Critical discourse analysis of collaborative engagement in Facebook postings

Patient Rambe


While research literature affirms the potential for social networking sites (SNSs) to democratise communication, their impact on micro-level, academic relations at university level has not been explored sufficiently in developing countries. The literature on SNSs (especially Facebook) has emphasised its appropriation for the marketing of university programs to prospective students and enhancing institutional-level contact between university administration and students. As such, the impact of SNSs on micro-level (educator-learner and learner-peer) relations and relational power remains speculative. Mindful of how discursive types and discourses inform the construction of social power, this study employs critical discourse analysis (CDA) and educator-learnersFacebook conversations to expose the exercise of relational power and social learning in these interactional spaces. Facebookpostings are examined to explore academic relations and associated learner challenges like limited meaningful engagement with peers and content, superficial learning and general academic under-preparedness. The findings suggest the prevalence of formal authoritative (or hierarchical) discourses, few informal liberating (horizontal) discourses, nascent peer-based collaboration and limited learner engagement with theory. These phenomena generally point at first year students' under-developed study skills and less sophisticated literacies. The challenges and potential for transformative learning are explored and possibilities for effective engagement suggested.

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