Iranian EFL Learners’ Perception of the Efficacy and Affordance of Activity Theory-based Computer Assisted Language Learning in Writing Achievement

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Ph.D. Candidate of TEFL, Department of English, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran

2 Associate Professor, Department of English, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran


Second language writing instruction has been greatly influenced by the growing importance of technology and the recent shift of paradigm from a cognitive to a social orientation in second language acquisition (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006). Therefore, the applications of computer-assisted language learning and activity theory have been suggested as a promising framework for writing studies. The present study aimed to investigate the perception of Iranian EFL learners of the efficacy and affordance of activity theory integrated with computer-assisted language learning in writing improvement. To this end, sixty-seven sophomores majoring in English translation were selected as the participants of this study. The writing instruction was geared to an e-learning platform based on the six elements of activity theory--subject, object, mediating artifacts, rules, community, and division of labor--appropriate for the writing course. The students were assigned to write nine expository paragraphs on six different developmental patterns and share various relevant materials on the platform during the treatment. Their assignments were carefully monitored and evaluated by the instructor. Upon the completion of the treatment, the students completed a closed-ended questionnaire and an open-ended questionnaire and took part in a semi-structured focus group interview to express their perception. The results showed that the students held favorable perception toward the use of computer-assisted language learning within the activity theory framework. The findings of the study also revealed that there was a significant difference among the students' perception concerning the four mediating elements of activity theory.


