not in exchange for money, but for their desire to do good. The following represents a central guidance in the du'l Baha, 1918, p. 83). If BIHE came into existence with this ordinance in mind, then the object of the founding staff and faculty of BIHE was to do service. This attitude does not seem to correspond to the primary good versus evil contradiction in the su bject element of this activity system. I would dare to propose that if a human were to transform his or her primary contradiction of giving versus taking into that of pure service, i.e. only giving, this person would become freed of the dialectical bonds o f this physical life. An implication of this change would be not seeing this life as a series of contradictions but as one whole. One could argue that this inference may have come too close to the dangerous waters of metaphysics. I would hold that science should strive to enter these dangerous waters.

PAGE 364

348 REFERENCES Abdu'l Baha ( 1918 ). Abdul Baha on divine philosophy. San Francisco: C. Carlisle & Co. Aljaafreh, A. & Lantolf, J. P. ( 1994 ) Negative feedback as regulation and second Language learning in the zone of proximal development. Modern Language Journal 78 465 483. Allen, I. E. & Seaman, J. (2006). Making the grade: Online education in the United States, 2006. Retrieved February 18, 2008, from the Sloan Consortium website: www.sloan c.org/ publication s/survey/pdf/ making_the_grade.pdf. Anglada, L. B. (1999). Online writing center responses and advanced EFL students' writing: An analysis of comments, students' attitudes, and textual revisions. Dissertation Abstracts International, A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, 60 (4), 1111 A. (Available from UMI, Ann Arbor, MI. Order No. DA9925612.) Retrieved December 27, 2007, from CSA Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database. Ayres, R. (2003). IELTS online writing A team approach to developing an o nline course. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 2003, 16, 4, Oct, 16 (4), 351 366. Retrieved December 26, 2007, from CSA Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database. Graduate, undergraduate and col lege bulletin the BIHE website: http://www.bihe.org.

PAGE 365

349 Ban, R. (2006). Community of practice as community of learners: How foreign language teachers understand prof essional language identities. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of South Florida, Florida. Barab, S. A., Barnett, M., Yamagata Lynch, L., Squire, K., & Keating, T. (2002). Using activity theory to understand the systemic tensions characterizin g a technology rich introductory astronomy course. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 9 (2), 76 107. Basharina, O. K. (2007). An activity theory perspective on student reported contradictions in international telecollaboration. Language Learning & Technology, 11 ( 2), 82 103. Bates, P., Bacsich, P., Foster, J., Mason, R. & Tate, G. (1995). Telematics for flexible and distance learning (DELTA): Final report. Retrieved February 20, 2008, from http://www.pjb.co.uk/delta.pdf. Bodker, S. (1996). Applying activity theory to video analysis: How to make sense of video data in human computer interaction. In B. A. Nardi (Ed.), Context and consciousness: Activity Theory and human computer interaction, (pp. 147 174). Massachesetts: The MIT Press. Bodker, S. (1997). Computers i n Mediated Human Activity. Mind, Culture and Activity, 4 (3), 149 -158. Boyle, R. (1994). ESP and distance learning. English for Specific Purposes, 1994, 13, 2, 13 (2), 115 128. Retrieved December 28, 2007, from CSA Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstract s database. Brine, J. M., & Shapson, S. M. (1989). Case study of a teacher immersion program for French immersion. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 45 (3), pp. 464 477. Brinton, D. M., Snow, A. M., & Wesche, M. B. (1989). Content based second language instruction New York: Newbury House Publishers.

PAGE 366

350 Brinton, D. M., Snow, A. M., & Wesche, M. B. (2003). Content based second language instructi on. New York: Newbury House Publishers. Brooks, F. B., & Donato, R. (1994). Vygostkyan approaches to understandin g foreign language learner discourse during communicative tasks. Hispania, 77 (2), pp. 262 274. Brooks, F. B., McGlone, J. V., & Donato, R. (1997). When are they going to say "it" right? Understanding learner talk during pair work activity. Foreign Languag e Annals, 30 (4), 524 541. Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. based second language teaching at the University of Ottaw a. In R. K. Johnson & M. Swain ( Eds.). Immersion education: International Perspectives (pp. 65 84). New York, NY, U.S.A.: Cambridge University Press. Chappell, E. R., & de Courcy, M. C. (1993). Using immersion to train primary school teachers of French i n Australia. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 49 (2), 316 337. Cheng, Y. (2003). The effects of web based instruction on chinese EFL students' learning outcomes. Dissertation Abstracts International, A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, 64 (2), 382 A. (Available from UMI, Ann Arbor, MI. Order No. DA3081482.) Retrieved December 26, 2007, from CSA Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database. Christiansen, E. (1996). Tamed by a rose: Computers as tools in human activity. In B. A. Nardi (Ed.), Con text and consciousness: Activity Theory and human computer interaction, (pp. 175 198). Massachesetts: The MIT Press. Cole, M. (1996). Cultural psychology. Cole, M. (1996). Cultural psychology: A once and future discipline Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of H arvard University Press.

PAGE 367

351 Coughlan, P. & Duff, P. A. (1994). Same task, different activities: Analysis of SLA task from an activity theory perspective. In J. P. Lantolf and G. Appel (Eds.), Vygotskian approaches to second language research pp. 173 191. Nor wood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation. Davydov, V. V. (1999). The content and unsolved problems of activity theory. In Y. Engestrm, R. Miettinen & R. L. Punamaki (Eds.), Perspectives on activity theory, (pp. 39 52). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Davydov, V. V., Zinchenko, V. P., & Talyzina, N. F. (1982). The problem of Activity. in the works of A. N. Leontev. Soviet Psychology, 21(4), 31 42 Day, E., & Shapson, S. M. (1993). French immersion teacher education: A study of two programs. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 49 (3), 446 465. Edwards, H., Wesche, M. B., Krashen, S., Clement, R., & Kruidenier, B. (1984). Second language acquisition through subject matter learning: A follow up study at the University of Ottawa. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 41 268 282. Eisner, E. (1998). The Enlightened Eye Columbus, Ohio: Merrill Publishers. Elkonin, D. B. (1977). Psikhologia igry [Psychology of play]. Retrieved January, 20, 2008, from http://orel.rsl.ru/nettext/russian/elkonin/psihologia /elconin_00.htm. Engestrm, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity theoretical approach to developmental research. Retrieved November 2, 2007, from http://communication.ucsd.edu/MCA/Paper/Engestrm/expanding/toc.htm Engestrm Y. (1999a). Activit y theory and individual and social transformation. In Y. Engestrm R Miettinen & R L Perspectives on activity theory (pp. 19 38). New York: Cambridge University Press. Engestrm, Y. (1999b). Expansive visibilization of work: An activity th eoretical perspective. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 8, 63 93.

PAGE 368

352 Engestrm, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14 (1), 133 156. Felix, U. (2001). A multivariate anal ysis of students' experience of Web based learning. Retrieved April 9, 2005, from Australian Journal of Educational Technology: http://www.acilite.org.au/conferences/coffs00/papers/uschi_felix.pdf Felix, U. (2004). A multivariate analysis of secondary stud ents' experience of Web based learning. ReCALL, 16 (1), 237 249. Gall, M. D., Gall, J. P., & Borg, W. R. (2007). Educational research: An introduction (8 th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. Galperin, P. Y. (1969). Stages in the development of menta l acts. In M. Cole & I. Maltzman (Eds.), A handbook of contemporary soviet psychology, (pp. 249 273). New York: Basic Books, Inc. Giaugue, G. (1987). Teaching for content in a skill course: Greek mythology in French. Foreign language annals, 20 (6), 565 569 Greenhow, C. & Belbas, B. (2007). Using activity oriented design methods to study collaborative knowledge building in e learning courses within higher education. International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning 2 (4), 363 391.

