Sage without a Stage: Expanding the Object of Teaching in a Web-Based, High-School Classroom


  • Elizabeth Murphy Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Maria A. Rodriguez-Manzanares Memorial University of Newfoundland



Online learning, e-teaching, high school, cultural historical activity theory, expansive learning


This paper reports on a study that uses cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) to make sense of e-teachers’ activity in a context of high-school distance education. Data collection involved semi-structured interviews with 13 e-teachers as well as seven management and support personnel in an organization responsible for the design and delivery of high-school distance education in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. As well, the authors conducted a second round of interviews with 12 of the 13 teachers. Findings revealed that the traditional metaphor of teacher as ‘sage on the stage’ ceased to have a reference point in the distributed online classroom. The e-teachers were widening the object of their activity to include less teacher-centered forms of learning that involved more student independence.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Murphy, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Elizabeth Murphy Associate Professor Faculty of Education Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John's, NL A1B 3X8 Canada Email: Tel.: (709) 737-7634 Elizabeth Murphy holds a Ph.D. in Educational Technology. Her program of research focuses on teacher practices in technology-mediated contexts. She has been principal investigator on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Standard Research grant investigating the practice of high-school e-teachers, principal investigator on a SSHRC Strategic Joint Initiative on the use of online synchronous communication for second-language learning and co-investigator on a SSHRC Community University Research Alliance on e-learning.

Maria A. Rodriguez-Manzanares, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Maria A. Rodriguez Manzanares is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and a lecturer in the university's Department of French and Spanish and Faculty of Education. Her areas of interest include technology-enhanced learning, second- and foreign-language learning, and international students. Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John’s, NL A1B 3X8 Canada E-mail: Tel.: (709) 737-3468



How to Cite

Murphy, E., & Rodriguez-Manzanares, M. A. (2009). Sage without a Stage: Expanding the Object of Teaching in a Web-Based, High-School Classroom. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(3).



Research Articles