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activity theory

This paper (Timmis, 2014) gives a useful overview of cultural historical activity theory or CHAT. CHAT grew out of the social constructivist theory of Vygotsky and particularly developed by Engerström, Cole and others. Vygotsky (1978) can be understood as someone who helped expand our focus on learning from what was happening ‘in the head of the individual learner’ to the wider world of tools, artefacts and people that surround the learner and with which they can and do engage. This perspective was further extended into a wider Activity System covering not only subject (the person doing), the object (the purpose of what the person was doing), outcomes (what happens), tools and artefacts (which include both physical and cultural tools such as language and signs) but also the context in which the activity is taking place, the rules, community and division of labour by and within which people work and share their work. This Activity System has been used in all manner of contexts, this one is an educational one.

As you read the paper you might want to ask:

CHAT has often been presented (as here) as a set of triangles within triangles, how does this help, hinder its usfulness?

What are the issues being address in the different ‘waves’ of CHAT? In which direction does this move the theory?

Do you think the CHAT framework emerged from the data in the study or the research started out with a commitment to CHAT?

After you have read the paper you might want to see your own data through the 'triangle within triangles', how would this help / hinder your analysis?

Timmis, S. (2014). The dialectical potential of Cultural Historical Activity Theory for researching sustainable CSCL practices. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 9(1), 7-32.