PAGE 369

353 Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), The sage handbook of qualitative research (3 rd ed.), (pp. 191 215). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Guariento, W. A. (1997). Innovation management issues raised by a distance learning project in Eritrea: Can such projects be successfully transplanted from one developing country to another? System, 25 (3), 399 407. Guri Rozenblit. S. (1993). Differentiating between dis tance/open education systems: Parameters for comparison. International Review of Education, (39), 4, 287 306. Holland, D., & Reeves, J. R. (1996). Activity theory and the view from somewhere: Team perspectives on the intellectual work of programming. In B A. Nardi (Ed.), Context and consciousness: Activity theory and human computer interaction, (pp. 258 281). Massachusetts: The MIT Press. Hauptman, P.C., Wesche, M. B., & Ready. D. (1988). Second language acquisition through subject matter learning: A fol low up study at the University of Ottawa. Language Learning, 38 (3), 433 475 Horowitz, D. (1986). What professors actually require: academic tasks for the ESL classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 20 (3), 445 482. Jegede, O. (2000). The wedlock between technology and open and distance education. In T. Evans & D. Nation (Eds.), Changing university teaching. Reflections on creating educational technologies. London: Kogan Page. Jin, L. (2007). Computer mediated peer response in a level IV ESL academic writing class: A cu ltural historical activity theoretical perspective. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of South Florida, Tampa.

PAGE 370

354 Ilyenkov, E. V. ( 1982 ). Dialectics of the abstract and the c Retrieved September 12, 2008 from www.marxist s.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/abstract/index.htm. Kaptelinin, V. (1996). Computer mediated activity: Functional organs in social and developmental contexts. In B. A. Nardi (Ed.), Context and consciousness: Activity theory and human computer interaction (45 68) Massachusetts: The MIT Press. Kasper, L. F. (1997). The impact of content based instruction programs on the academic progress of ESL students. English for specific purposes, 16 (4), 309 320. Kasper, L. F. (2000). The short story as a bridge to conten t in the lower level ESL course. In L. F. Kasper (Ed.). Content based college ESL instruction (pp. 107 121). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Kerans, M. E. (2001). Simulating the give and take of academic lectures. TESOL Journal, 10 (2 3), 13 17. Klee, C. A. & Tedick, D. J. (1997). The undergraduate foreign language immersion program in Spanish at the University of Minnesota. In S. B. Stryker & B. L. Leaver (Eds.). Content based instruction in foreign language education: Models and methods (pp. 141 173). Washin gton DC: Georgetown University Press. Kuutti, K. (1996). Activity theory as a potential framework for human computer interaction research. In B. A. Nardi (Ed.), Context and consciousness: Activity Theory and human computer interaction, (pp. 17 44). Lantolf J. P. & Ahmed, M. K. (1989). Psycholinguistic perspectives on interlanguage variation: A Vygotskian analysis. In S. Gass, C. Madden, D. Preston, & L. Selinker (Eds.), Variation in second language acquisition: Psycholinguistic issues Clevedon: Multilingu al Matters.

PAGE 371

355 Lantolf, J. P. & Thorne, S. L. (2006). Sociocultural theory and the genesis of second language development Oxford: Oxford University Press. Leaver, B. L. (1997). Content based instruction in a basic Russian program. In S. B. Stryker & B. L. L eaver ( Eds.). Content based instruction in foreign language education: Models and methods (pp. 31 55). Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. Leki, L., & Carson, J. (1994). Students' perceptions of EAP writing Instruction and writing needs across the disciplines. TESOL Quarterly, 28 (1), 81 101. Leki, L., & Carson, J. (1997). "Completely Different Worlds": EAP and the writing experiences of ESL students in university courses. TESOL Quarterly, 31 (1), 39 69. Deyatelnost. Soznani e. Lichnost. [Activity, Consciousness, Personality]. Moscow: Politizdtat. Leontiev, A. A. (1981). Psychology and language learning process Oxford: Pergamon Press Ltd. Activity, consciousness, and personality Retrieved October 13, 2008, from the Marxist Internet Archive website: http://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/leontev/works/1978/index.htm Leontyev, A. N. (1981). Problems of the development of the mind Moscow: Progress Publishers. Leont'ev, A. N. (1989). The problem of activity in the history of Soviet psychology. Soviet psychology, 27 (1), 22 39. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry Newbury Park, CA: SAGE. Publications, Inc.

PAGE 372

356 Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). Perspective 3: Constructivism on Ellis study. In J. L. Pau l (Ed.), Introduction to the philosophies of research and criticism in education and the social sciences (pp. 267 268 ). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey : Pearson Education, Inc Long, M. H. (1989). Task, group, and task group interaction. University of Hawa ii Working Papers in ESL 8/2, 1 26. (Reprinted in S. Arivan (Ed). Language Teaching Methodology for the Nineties. Singapore: SEAMEO Regional Language Centre, 31 50. Lugo Morales, E. (2005). Exploring the use of CALL in a content based ESL college course. D issertation Abstracts International, A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, 65 (8), 2926 A. (Available from UMI, Ann Arbor, MI. Order No. DA3141923.) Retrieved December 25, 2007, from CSA Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database. Madyarov, I. ( in press). Designing a workable framework for evaluating distance language education CALICO Journal. Majhanovich, S., & Gray, J. (1992). The practicum: An essential component in French immersion teacher education. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 48 ( 4), 682 695. Mann, C. C. (1998). Perceptions of problems and prospects of distance learning in the Philippines: Some possible implications for ELT. Philippine Journal of Linguistics, 1998, 29, 1 2, June Dec, 29 (1 2), 119 131. Retrieved December 27, 2007, f rom CSA Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database. Martin, W. R. (1965). The kingdom of the cults. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House. McCafferty, S. G. (1994). Adult second language learners' use of private speech: A review of studies. The Modern Language Journal, 78 421 436.

PAGE 373

357 McCafferty, S. G., Roebuck, F. B., & Wayland, R. P. (2001). Activity theory and the incidental learning of second language vocabulary. Language Awareness, 10 (4), 289 294. Moore, M. G. (1993). Theory of tr ansaction al distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical principles of distance education (p. 22 38). New York: Routledge. Mwanza, D. (2002). Towards an activity oriented design method for HCI research and practice. Doctoral dissertation. Retrieved December 16, 2007, from The Open University, United Kingdom: http://iet.open.ac.uk/pp/d.mwanza/Phd.htm. Nardi, B. A. (Ed.). (1996a). Context and consciousness activity theory and human computer interaction London, England: MIT Press. Nardi, B. A. (1996b). Studying context: A comparison of activity theory, situated action models, and distributed cognition. In B. A. Nardi (Ed.), Context and consciousness: Activity Theory and human computer interaction, (pp. 69 102). Massachusetts: The MIT Press. Opp Beckman, L. (2002 ). Africa online: A web and content based English language teaching course. TESOL Journal, 2002, 11, 3, autumn, 11 (3), 4 8. Retrieved December 26, 2007, from CSA Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database. Platt, E. & Brooks, F. B. (2002). Task engagement: A turning point in foreign language development. Language Learning, 52 (2), 365 400. Roebuck, R. (2000). Subjects speak out: How learners position themselves in a psycholinguistics task. In J. P. Lantolf (Ed.), Sociocultural theory and second la nguage learning (pp. 79 95). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

