An Enquiry into English as a Foreign Language and Online Community Projects in Secondary School Education

Fearn, Lesley June (2021). An Enquiry into English as a Foreign Language and Online Community Projects in Secondary School Education. EdD thesis The Open University.



This study addresses the question of how Online Community Projects (OCPs), using specialised social-media platforms such as eTwinning, can support the learning and teaching of English as a Foreign Language in secondary school environments in Italy and in other countries. This was done by exploring students’ language learning experiences as well as teachers’ perceptions and decisions around integrating OCPs into their teaching.

With an overarching sociocultural perspective to language learning, this study draws largely upon concepts surrounding mediation and the Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, (1997 [1978]) Legitimate Peripheral Participation and Communities of Practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991) as well as theories in second language acquisition (Krashen, 2003; Krashen and Terrell, 1988). It employs a qualitative methodology blending Action Research (Burns, 1999) and a multi-case study consisting of five contrasting cases (Stake, 2006). Data were collected from an overall total of sixteen face-to-face interviews, twenty-one
emails and sixty-six online open-question questionnaires. A thematic approach to analysis was adopted across all data sources.

Findings have revealed apprehensions and presumptions from teachers who do not utilise OCPs, while those who do use them not only explain the advantages and benefits, but also the challenges involved. Additionally, secondary-school students explain the strengths and weakness of the projects regarding their learning. This thesis provides a deeper insight into the understanding of young people’s perspective on learning foreign languages through OCPs than has previously been available and will be of interest to teachers and researcher-practitioners who hope to improve their practice.

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