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Analysing activity in institutions Harry Daniels The Centre for Sociocultural and Activity Theory Research

The Aim of the Learning in and for Interagency Working (LIW) Project

To develop a model of professional learning and transformation in and for responsive interagency work and to investigate its feasibility for enhancing interagency practices

Two of the Research Questions •

What are professionals learning when they do interagency work?


What forms of interpersonal and organisational practice are associated with this learning?

Five Stages of LIW Project Stage One Theoretical Development January - June 2004 Systematic Review and clarification of conceptual framework Stage Two Analysing the National Situation June - December 2004 Identify local authority cases Stage Three Refine Model Through Intervention in Two Settings January - September 2005 Development of Knowledge Tools and Preliminary Outcomes

Stage Four Intervention Study in Three Local Authorities October 2005 - June 2007 Testing of Feasibility of Models and Tools Stage Five Examining the Outcomes in a Broader Context July - December 2007 Knowledge Sharing

The Stage Four Case Studies • SEASIDE - A new multi-professional team that was learning to work together • WILDSIDE - A loosely coupled team working with ‘children in public care’ • CASTLETON - A boundary between a school and the reconfiguring children services in a local authority

Contradictions: systemic and personal • Engestrom: drivers of change in systems • Vygotsky: ‘perezhivanie’ lived or emotional experience • Vasilyuk: ‘experiencing’ living through crises creatively in order to restore meaning to life

Contradictions: how do they arise and how are they worked on? • LIW: personal learning in changing systems • Need a level of analysis that connects the two aspects: personal and systemic • What forms of mediation are in play in personal and systemic processes of recognition and response to contradictions?

Mediation (1) • Wertsch (2007) Implicit Mediation Explicit mediation involves the intentional introduction of what is to be learnt into a learning activity which is managed by a ‘teacher’. Implicit mediation involves knowledge being carried in the natural, i.e. historically constructed, language of the situation.

Mediation (2) • Bernstein (2000) Invisible Semiotic Mediation How the unself-conscious everyday discourse mediates mental dispositions, tendencies to respond to situations in certain ways and how it puts in place beliefs about the world one lives in, including both about phenomena that are supposedly in nature and those which are said to be in our culture.

to ‘see’ institutions as they do their tacit psychological work through the discursive practices which they shape and are shaped by.

Disruption and stage in Vygotsky • the place the dramatic development takes place. The stage (theatre) has two planes - social plane (dimension) and individual plane. The planes only make sense relative to the stage and they are connected as two projections of the stage where the child is not a spectator, but participant. • development as a process of events, collisions and their reflections in both planes.

Institutional Institutional structure structure as as historical historical artefact artefact •• measures measures of of institutional institutional modality modality the the discursive, discursive, organizational organizational and and interactional interactional practice practice •• predict predict –– points points at at which which communicative communicative action action will will engage engage with with the the transformation transformation of of the the institution institution 12

embedded embedded discourses discourses

Instructional Discourse -- ID Regulative Discourse -- RD

P = I/R finland june Daniels Visser and Cole 14 1999

Model for the description of sites Service users

Local Authority


Division of Labour -- Vertical How hierarchical is the management of your work 1.C- - = All members of a ‘flat’ team 2.C++ = Strong hierarchy (director, dep director, principal, senior , junior) -

1 C--









5 C++


How strong are the relations of control within this division of labour 1. F-- = I manage my own workload 5 F++ =I am line managed with timed targets -

1 F--


seaside wildside liberton



5 F++





• seaside


• liberton


• wildside


The analytic challenge Multi-site - 3 + Northern Ireland Liberton



Multi-centred study - 4 Oxford University

Multi-researcher (9 -14) Multi-temporal

Key data Workshops in each case study site - audio visual recordings of six two hour workshops over one year workshops comprised the practitioners who were working in multi-agency settings or were moving towards MAW