PAGE 374

358 Ryding, K. & Stowasser, B. (1997). Text development for content based instruction in Arabic. In S. B. Stryker & B. L. Leaver ( Eds.). Content based instruction in foreign language education: M odels and methods (pp. 107 118). Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. Scribner, S. (1985). Vygotsky's uses of history. In J. V. Wertsch (Ed.), Culture, communication and cognition: Vygotskian perspectives, (pp. 119 145). New York: Cambridge Universi ty Press. Sheridan, K. (Director). (2007). August Rush [Motion picture] USA: Warner Bros. Pictures. Skehan, P. ( 1998 ) A cognitive approach to language learning Oxford: Oxford University Press. Snow, A. M., & Brinton, D. M. (1988). Content based languag e instruction: Investigating the effectiveness of the adjunct model. TESOL Quarterly, 22 (4), 553 572. Sternfeld, S. R. (1997). Caterpillars into Butterflies: Content based instruction in a first year Italian course. In S. B. Stryker & B. L. Leaver (Eds.). Content based instruction in foreign language education: Models and methods (pp. 56 77). Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. Storch, N. (2004). Using activity theory to explain differences in patterns of dyadic interactions in an ESL class. Canadia n Modern Language Review, 60 (4), 457 480. Straight, H.S. (1997). Language Based Content Instruction. In S. B. Stryker & B. L. Leaver (Eds.). Content based instruction in foreign language education: Models and methods (pp. 239 260). Washington DC: Georgetow n University Press.

PAGE 375

359 Stryker, S. B. (1997). The Mexico experiment at the Foreign Service Institute. In S. B. Stryker & B. L. Leaver (Eds.), Content based instruction in foreign language education: Models and methods (pp. 174 202). Washington DC: Georgetow n University Press. Stryker, S. B. & Leaver, B. L. (Eds.). (1997). Content based instruction in foreign language education: Models and methods Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. Sullivan, N., & Pratt, E. (1996). A comparative study of tow ESL wri ting environments: A computer assisted classroom and a traditional oral classroom. System, 29 491 501). Thorne, S. L. (2000). Beyond bounded activity systems: Heterogeneous cultures in instructional uses of persistent conversation. In S. Herring & T. Eri ckson (Eds.), The proceedings of the thirty third Hawaii International Conference on Systems Science. New York: IEEE Press. Thorne, S. L. (2003). Artifacts and cultures of use in intercultural communication. Language Learning and Technology, 7 38 67. Tho rne, S. L. (2004). Cultural historical activity theory and the object of innovation. In O. St. John, K. van Esch, & E. Schalkwijk, (Eds.), New insights into foreign language learning and teaching (pp. 51 70). Frankfurt, Germany: Peter Lang Verlag. Tuner, P ., & Turner, S. (2001). A web of contradictions. Interacting with Computers, 14 1 14. U.S. Department of State (2007). International religious freedom report 2007: Iran Retrieved January, 20, 2008, from the U.S. Department of State website: http://www.s tate.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90210.htm. Vetter, A., & Chanier, T. (2006). Supporting oral production for professional purposes in synchronous communication with heterogenous learners. ReCALL, 2006, 18 1, May, 18(1), 5 23.

PAGE 376

360 Vines, L. (1997). Content based in struction in French for journalism students at Ohio university. In S. B. Stryker & B. L. Leaver ( Eds.). Content based instruction in foreign language education: Models and methods (pp. 119 140). Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. Vygotsky, L. S. (1982a). Voprosy teorii i istorii psikhologii. [Problems of the theory and history of psychology]. Moscow: Pedagogika. Vygotsky, L. S. (1982b). Problemy obshei psikhologii [Problems of general psychology]. Moscow: Pedagogika. Vygotsky, L. S. (1983a). Osno vy defektologii [The fundamentals of defectology]. Moscow: Pedagogika. Vygotsky, L. S. (1983b). Problemy razvitia psikhiki [Problems of the development of mind]. Moscow: Pedagogika. Vygotsky, L. S. (1984) Nauchnoe nasledstvo [Scientific legacy]. Moscow: Pedagogika. Wells, G. (2004). Narrating and theorizing activity in educational settings. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 11 (1), 70 77. Wilde, L. (1991). Logic: Dialectic and contradiction. Retrieved September 20, 2008 from the Marxists Internet Archive websi te: www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ philosophy/works/en/wilde1.htm. proceedings) Retrieved October 20, 2007 from the Reading Matrix website: http://www.readingmatrix.com/conference/pp/proceedings2005/yilmaz.pdf Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study research: Design and Methods (3 rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Zinchenko, V. P. (1981). In voluntary memory. In J. V. Wertsch (Ed.). The concept of activity in social psychology Armonk, N.Y: M. E. Sharpe, Inc.

PAGE 377

361 APPENDICES

PAGE 378

362 Appendix A : Excerpt from Critical Thinking Course Readings Ethics and Critical Thinking Ethics is a discipline of phi losophy which studies morality *, and seeks to determine own system of what they believe is morally right or wrong, good or bad. Systems of ethics have been developed by philosophers, such as Confucius in China and Plato in Greece; and systems of ethics have also been announced by religious leaders, such as the Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. Critical thinking means to use reason in a deep and meaningful way. Critical thi he truth about ethics: what truly is right or wrong? What truly is good or bad? But ethics also needs to guide critical thinking belittle* others, to backbite* to be negat ive and discouraging to others. Critical thinking can be used in an ethical way, or in an immoral, unethical way. Deontological and Consequentialist Ethics In the history of ethical thought, at least in the West, one of the biggest questions of ethics has been based on whether deontological ethics or consequentialist ethics are the best ethical systems. In the consequentialist approach to ethics, the results of an action determine if it was a good action or a bad action. A modern version of consequential ism is called utilitarianism the utility (usefulness) of an action determines if it is a good or bad action. In this approach, if you have a choice between an action that will make one hundred people happy or one person happy, you should choose the acti on that makes one hundred people happy. Or, if you have the choice to save

PAGE 379

363 Appendix A (Continued) pproach to ethics is: the greatest good for the greatest number. The goal is to maximize good consequences* This duty and moral principles. -that which is binding* or what makes the action right. Deontologists do not focus on consequences and outcomes *, but rather use their critical thinking to try to determine the correct moral principle to apply to a given situation. Immanuel Kant (1785/1987), the famous German philosopher, was a Act only according to that m axim* whereby* you can at the same time will* that it should become a universal law. A maxim* the maxim* e everyone, and everyone should love everyone else. If I believed in the maxim* should believe that everyone may steal from anyone, including stealing from me.

