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Teaching during a pandemic: A cultural-historical activity theory analysis

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Sebah Al-Ali
Publication date2021
Number of pages311
Awarding Institution
Award date25/11/2021
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Situated in a higher education institution in the UAE, this thesis explores the changes educators went through as they started the practice of teaching during a pandemic. Although the practice is bound to change in response to many variables, it is crucial that the initial stages of the practice are investigated and critically analyzed. Such an analysis can facilitate a better understanding of its development and allow researchers and educators in the future to situate this growing practice of teaching during a pandemic. This study aims to provide a localized historical foundation for the practice of teaching during a pandemic from the perspective of higher education teachers.

Based on a critical realist stance, this research utilized Cultural-Historical Activity Theory as a guiding framework. Data for the study were collected at three points: March 2019, March 2020, and May 2020. Having interviewed the participants a year before the pandemic made it possible for the study to historically (and locally) situate participants' instructional practices and allowed for highlighting the unique effects of pandemic-induced tensions and changes. Utilizing Activity Systems Analysis, results discuss the tensions that developed in response to the need to stay safe during the pandemic while, at the same time, meeting the instructional needs of remote teaching and learning. Many changes happened, and nearly all aspects of the system had to change or develop somehow to sustain the activity of teaching. Results from this study can inform several layers of the community who are interested in higher education, technology-mediated teaching, remote teaching, and the effects of the pandemic on the activity of teaching.