Contradictions in a distance course for a marginalized population at a Middle Eastern university


  • Irshat Madyarov American University of Armenia
  • Aida Taef Baha’i Institute for Higher Education



activity theory, contradictions, open, distance, English as a foreign language, Middle East, Baha'i


This study explores six cases of non-native English speaking students engaged in a distance English-medium course on critical thinking at a university in Iran. Framed within activity theory, the study investigated students’ course-related activity systems with a particular focus on contradictions that underlie any human activity. The construct of contradictions provides a theoretical lens to understand a web of relationships among a number of elements in course-related activities situated in a cultural-historical setting beset with political controversies, technological challenges, and needs for a bilingual curriculum. The findings indicate that all student participants had multiple activity systems within the course environment. Most participants had primary, secondary, and quaternary contradictions that had positive and negative consequences on the expansion of their activity systems. Discussion also includes practical implications for the distance university under study that could potentially be applied to similar distance schools.

Author Biographies

Irshat Madyarov, American University of Armenia

Irshat Madyarov holds a Ph.D. degree in Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology from the University of South Florida, Tampa, FL. He's taught face-to-face and distance courses in the area of applied linguistics as well as English as a foreign/second language and critical thinking. His research interests include distance language instruction, digital game- and simulation-based language learning and teaching, teaching English to young learners, bilingualism, and ESL/EFL curriculum development and assessment.

Aida Taef, Baha’i Institute for Higher Education



How to Cite

Madyarov, I., & Taef, A. (2012). Contradictions in a distance course for a marginalized population at a Middle Eastern university. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(2), 77–100.



Research Articles