PAGE 380

364 Appendix B: Guide for Analysis Papers An essential part of the critical thinking skill is to be able to analyze information that you are receiving or providing someone in a critical way. One activity that will help you analyze information in a critical way is writing analysis papers using six questions: What is the pu rpose of this article and the questions it addresses? The most challenging task here may be to gain as deep an understanding of the article as to be able What are the key concepts and terms the author is using in his article? Any article this vocabulary because it may show where the author is coming from: science or humanities field; artistic or academic domain, Chr istian or Muslim background, etc. What information or facts does the author use? Suppose your friend tells you that a certain elective course is boring and is not worth taking. But what if your friend heard this information from someone who hates this pro fessor because he is bald and short? A critical thinker always processes information in terms of its quality and checks whether it is a fact or a personal opinion. What main assumptions or lines of reasoning is the author making? If I see a disabled man in a wheelchair and think that his life must be miserable, I assume that all disabled people live a miserable life. The problem is that sometimes our assumptions can What perspective or perspectives does the author present i n his article? We tend to take sides when we speak. Usually, we represent our own perspective, but sometimes we speak for a group of people. The purpose, the questions, concepts, and information

PAGE 381

365 Appendix B (Continued) What main conclusions or implications does the author make in his article? a motorcycle, does this news have any implications for you? Most likely, yes if you consider the economic relations between gas prices and any other products we have to buy for everyday use. These other aspects of critical thinking are repeated again an d again in this course. The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates is said to have used questions like these in his Socratic dialogs (see Kluge's article in Module 5). Today, experts in critical thinking, such as Richard Paul and Linda Elder talk about them to o (see Salata's and Penn's articles in Modules 1 and 2). As you write analysis papers in every module, you will improve your understanding of these aspects of critical thinking and become more skilled critical thinkers. Let's take an example and analyze t his short description of the six questions you have just read above in the form of an analysis paper

PAGE 382

366 Appendix B (Continued) An Analysis Paper of the Assignment Description Above The main purpose of the des cription above is to explain the nature of the six questions so that you, as a student in this course, could effectively answer them in your papers. Thus, the main questions The central concepts this text discusses include purpose, questions, concepts, information, assumptions, perspectives, and implic ations. These concepts are related to critical thinking. The information the author is using seems to come from the famous Socrates. The other sources include a few contemporary scholars in the field of critical thinking: Ian Kluge, Mark Salata, Michael P enn, Richard Paul, and Linda Elder. The first three scholars are the co authors of the BIHE Critical Thinking course. Each of them has also published extensively on the topic of critical thinking. Richard Paul and Linda Elder are the founders of the Critic al Thinking Organization in the United States who train educators how to teach their students to be critical thinkers. The fact that the mentioned authors and scholars really used these six questions in their work can be confirmed through online resources and textbooks. Thus, one could conclude that the description above is dealing with reliable and credible information. The author seems to assume that the student reading this text does not know much about the nature of these six questions. This is probably why the author is spending so assumption may be that the student reader will struggle understanding the description of this paper

PAGE 383

367 Appendix B (Continued) assignment in English. That i s why we see some repetitions of ideas in his text and certain simplifications of the language. The author is taking a perspective of an instructor. He is trying to explain how to do the analysis paper assignments properly. He may be representing a rather picky instructor too because he is being very detailed. In addition, he is presenting the perspectives of some leading experts in critical thinking and seems to be taking their side too. Finally, the main conclusion we can draw is that these six question s are probably very important indeed. This, in turn, means that the analysis papers described in the text have some importance. The author does not appear to have any hidden or indirect implications for the readers. To conclude, I think that this explanat ion of the six questions is somewhat boring. However, I see some benefits in it as well. I found that there is a direct connection between information. Overall, I think I unde rstand all these six aspects of critical thinking and should be able to apply them to my readings. You will write a paper like this for every module, except that you will discuss only three aspects of critical thinking, not six: purpose/questions, conclusi ons/implications, and one other aspect of your own choosing. In other words, your analysis papers will: discuss three aspects of the module article: 1) purpose and questions, 2) conclusion/implications, and another one chosen from below: concepts/terms in formation/facts assumptions

PAGE 384

368 Appendix B (Continued) perspectives include your own reflection on/reaction to the article at the very end of the paper be about 250 350 words long be well organized into paragraphs each containing one main focus be easily unde rstandable and without many mistakes Also, note that the language of this analysis includes a lot of hedging techniques. Hedging techniques are linguistic features used when the writer does not want to be too direct and pushy about his or her opinion. In t he analysis paper above, examples of hedging include Hedging is common in papers like this because as good critical thinkers we do not oughts and attitudes. are often inferred and interpreted because they are not directly stated. As critical thinkers, we should make every effort to identify those aspects, but we cannot claim to be 100% right about them. Finally, because this course is also meant to improve your academic English, your analysis papers must be submitt ed to your instructor for feedback and then revised and submitted again for grading. This process of revision is part of learning and will be included in the grade for the paper. See the grading rubric for the analysis papers on the next page.

PAGE 385

369 Appendix C : Grading Rubric for Analysis Papers Analysis Paper Grading Rubric 1 Content and Organization Score The paper is characterized by: ons/implications Reasonably accurate reflection of one of the following aspects of the article: 1) concepts/terms, 2) information/facts, 3) assumptions, or 4) perspectives. Effective organization thoughts 4 Excellent paper exhibits all of the characteristics above 3 Good quality paper exhibits most of the characteristics above 2 Satisfactory paper exhibits few of the characteristics above 1 Weak paper exhibits none of the characteristics above 0 No paper submitted

PAGE 386

370 Appendix C (Continued) Analysis Paper Grading Rubric 2 Language & Amount of Revision Score The paper is characterized by the following: There are no or very few errors in the use of Standard English grammar and conventions of mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and spacing) If present, the errors do not interfere with the comprehension of the paper are present 2 Paper exhibits all of the characteristics above 1 Paper exhibits most of the characteristics above 0 Paper exhibits few or none of the characteristics above

PAGE 387

371 Appendix D : Grading Rubric for Forum Discussions Score in the forum assignment is characterized by the following: Much effort to: a) offer knowledge and experience that group mates may not have and b) stimulate critical thinking and discussion Frequent application of critical thinking principles discussed in the readings 3 A score of 3 is assigned to a discussion that exhibits all of the characteristics above 2 A score of 2 is assigned to a discussion that ex hibits most of the characteristics above 1 A score of 1 is assigned to a discussion that exhibits few of the characteristics above 0 A score of 0 is assigned to missing participation in the forum discussion

PAGE 388

372 Appendix E : Problem Solution Forum #1 Forum d iscussions are meant to develop your critical thinking skills by exploring issues with an open but critical mind. In discussing and providing possible solutions, keep in mind the following: this is a real life problem and, as such, may have more than one solution, but whatever your suggest remember to justify using critical thinking principles you've learned you're encouraged and advised to research the issue further using any sources you'd like apply critical thinking ideas that you have learned in this course make references to the authors and scholars when applying ideas from the readings and other sources (e.g. According to research from ...; As Salata says, ... ) This forum discussion is based on a real life problem of one of the course developers. Pl ease read the description of the problem and then discuss possible solutions considering different aspects of critical thinking you have learned so far in this course: intellectual attributes and ethics in critical thinking. A friend of mine (let's call he r Julie) has a 7 year old son (let's call him Jon) who loves video games. According to her, Jon spends at least 2 hours almost every day playing video games. This behavior upsets Julie very much. She worries about his physical health because he doesn't spe nd much time playing outside or doesn't help around the house. His friends are also hard core video gamers and never seem to do any outdoor activities. She's also concerned about his psychological health. There is so much discussion in the media about the dangers of video games. According to some news, many young people who commit serious crimes including murder have been

PAGE 389

373 Appendix E (Continued) inspired to do so after playing video games. On top of this, Jon doesn't read much or doesn't spend enough time on his homework. So Julie worries about her son's education. If Julie could, she would throw away all the games, but, she says, the problem is in her husband. He keeps buying all those games for their son. Whatever they have in the house (a play station, a computer with a big huge screen, a sound system) was all her husband's initiative. Of course, he plays with him too. So Julie can't fight against them. She's all alone with this issue. She's very concerned because she believes the problem is not only her son's addiction to video games. It's also the relationships with her husband. She feels like she's ignored and not appreciated by her husband and son.

