Summer Reading


Originally uploaded by nfujita.

Well, sort of. I’ve been reading various things–most recently on teacher beliefs, conceptual change, and academic literacy–but I’ve been meaning to blog about activity theory for awhile now. I am not using this theoretical framework in my thesis research, but I keep coming back to it out of curiosity.

During my masters degree, I took a full-year course in marxism and literary theory, so I was familiar with the philosophical underpinnings of cultural historical activity theory coming into my doctorate. This background knowledge has been helpful for me in understanding the sociocultural theories of learning, especially as it extended my undergraduate study of learning in more traditional experimental psychology. While writing my comps, I briefly examined activity theory after reading Cole & Engestrom (1993) and the introduction by Alex Kozulin to Vygotsky’s (1986) Thought and Language, but at the time, I found Engestrom’s (1987) diagram for the structure of a human activity system comprised of many triangles a bit overwhelming.

More recently, around February 2006, I revisited activity theory again because 1) I wanted to prepare for the TATE preconference, which I knew was to use activity theory as a framework; 2) Gloria was reading a lot of activity theory for her comps and piqued my interest; and 3) I was reading articles to help me with my research methodology and some of these were based on activity theory.

I DO NOT claim to understand activity theory in any great depth, but Engestrom’s diagram does make more sense to me now than it once did!! I’m not sure why, but I did read a bunch of things over the last couple of years, mulling over the concepts on my own and have had a chance to talk about them a bit in a research group meeting and the preconference. I share my readings here in case you want to explore them also, maybe Gerald? Gloria has probably read these…

selections from Engestrom, Y., Miettinen, R., & Punamaki, R.L. (1999). (Eds.) Persectives on activity theory. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Barab, S.A., Evans, M.A., Baek, E-O. (2004). Activity theory as a lens for characterizing the participatory unit (pp.199-214), in D.H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research for educational communications and techbology. New York: Macmillan Library Reference.

Engestrom, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 133-156.

Jonassen, D.H. (2000). Revisiting activity theory as a framework for designing student-centred learning environments (pp. 89-121), in D.H. Jonassen & S.M. Land (Eds.) Theoretical foundations of learning environments. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Kapetelinin, V. (1996). Activity theory: Implications for human-computer interaction. in B.A. Nardi (Ed.) Context and consciousness: Activity theory and human-computer interaction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Nardi, B. (1996). Studying context: A comparison of activity theory, situated action models, and distributed cognition, in B.A. Nardi (Ed.) Context and consciousness: Activity theory and human-computer interaction (pp.35-42). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *