More thoughts on context

This week I’ve been reviewing my research proposal after more helpful comments from colleagues here, and thinking more about the justification for using CHAT and expansive learning theory as the chosen theoretical underpinnings. The revised proposal is on the proposal page – please visit if you haven’t so far and comment if you would like to.

The chief advantage of both CHAT and ELT for my study is the deep examination of context.  Why is that so important to this study?  Well, there is just so much context to the situation – I’ve attempted to sum this up in the diagram below which is based on an Engeström diagram of the interaction of multiple activity systems where the subjects differ, and where there is a runaway object.  He defines such runaway objects as

Breakaway object specific to HE workplaces


major issues that have the potential to escalate up to global influence.  

In this case, I’ve chosen the commodification of learning as a shorthand for all the influences that are impinging on education and HE in particular such as the development of so-called ‘corporate universities,’ as well as fees and their impact on students’ views of their own learning.   Activity systems can focus on runaway objects which Engeström says can be negative natural forces – disease, environmental threats – or benign – social movements and collectives. He goes on to characterise them as ‘on the boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate, sensible and crazy, work and leisure, technology and art.’  Engeström, Y. (2009) ‘The Future of Activity Theory: A Rough Draft’ in Annalisa Sannino, Harry Daniels & Kris D. Gutierrez (eds.), Learning and Expanding with Activity Theory. Cambridge University Press. pp. 303–328

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