PAGE 390

374 Appendix F : Problem Solution Forum #2 Like Problem solution Forum #1, this forum is meant to develop yo ur critical thinking skills by exploring issues with an open but critical mind. However, unlike in the previous forum, here you`ll post your own description of a real life problem. Then, you will read your groupmates` problems and provide recommendations t o solve them. About Your Problem Descriptions Your real life problem could come from your own, your family`s, relatives` or friends` experience. It could even come from a movie, a documentary, or a book that you have read. Why real life problem? Because they tend to be complex, involve multiple perspectives, and as such elicit different opinions and have different solutions. Great exercise for critical thinking. The problem CANNOT be global or national. Your best bet would be personal problems like the co mputer game case in the previous forum discussion. Problems that go beyond personal issues may be hard to analyze within the scope of our course. Here are some possible ideas: relationships among co workers, colleagues, classmates, relatives, friends, betw een teachers and students, etc. Protect the privacy of people involved in your problem. Avoid mentioning real names or relationships. Provide a lot of detail at least 300 400 words to describe your problem. Finally, post your problem description as soon as possible no later than June 10 This will leave some time for the discussion of the problems.

PAGE 391

375 Appendix F (Continued) About Problem Discussions Once you see your groupmates` problem description, start posting ideas to analyze the problem and provide specific solutions. Respond to all groupmates` problems Make sure to use the ideas from the readings, particularly Chapters 4 and 5. For more info, please see the grading rubric for forum discussions.

PAGE 392

376 Appendix G : Problem Solution Forum #3 (Problem 1) As in all other discussion threads in this Problem Solution Forum #3, in this thread we're discussing a chapter from the book The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin. This book is well known in the U.S. among different religious denominations, and it has b oth supporters and opponents in those denominations. Please download the copy of the chapter about the Faith attached and read it before you start this discussion. Also, read the chapter by Ian Kluge about Evaluating Evidence in Module 6. In this di scussion thread, you will debate with your group mates focusing on the evidence aspect of Martin's chapter. Some of you will be the supporters and the others opponents of Walter Martin. Whatever you are, make sure to 1) rely on the principles of critical thinking to defend your position (see the grading rubric for details), and 2) be very polite to your opponents (making verbal attacks is actually one of the fallacies of critical thinking that you'll learn in Module 7). Opponents of Walter Martin: [names of students]. You should be the first to start this discussion. Analyze Martin's chapter in terms of the evidence he used to convince the readers. In your posts, argue that the chapter has flaws related to the evidence. Make references to the course read ings or any other supporting sources you choose to use. Supporters of Walter Martin: [names of students]. You should defend Martin's chapter. Respond to your opponents trying to rely as much as possible on the course readings and any other sources you may find. It may not be easy because you're s, and the chapter is criticizing the Faith. However, remember that as critical thinkers, you should look for the truth and not for what you may be biased about. You're encouraged to read more about Mar tin Walter or his book online. You're welcome to make up some information when possible. Yes, you can be creative

PAGE 393

377 Appendix H : Problem Solution Forum #3 (Problem 2) Please KEEP YOUR POSTS IN THIS DISCUSSION A COMMON THREAD. Use only the Reply button to p ost your ideas. Dear students in my group: We're trying something different with the question and answer forum. I have uploaded an article for you. (It is attached to this post) It has information from two people, each with a different point of view. This is an exercise in analyzing critical thinking using what you have learned including the current article. Your first response should be a summary of the article with a bias toward support of the main idea or a challenge to the main idea. As your classmat es post, offer your thoughts in terms of your role. You have been assigned a role to either support or challenge Shaunti Feldhahn point of view. Members in each group will take the perspective of one of the writers and will try to find logical fallacies i n the argument of the other writer. Read the article and respond as assigned: Group 1 will take the side of Shaunti Feldhahn: [name of five students] Group 2 takes the side of Andrea Cornell Savady: [names of six other students] Feel free to use your own i offering brief statements (less than 50 words) in your own words. Follow the rubric. Do not start a new post, but hit the reply button. Let's try to get a dialogue going here. (Weak posts that off er no new information or points to discuss are not counted toward your score.) If you feel that your fellow students are not active, ask me for my opinion and I'll offer my thought Let's try to get a dialogue going here. It should be fun.

PAGE 394

378 Appendix I : Pre writing Activity Rubric (Graded twice per semester: at midterm and end of semester) Participation: Optional Maximum points: 3 Weight: a total of additional 8% Score Student participation in the Wiki activities is characterized by: Generation of new idea s Contribution to existing ideas Participation regular ( at least in 3 Wikis) and substantive 3 Participation exhibits all of the characteristics above 2 Participation exhibits most of the characteristics above 1 Participation exhibits few of the charact eristics above 0 No participation

PAGE 395

379 Appendix J : Grading Rubric for Conference Calls (Graded once at the end of semester) Participation: Optional Maximum points: 2 Weight: a total of additional 8% Score The student: Actively asked subject related quest ions and shared ideas Participated in at least 3 conference calls during semester 2 Participation exhibits all of the characteristics above 1 Participation exhibits most or some of the characteristics above 0 No participation

PAGE 396

380 Appendix K : Course Assig nments, Due Dates, and Weights Assignment Percent Analysis Papers (64%) Analysis paper for Module 1 (due date: Draft May 7, Final May 14) Analysis paper for Module 2 (due date: Draft May 17, Final May 24) Analysis paper for Module 3 (due date: Draft May 26, Final May June 2) Analysis paper for Module 4 (due date: Draft June 6, Final June 13) Analysis paper for Module 5 (due date: Draft June 31 Final July 6) Analysis paper for Module 6 (due date: Draft July 9, Final July 16) Analysis paper for Module 7 (due date: Draft July 19, Final July 27) Analysis paper for Module 8 (due date: Draft July 28, Final August 7) Problem Solution Forum Discussions (36%) Problem Solution Forum #1 (due date: May 30) Problem Solution Forum #2 (due date: July 3) Problem Solution Forum #3 (due date: August 8) Optional Assignments for Bonus Points Pre writing group Wiki for every analysis paper extra 8% Skype/Yahoo Messenger/Phone Conference calls with inst ructor extra 8% Total 100%

PAGE 397

381 Appendix L : A Letter to Course Instructors Welcome Message to the Course Instructors Dear Colleagues: As a facilitator of this course and a co developer, I would like to thank you for joining your efforts in the delivery of this course. Please read the following before you proceed to the training. Teaching Philosophy This EFL 104 Critical Thinking course is an effort to help BIHE students transition from pure English instruction (EFL 100 through 103) to mainstream college level English medium subject matter courses. This effort is in line with: can take part in the courses that are taught in English without difficulty and use the much l arger pool of academic and research resources available on the internet (BIHE Graduate, Undergraduate and College Bulletin, 2006, p. iii). The philosophy behind this course is similar to that of sound bilingual and immersion pedagogy in elementary and seco ndary schools, where kids take subject courses in a foreign language and succeed not only in the subject matter but also in the foreign language. If implemented well, such pedagogy kills two birds with one stone. Two aspects of this pedagogy appear most sa lient: 1) primary focus on the subject matter, and 2) subject matter experts in critical thinking, and are expected to help students harness the challenging philos ophy oriented content of this course. At the same time,

PAGE 398

382 Appendix L (Continued) completion of course assignments, such as feedback on draft papers. Context BI HE students face challenges that may have some repercussions for the delivery of this course. They travel to Tehran every three or four weeks for the correspondence courses they take. These trips tend to disrupt their work. Not all students will have quali ty internet or telephone connection. We tried to consider those challenges in the scheduling and grading approach. There is one grace period that students can use at their discretion. The late policy is another way to allow for late submission of assignmen ts, albeit with incremental deduction of points. There are also a few optional assignments that students can complete to compensate for the points lost elsewhere. Finally, as instructors, please be aware that certain changes in the schedule may occur due t o the unexpected circumstances in Iran. Teacher Training The developers of this course would like to encourage a collaborative approach to the hesitate to make suggest ions about the assignments, grading policy, organization, or even the language if something sounds non native like or confusing. The same applies to the course delivery. Any ideas or materials that you would like to add or request as the course progresses would be appreciated.

