The Promise, Reality and Dilemmas of Secondary School Teacher–Student Interactions in Facebook: The Teacher Perspective

Jul. 14, 2015

Source: Computers & Education Volume 85, Pages 134–148


We report on a multi-method study that seeks to explore if, how and why secondary teachers use Facebook (FB) to interact with their students. Issues of privacy, authority, and even abuse have fueled socio-political debates on the desirability of teacher–student FB contact, leading some authorities to curtail or even prohibit such contact. Proponents of harnessing Web 2.0 and Social media technology for learning purposes, on the other hand, have emphasized the many potential advantages for formal and informal learning. However, there is little empirical research on the scope, the nature and the purposes for secondary school teacher–student contact through social network sites.


The present study makes a first step in this direction, by triangulating teacher survey data (N = 187) with in-depth teacher interviews (N = 11). Findings from both data sets show that teacher–student FB contact comes in different forms and serves a range of purposes, which fall into three main categories: Academic-instructional, psycho-pedagogical and social-relational. Advantages, dilemmas and limitations of FB contact with secondary school students are identified.

The present study fills a gap in the literature by focusing on teacher - student FB interactions in secondary school contexts. We adopt an exploratory approach to investigate teachers’ perceptions of student - teacher FB interactions and how (if at all) and why secondary teachers try to harness FB for pedagogical purposes.

A multi - method approach (Fontana & Frey, 1998) was adopted in order to triangulate both quantitative information about characteristics of teacher - student communication in FB (study 1), as well as in - depth, qualitative insights into the motives, experiences and evaluations of teachers’ FB interaction with their students (study 2). Data for both studies were collected in parallel between June -October 2012, which is well within the period during which the general ban on SNS communication between Israeli teaching staff and secondary school students was in effect. It should be noted that the data collection and analyses were conducted separately by two different research teams, one focusing on the quantitative and the other on the qualitative data set, and were only combined upon completion of the separate analyses.

Updated: Dec. 30, 2015