Ahmadi, S. D., & Marandi, S. S. (2014). Social software in the        classroom: The case of wikis for scaffolding.       Procedia-Social           and Behavioral Sciences, 98, 100-108.   doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.394
Arnaudet, M. L., & Barrett, M. E. (1990). Paragraph           development (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice  Hall Regents.
Armstrong, J., & Franklin, T. (2008). A review of current and           developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 2.0) in higher education. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from
Ary, D., Jacobs, L. C., Sorensen, C., & Razavieh, A. (2010).            Introduction to research in education (8th ed.). Belmont,    CA: Wadsworth.
Atkinson, D. (2003). L2 writing in the post-process era:       Introduction. Journal of Second Language Writing, 12           (1), 3-15. doi:10.1016/s1060-3743(02)00123-6
Atkinson, D., & Connor, U. (2008). Multilingual writing      development. In C. Bazerman (Ed.), Handbook of   research on writing: History, society, school, individual,       text (pp. 515-532). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Bagheri, M. S., Behjat, F., & Yamini, M. (2013). Blending   technology in writing instruction.       International Journal  of Social Sciences and Education, 3(2), 422-437.
Barab, S. A., Evans, M. A., & Baek, E. (2004). Activity theory       as a lens for characterizing the participatory unit. In D.          H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (2nd ed.)       (pp. 199-214). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum        Associates.
Baskaran, L., & Shafeeq, C. P. (2015). ESL teachers’ perception     of CALL integration in ELT. IJSELL, 3(5), 63-74.
Behrend, M. B. (2014). Engeström’s activity theory as a tool to       analyze online resources embedding academic literacies.        Journal of Academic Language & Learning, 8 (1),    109-120.
Brine, J. & Franken, M. (2006). Students' perceptions of a selected aspect of a computer-mediated academic writing program: An activity theory analysis. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 22(1),   21-38. doi:10.14742/ajet.1305
Casanave, C. P. (2003). Looking ahead to more socio-politically      oriented case study research in L2 writing scholarship.        Journal of Second Language Writing, 12(1), 85-102. doi:10.1016/s1060-3743(03)00002-x
Chapelle, C. (1998). Multimedia CALL: Lessons to be learned from research on instructed SLA. Language Learning and Technology, 2(1), 22-34.
Che Wan Ibrahim, C. W. I. R. (2013). Perceived affordances           and learning strategies of Malaysian university students          in web 2.0-based informal learning of English as a    second language: A mixed methods study (Doctoral            dissertation, Latrobe University). Retrieved  November 29, 2017, from       version.pdf
Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2000). Research      methods in education (5th ed.). London: Routledge Falmer.
Dörnyei, Z. (2003). Questionnaires in second language research: Construction, administration, and processing. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretical approach to developmental research. Helsinki: Oriental-Konsultit.
Engeström, Y. (1999). Activity theory and individual and social      transformation. In Y. Engeström, R. Miettinen, & R. L.         Punamäki (Eds.), Perspectives on activity theory (pp. 19-38). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Erguvan, D. (2015). Comparing instructors’ and students’    perceptions towards CALL in higher education. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 176, 1056-1062. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.01.578
Gedera, D. S. P. (2011). Integration of weblogs in developing         language skills of ESL learners. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 7(2), 124-135.
Gordon, L. (2008). Writing and good language learners. In C.         Griffiths (Ed.), Lessons from good language learners (pp. 244-254). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gifford, B. R., & Enyedy, N. D. (1999). Activity centered  design. Proceedings of the 1999 Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (CSCL’99), Palo Alto, CA, 189-196.   doi:10.3115/1150240.1150262
Haines, K. (2015). Learning to identify and actualize affordances in a         new tool. Language Learning & Technology, 19(1), 165-180.
Harmer, J. (2004). How to teach writing. Essex, UK: Pearson           Education.
Hashim, N. H., & Jones, M. L. (2007). Activity theory: A      framework for qualitative analysis. Retrieved   November 27, 2017, from   1.658.4451&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Jacobs, H. L., Zinkgraf, S. A., Wormuth, D. R., Hartfiel, V. F., & Hughey, J. B. (1981). Testing ESL composition: A practical approach. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
Lantolf, J. P., & Pavlenko, A. (2001). Second language activity       theory: Understanding language learners as people. In M. P. Breen (Ed.), Learner contributions to language learning: New directions in research (pp. 141-158).           Essex, UK: Pearson Education.
Lantolf, J. P., & Thorne, S. L. (2006). Sociocultural theory and the genesis of second language development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Leffa, V. J. (2009). CALL as action. In R. C. V. Marriott & P. L.   Torres (Eds.), Handbook of research on e-learning methodologies for language acquisition (pp. 39-52).  New York: Information Science Reference.  doi:10.4018/978-1-59904-994-6
Matsuda, P. K., Canagarajah, A. S., Harklau, L., Hyland, K., & Warschauer, M. (2003). Changing currents in second language writing research: A Colloquium. Journal of   Second Language Writing, 12, 151-179. doi:10.1016/S1060-3743(03)00016-X
Nami, F. (2015). The impact of individual differences on students’ perception of writing practice in the blogosphere. In M. Rahimi (Ed.), Handbook of research on individual           differences in computer-assisted language learning (pp. 251-270). Hershey, Pennsylvania: IGI Global. doi: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8519-2.
Ozturk, K. (2012). Students’ perceptions of CALL at Dokuz Eylül University school of foreign languages. ELT   Research Journal, 1(4), 216-229.      
Pennington, M. C. (2004). Electronic media in second language       writing: An overview of tools and research findings. In S. Fotos & C. Browne (Eds.), new perspectives on CALL for second language classrooms (pp. 69- 92). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Portnov-Neeman, Y., & Barak, M. (2013). Exploring students’        perceptions about learning in school: An activity theory   based study. Journal of Education and Learning, 2(3), 9-25. doi:10.5539/jel.v2n3p9
Samuels, B. M. (2014). What is writing in undergraduate anthropology? An activity theory analysis (Doctoral   dissertation, University of Western Ontario-Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository). Retrieved   November 27, 2017, from   ontex=etd
Seyyedrezaie, Z. S., Ghonsooly, B., Shahriari, H., & Fatemi, A. H. (2016). A mixed methods analysis of the effect of google docs environment on EFL learners’ writing    performance and causal attributions for success and        failure. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 17(3), 90-110. doi:10.17718/tojde.34418
Shams-Abadi, B. B., Ahmadi, S. D., & Mehrdad, A. G. (2015). The effect of Edmodo on EFL learners’ writing performance. International Journal of Educational       Investigations, 2(2), 88-97.
Slavkov, N. (2015). Sociocultural theory, the L2 writing process, and Google drive: Strange bedfellows? TESL Canada Journal, 32(2), 80-94. doi:10.18806/tesl.v32i2.1209
Son, J. (2007). Learner experiences in web-based language learning. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 20(1), 21-36. doi:10.1080/09588220601118495
Thorne, S. L. (2003). Artifacts and cultures-of-use in intercultural communication. Language Learning & Technology, 7(2), 38-67.
Van Lier, L (2000). From input to affordance: Social-interactive learning from an ecological perspective. In J. P. Lantolf (Ed.), sociocultural theory and second language learning (pp. 245-259). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Warschauer, M. (1996). Computer-assisted language learning: An introduction. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from
Warschauer, M. (2007). Technology and writing. In C. Davison       & J. Cummins (Eds.), The international handbook of English      language teaching (Vol. 2, pp. 907-912). Norwell, MA: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-46301-8_60
Weigle, S. C. (2014). Considerations for teaching second     language writing. In M. Celce Murcia, D. M. Brinton, & M. A. Snow (Eds.), Teaching English as a second or foreign language (4thed., pp. 222-237). Boston, MA: National Geographic Learning.