PAGE 399

383 Appendix L (Continued) The structure of the training is simple. Go to the Faculty Forum on the main course site and participate in the discussions as you study and experiment with different aspects of the course. Note that you as we ll as students should able to unsubscribe from Forums and not receive copies of posts by email. To do that, select a particular forum from the main course site page, and find a link to unsubscribe in the top right hand corner. Should you experience any tec hnical issues with this course, please let me know. If I can't resolve it, I'll contact someone who can. My Research process of finalizing my proposal, and hopefully by the beginning of May I will be ready to collect data. Without being too theoretical, the focus is going to be on challenges that our anything. The study is goi non judgmental fly. You will be able to make a decision about your participation in the study when I send out invitations by email. Sincerely, Irshat Madyarov

PAGE 400

384 Appendix M : Email Recr uitment Letter to Students As you may know, I'm one of the instructors for EFL 104. In addition to teaching for BIHE, I also teach and do research at the University of South Florida, U.S. I have done a few research studies for BIHE to improve English distance instruction. Now, I'm doing research on EFL 104 as part of my Ph.D. dissertation. In this study, I want to study challenges that you and other students face taking EFL 104. I wanted to know if you'd be interested to participa te in this study. If you agree, I'll include you in the list of possible participants. After I receive emails from all interested students, I'll select 6 students with different backgrounds and experience. Then, I'll contact you again to let you know if yo u're one of the 6 students. I attached a document that describes the benefits and possible risks of participating in this study. In short, if you participate, you will have an opportunity to: discuss all your problems and concerns with me over Skype/Yahoo messenger/phone bridge every 2 3 weeks practice English through our regular conversations improve the quality of education in BIHE help spread the information about BIHE around the world (through my presentations and publications). Keep in mind that a ll the information you share with me will be confidential. Your participation will not put to risk your grade in the course. For more information, please have a look at the document I attached. Please let me know your decision as soon as you can. I'll w ait for your response for 5 [email address] if you want to clarify anything about this study.

PAGE 401

385 Appendix M (Continued) I look forward to your response. Irshat Madyarov, Ph.D. Candidate in Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology University of South Florida

PAGE 402

386 Appendix N : Informed Consent for Student Participants Informed Consent to Participate in Research Information to Consider Before Participating in this Research Study Dear Student: My name is Irshat Madyarov. I am a Ph.D. student at the University of South Florida To do this, I ne ed the help of people who agree to participate in my research study. In addition to me, a coordinator of distance EFL courses at BIHE, Aida Taef, will be helping me with this research. You can ask her any questions you may have about the study or share you r concerns with her during the study. The research will be done at a distance: at the Moodle course website and through phone or computer conference calls. Purpose of the study The study is called Contradictions in a Distance Content Based English as a Foreign Language Course: Activity Theoretical Perspective. It is going to be based on the EFL 104 Critical Thinking course. Unlike other EFL courses, such as EFL 101, 102 or 103, this Critical Thinking course is not going to be about English. It is goin g to be about the subject of critical thinking a rather philosophical subject that may be quite challenging to you because of much new

PAGE 403

387 Appendix N (Continued) information. In my study, I would like to understand how you solve the challenges of this cou rse and the role that English plays in this process. Study Procedures To participate in the study, you need to be taking the EFL 104 Critical Thinking. In addition, I will ask you a few other things: We will have interviews to discuss the challenges and concerns that you have about the course. There will be four interviews during this semester; each interview will last about 20 40 min. The interviews will be done through phone or Skype/Yahoo Messenger depending on your preference. All interviews will be in English. I will audio record the interviews to analyze your challenges more closely. I will also look at your course assignments and other information at the Moodle course site to understand your challenges better. If you choose to participate in confer ence calls with your instructor to earn bonus points for the Critical Thinking course, I will also ask your instructor to record your conversation. Alternatives You have a choice not to participate in this research study. This will not have any effect on y our course grade or status. Benefits As participants of the study, you will have the following benefits: 1. You will be able to express and discuss your concerns about the course.

PAGE 404

388 Appendix N (Continued) 2. You will have an opportunity to practice English du ring interviews with me as a researcher. 3. You will be able to provide service to BIHE by helping improve its distance education. Risks or Discomfort There is one potential risk to you: When I research about your challenges in the Critical Thinking course, I may find some information that you would like to keep secret. In this case, a possible risk is that some people may try to get that information for purposes not related to research. Compensation I will not able to pay you for the time you volunteer whi le being in this study. Confidentiality I must keep your study records confidential. The documents collected for the study and audio recordings of the interviews will be kept for three years after the end of the study. This information will not include y our personal identification, such as your name. Instead, I will use a code to protect your identity. All the documents and audio files will be kept on my personal password protected computer. The files will be password protected too. When I share document s with my colleagues or professors, I will remove all identifying information. I will not share audio recorded interviews with anyone. However, certain people may need to see your study records. By law, anyone who looks at your

PAGE 405

389 Appendix N (Continued) rec ords must keep them completely confidential. These people include those who protect your rights and your safety: The staff working for the University of South Florida Institutional Review Board Other individuals who work for USF to protect your rights and safety We may publish the results of this study. If we do, we will not use your name or any other identification information. Voluntary Participation / Withdrawal You should only participate in this study if you wish to do so. There is no pressure to part icipate in the study to please the investigator. You are free to participate in this research or withdraw (stop participating) at any time. There will be no penalty if you stop participating in this study. Your decision to participate or not to participat e will not affect your student status or course grade. Questions, concerns, or complaints If you have any questions, concerns or complaints about this study, call me, Irshat Madyarov, at +1 813 504 9615 or reach me through Skype: irshat19, or by email a t irshat@yahoo.com You can also talk to Aida Taef, the contact person for this study, at 0098 21 6600 8073 or by email at aida.taef@bihe.org If you have questions about your r ights as a participant in this study, general questions, or have complaints, concerns or issues you want to discuss with someone outside the research, call the Division of Research Integrity and Compliance of the University of South Florida at 1+813 974 93 43. Consent to Take Part in this Research Study It is up to you to decide whether you want to participate in this study. If you want to participate, please email to me at irshat@yahoo.com and let me know your decision

PAGE 406

390 Appendix N (Continued) Sincerely Irshat Madyarov Ph.D. Candidate in Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology University of South Florida

