Department of Sociology

Teachers without Borders:

The Ethical Challenges of the Use of Social Network Websites for Pupil Contact.

Primary investigator: Elin Thunman, Ph.D.

Collaborators: Prof. Anders Bruhn (Örebro University) & Marcus Persson, Ph.D. (Mälardalen University)

Grants: The Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare [FORTE]

The Swedish school is no longer solely a physical meeting place, it also consists of virtual meeting places where teachers and pupils have contact and work together. The number of teachers who use the social networking site Facebook to communicate with their pupils is increasing. This is still controversial, however since Facebook is not constructed to be a tool for working or tutoring. To use a social networking site constructed for private use for work purposes creates different boundary problems, such as how much of one’s private life as a teacher should be shared with one's students.

The first aim of this project is to investigate these new boundary problems regarding work hours, professional ethics, discretion, and responsibility that come to the fore when teachers use social networking sites like Facebook as a tool for communicating with pupils. The second aim is to understand how teachers’ use of Facebook and similar social networking sites in their profession relates to age, gender, municipality, principal of the school and organizational conditions.

This project combines qualitative and quantitative methods: focus group interviews with teachers at middle schools, individual interviews with representatives of the school board, netnographic observations of teacher profiles on Facebook, and a country-wide survey building on the cumulative findings of this project's earlier qualitative studies. 

Through studying the boundary work of teachers on Facebook and other social networking sites, this study will contribute to moving research out of the physical classroom and into today’s digital meeting places with pupils, thereby placing this project at the front lines of research on boundary work. Furthermore, these results are expected to function as a base for creating ethical ways for teachers and pupils, in accordance with the government’s digital agenda, to use modern technology as a tool for communicating, creating, teaching, and searching for knowledge