PAGE 407

391 Appendix O : Informed Consent for Instructor Participants Informed Consent to Participate in Research Information to Consider Before Participating in this Research Study Dear Critical Thinking Course Instructor: My name is Irshat Madyarov. I am a Ph.D. student at the University of South Florida p improve the quality of instruction at the agree to participate in my research study. In addition to me, Aida Taef who is a BIHE coordinator of distance EFL courses re siding in Iran, will be helping me with this research. You can ask her any questions you may have about the study or share your concerns with her during the study. The research will be done at a distance: at the Moodle course website and through phone or c omputer conference calls. Purpose of the study The study is called Contradictions in a Distance Content Based English as a Foreign Language Course: Activity Theoretical Perspective. It is going to be based on the EFL 104 Critical Thinking course. Unl ike other EFL courses, such as EFL 101, 102 or 103, this Critical Thinking course is not going to be about English. It is going to be about the subject of critical thinking a subject that may be quite challenging to the EFL 104 students because of much n ew information and

PAGE 408

392 Appendix O (Continued) many linguistic demands. In my study, I would like to understand how EFL 104 students solve the challenges of this course and the role that English plays in this process. Study Procedures If you participate in th e study, I will ask the following: We will have interviews to discuss the challenges and concerns that EFL 104 students have about the course. These interviews will follow up on the interviews with your students to triangulate the information they provide. I will not share the information from these interviews with anyone including the student participants. There will be one to three interviews during this semester; each interview will last about 20 40 min. The interviews will be done through phone or Skyp e/Yahoo Messenger depending on your preference. I will audio closely. to get a better sense of the stude Alternatives You have a choice not to participate in this research study. This will not have any effect on your instructor status at BIHE. Benefits As participants of the study, you will have the following bene fit: You will be able to provide service to BIHE by helping improve its distance education.

PAGE 409

393 Appendix O (Continued) Risks or Discomfort There is one potential risk to you: may find some information that you would like to keep secret. In this case, a possible risk is that some people may try to obtain that information for purposes not related to research despite my effort to protect it. Compensation I will not able to pay you for the time you volunteer while being in this study. Confidentiality I must keep your study records confidential. The audio recordings of the interviews and the student produced artifacts will be kept for three years after the end of the study. This information will not include your personal identification, such as your name. Instead, I will use a code to protect your identity. All the audio files will be kept on my personal password protected computer. The files will be password protected too. When I share documents with my colleagues or professors, I will remove all identifying information. I will not share audio recorded interviews with anyone. However, certain people may need to see your study records. By law, anyone who looks at your records m ust keep them completely confidential. These people include those who protect your rights and your safety: The staff working for the University of South Florida Institutional Review Board. Other individuals who work for USF to protect your rights and safet y We may publish the results of this study. If we do, we will not use your name or any

PAGE 410

394 Appendix O (Continued) other identification information. Voluntary Participation / Withdrawal You should only participate in this study if you wish to do so. There is no pressure to participate in the study to please the investigator. You are free to participate in this research or withdraw at any time. There will be no penalty if you stop participating in this study. Your decision to participate or not to participate will not affect your instructor status at BIHE. Questions, concerns, or complaints If you have any questions, concerns or complaints about this study, call me, Irshat Madyarov, at +1 813 504 9615 or reach me through Skype: irshat19, or by email at irshat@yahoo.com You can also talk to Aida Taef, the contact person for this study, at 0098 21 6600 8073 or by email at aida.taef@bihe.org If you have questions about your rights as a participant in this study, general questions, or have complaints, concerns or issues you want to discuss with someone outside the research, call the Division of Research Integrity and Compliance of the University of South Florida at 1+813 974 9343. Co nsent to Take Part in this Research Study It is up to you to decide whether you want to participate in this study. If you want to participate, please email to me at irshat@yahoo.com and let me know your decision. Tha nk you. Sincerely Irshat Madyarov Ph.D. Candidate in Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology University of South Florida

PAGE 411

395 Appendix P : Informed Consent for the Teaching Assistant I Informed Consent to Participate in Research Informat ion to Consider Before Participating in this Research Study My name is Irshat Madyarov. I am a Ph.D. student at the University of South Florida IHE. To do this, I need the help of people who agree to participate in my research study. In addition to me, a coordinator of distance EFL courses at BIHE, Aida Taef, will be helping me with this research. You can ask her any questions you may have about t he study or share your concerns with her during the study. The research will be done at a distance: at the Moodle course website and through phone or computer conference calls. Purpose of the study The study is called Contradictions in a Distance Conte nt Based English as a Foreign Language Course: Activity Theoretical Perspective. It is going to be based on the EFL 104 Critical Thinking course. Unlike other EFL courses, such as EFL 101, 102 or 103, this Critical Thinking course is not going to be abou t English. It is going to be about the subject of critical thinking a rather philosophical subject that may be quite challenging to the EFL 104 students because of

PAGE 412

396 Appendix P (Continued) much new information. In my study, I would like to understand how EFL 104 students solve the challenges of this course and the role that English plays in this process. Study Procedures If you participate in the study, I will ask the following: We will have interviews to discuss the challenges and concerns that EFL 104 s tudents have about the course. There will be one to three interviews during this semester; each interview will last about 20 40 min. The interviews will be done through phone or Skype/Yahoo Messenger depending on your preference. All interviews will be in English. I will audio closely. Alternatives You have a choice not to participate in this research study. This will not have any effect on your status at BIHE. Benefits As participants of the study, you will have the following benefit: You will be able to provide service to BIHE by helping improve its distance education. Risks or Discomfort There is one potential risk to you: When I research about your challenges in the Critical Thinking c ourse, I may find some information that you would like to keep secret. In this case, a possible risk is that some people may try to obtain that information for purposes not related to research despite my effort to protect it.

PAGE 413

397 Appendix P (Continued) Compen sation I will not able to pay you for the time you volunteer while being in this study. Confidentiality I must keep your study records confidential. The audio recordings of the interviews will be kept for three years after the end of the study. This inf ormation will not include your personal identification, such as your name. Instead, I will use a code to protect your identity. All the audio files will be kept on my personal password protected computer. The files will be password protected too. When I s hare documents with my colleagues or professors, I will remove all identifying information. I will not share audio recorded interviews with anyone. However, certain people may need to see your study records. By law, anyone who looks at your records must keep them completely confidential. These people include those who protect your rights and your safety: The staff working for the University of South Florida Institutional Review Board. Other individuals who work for USF to protect your rights and safety We may publish the results of this study. If we do, we will not use your name or any other identification information. Voluntary Participation / Withdrawal You should only participate in this study if you wish to do so. There is no pressure to participate i n the study to please the investigator. You are free to participate in this research or withdraw at any time. There will be no penalty if you stop participating in this study. Your decision to participate or not to participate will not affect your status at BIHE.

PAGE 414

398 Appendix P (Continued) Questions, concerns, or complaints If you have any questions, concerns or complaints about this study, call me, Irshat Madyarov, at +1 813 504 9615 or reach me through Skype: irshat19, or by email at irshat@yahoo.com You can also talk to Aida Taef, the contact person for this study, at 0098 21 6600 8073 or by email at aida.taef@bihe.org If you have questions about your rights as a participant in this study, general questions, or have complaints, concerns or issues you want to discuss with someone outside the research, call the Division of Research Integrity and Compliance of the University of South Florida at 1+813 974 9343. Consent to Take Part in this Research Study It is up to you to decide whether you want to participate in this study. If you want to participate, please email to me at irshat@yahoo.com and let me know your decision. Thank you. Sincerely Irshat Madyarov Ph.D. Candidate in Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology University of South Florida

PAGE 415

399 Appendix Q : Informed Consent for the BIHE Administrator Informed Consent to Participate in Research Information to Consider Bef ore Participating in this Research Study As you know, I am conducting research with the distance Critical Thinking course this Summer 2008 semester. You have kindly agreed to assist me with this research as a contact person. No w, I would like to ask you if you would be willing to join this study as a participant since your role of the EFL coordinator at BIHE may provide insightful information for this research. Purpose of the study The study is called Contradictions in a Dis tance Content Based English as a Foreign Language Course: Activity Theoretical Perspective. It is going to be based on the EFL 104 Critical Thinking course. Unlike other EFL courses, such as EFL 101, 102 or 103, this Critical Thinking course is not going to be about English. It is going to be about the subject of critical thinking a rather philosophical subject that may be quite challenging to the EFL 104 students because of much new information. In my study, I would like to understand how EFL 104 stude nts solve the challenges of this course and the role that English plays in this process. Study Procedures If you participate in the study, I will ask to participate in one interview at the end of the Critical Thinking course.

PAGE 416

400 Appendix Q (Continued) The i nterview will last about 30 50 min. The interview will be done through Skype/Yahoo Messenger depending on your preference. All interviews will be in English. I will audio closely. Alternati ves You have a choice not to participate in this research study. This will not have any effect on your status at BIHE. Benefits As a participant and research assistant of the study, you will have the following benefits: You will be able to provide servi ce to BIHE by helping improve its distance education. You will be invited to co author publications related to this research in academic journals. Risks or Discomfort There is one potential risk to you: When I research about your challenges in the Critic al Thinking course, I may find some information that you would like to keep secret. In this case, a possible risk is that some people may try to obtain that information for purposes not related to research despite my effort to protect it. Compensation I will not able to pay you for the time you volunteer while being in this study. Confidentiality

PAGE 417

401 Appendix Q (Continued) I must keep your study records confidential. The audio recordings of the interview will be kept for three years after the end of the stu dy. This information will not include your personal identification, such as your name. Instead, I will use a code to protect your identity. All the audio files will be kept on my personal password protected computer. The files will be password protected t oo. When I share the transcript of the interview with my colleagues or professors, I will remove all identifying information. I will not share audio recorded interviews with anyone. However, certain people may need to see your study records. By law, anyo ne who looks at your records must keep them completely confidential. These people include those who protect your rights and your safety: The staff working for the University of South Florida Institutional Review Board. Other individuals who work for USF to protect your rights and safety We may publish the results of this study. If we do, we will not use your name or any other identification information. Voluntary Participation / Withdrawal You should only participate in this study if you wish to do so. The re is no pressure to participate in the study to please the investigator. You are free to participate in this research or withdraw at any time. There will be no penalty if you stop participating in this study. Your decision to participate or not to partic ipate will not affect your status at BIHE.

PAGE 418

402 Appendix Q (Continued) Questions, concerns, or complaints If you have any questions, concerns or complaints about this study, call me, Irshat Madyarov, at +1 813 504 9615 or reach me through Skype: irshat19, or by email at irshat@yahoo.com If you have questions about your rights as a participant in this study, general questions, or have complaints, concerns or issues you want to discuss with someone outside the research, c all the Division of Research Integrity and Compliance of the University of South Florida at 1+813 974 9343. Consent to Take Part in this Research Study It is up to you to decide whether you want to participate in this study. If you want to participate, pl ease email to me at irshat@yahoo.com and let me know your decision. Thank you. Sincerely Irshat Madyarov Ph.D. Candidate in Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology University of South Florida

PAGE 419

403 A ppendix R : Coding Definitions Code Definition Analysis requirement disturbance up on any one of the following required elements of the analysis of the articles: purpose, questions, perspectives, concepts information, implications, and may ask to add one of the missing elements, expand on it, or change its content due to inaccuracies Content disturbance corrective follow up about ideas thoughts about the articles. This feedback does not concern the elements of the analysis above. Language disturbance rective follow up on a grammatical, lexical, organizational, or mechanical issue that did not cause a genuine confusion on the part of the instructor. Genuine instructor disturbance sen Time disturbance Late submissions of analysis papers. Distance environment disturbance removal of physical presence or due to time difference

PAGE 420

404 Appendix R (Continued) Technology disturbance connection, phone quality, computer breakdowns, problems at the course site, or with the course CD materials BIHE distu rbance Student is upset with the way BIHE functions or how it treated him/her, such as scheduling issues or the need to travel to Tehran. Health disturbance Government disturbance in Iran: confiscation of facilities, banning of activities at BIHE, banning Personal interaction disturbance e nvironment. He/she may perceive it being impolite/intruding or may simply feel uncomfortable doing it. illness disturbance spending more time on the course UCS disturbance Stud ent admits that he/she is not familiar with course requirements and description discussed in the Universal Course Structure Forum disturbance Student admits that he/she finds the asynchronous forums inconvenient for effective communication Non fix innov ation Superficial fix innovation is clear that it could have been done much better

PAGE 421

405 Appendix R (Continued) Removal inn ovation Student deletes the error together with the part of the text that EFL object Student expresses a genuine interest in improving English either verbally in interviews or though reported actions, such as reading bo oks or watching movies in English, being sensitive to grammar and vocabulary inaccuracies Grade object Student expresses interest in the grade by asking his/her instructor questions or mentioning grades in the interviews Critical thinking object Student expresses interest in critical thinking or philosophy by asking his/her instructor questions or mentioning grades in the interviews Intellectual self improvement object Student expresses a genuine interest in learning different subjects. Learning critica l thinking and EFL sounds to be motivated by the same interest of learning different subjects. Criticizing object Student either verbally expresses interest in finding faults with others or performs actions motivated by this interest. obj ect as attending study circles, telling (teaching) other people about the Faith, or sharing information relate email. Socializing object Student either admits his/her interest in socializing with people or performs actions that demonstrate this interest of his/hers.

PAGE 422

406 Appendix R (Continued) Continuing education object Stud ent expresses interest and shares plans about continuing his/her education in an English speaking country. Instrument Mediating means that the student uses to facilitate his/her actions in the course. They may include physical objects, computer applicati ons, or people that do not belong to his/her community, and yet whom he/she asks for help whenever needed Division of labor Roles that are performed by the student or his/her community members Community ctor and classmates. This may include information that demonstrates interaction among the community members or lack thereof Rules Information about the requirements in the course Subject background information. Regulative behaviors Student takes actions to facilitate his/her work in the course. Self correction Student corrects his/her own error in the process of revisions without

PAGE 423

407 Appendix S : The Eliminati on Approach Form name English proficiency: Low/Mid/High name Age Computer literacy: Low/Mid/High Previous distance courses: Negative/None/ Positive Gender: Male/Female Motivation: English/ Content/ Both/None/ Else Low/Mid/High

PAGE 424

ABOUT THE AUTHOR After graduating from a five year program at the Romano Germanic Department at the Bashkir State University, Russia, Mr. Irshat Madyarov worked as an English i nstructor at the Department of Romano Germanic Philology at the Orenburg State University, Russia. In 2002, he moved to the US to study for an MA degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at the West Virginia University. He then continued h is education at the University of South Florida in the doctoral program in Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology. While in the US, Mr. Irshat Madyarov worked at Intensive Englis h Programs as an English instructor coordinator of comput er assi stance language learning, and coordinator of the academic strand of the school curriculum. He also taught undergraduates and graduate courses in applied linguistics. Throughout his doctoral program, he worked extensively on a voluntary basis for the university in Iran.