Workshop material or ‘Mirror data’ analysis top down selective ‘structural’ analysis, using CHAT and cognate concepts to stimulate discussion of past, present and future work - dual stimulation

Communicative analysis however, in order to identify evidence trails in this multi-site and multi-centred study over time of professional learning in multi-agency settings needed a ‘bottom-up’ comprehensive analysis of audio-visual recordings of workshops focussing on the sequential and contingent organisation of emergent distinctions distinctions that make the difference for participants describing and refining what-it-is-to-do multiagency work learning as ‘differences that make the difference’

Particular analytic challenges how to orient site research teams to read the data as performative communicative action move beyond talk as a mode of representation we needed workable analytic heuristic or rubric for the analysis of workshop talk as performative action

Designed an analytic rubric Designed what we term the D - Analysis an analytic rubric or heuristic for reading reviewing interrogating comparing collating the total corpus of communicative data in a consistent way across the research sites

General analytic challenge to move to a performative analysis of communicative action this involved moving from an analytic perspective of talk as descriptions of MAW - to talk as part of accomplishing MAW (description > actions) where ‘what it is to do MAW’, or ‘to learn’, is not assumed as an analytic ‘a priori’ - rather learning is accomplished in and through workshop talk? i.e., how do people use, account for, and warrant what it is to do MAW, and to be a ‘team’ member - what is the sequential and contingent organisation of workshop communicative action?

D-Analysis the sequential organization of learning related talk • Deixis (indication): ‘pointing to’ an issue during conversation, drawing attention towards a particular problem • Delineation and definition: elaboration of the issue through others’ reactions - sense making and qualifications • Deliberation: refocusing the elaboration process towards reaching an agreement - eg., actioned through consensus building, such as by evoking local situation/knowledge, or building a consensus based on general principals. • Departure: a shift towards a qualitatively different position where new positioning of participants is made visible • Development: finding a ‘tool’ from within the previous workshop conversation or identifying a solution to an specified problem - making something stick

Wildside - coordinating presence at key meetings in relation to PEP’s - Sequential emergence of distinctions (differences) that make the difference in MAW DW5 (Video 1:02:06 - J L [LIW] The idea of having the right information there, as you said the educational report either isn't- either the person isn't represented or the report isn't there and social work, you know whoever, the medical input. And even when you get this one nurse she's not going to be at all these reviews, so you needA B [nurse] No the one nurse is going to do the most hard to reach set of young people, that's really going to be her main target area, and look at addressing some of the wider things like the teenage pregnancy in 'looked after' children, some sexual health issue and things like that is going to be her main remit. Because I think for the younger age group the school nurses are pretty well tied in, for the pre-schoolers the foster carers take children for appointments.

Deixis - pointing - NEW ‘SYSTEM’ FOR LIASING WITH PARENTS We are having a change um in the way that children come to health appointments for 'looked after' in that the social workers are now going to know when the child is going to be due a medical review and arrange with the parent, the foster carers to ring up for an appointment. [talking together]

Delineation - qualification - REFORMULATING THE BASIS OF THE NEW ‘SYSTEM’ P C [social worker] Sorry, I wasn't- just correcting that [inaudible ñ 01:03:20] what will happen is that a letter will automatically go out to the foster carers or the residential staff.

Deliberation - consensus - RATIFYING THE REFORMULATION A B [nurse] Yes, and copy letters to-

Deliberation - orderability - ESTABLISHING THE ORDERABILITY OF ACTION P C [social worker] With a copy letter to the social worker. There's no extra task for the social worker.

Departure - POSITIONING C M [social worker] Are we sharing this today, is this new-

Development - TO BE ESTABLISHED AS THE CASE IN THE FUTURE P C[social worker] Well I understand it's come- I mean it's just being introduced I think this month, or in September so it's not quite this month, you know, it's just been introduced in September. But two months before an appointment is due a letter goes out to foster carers or residential staff and then they make an appointment to suit the child and the carers. And therefore we get fewer missed appointments.

Organisation of analytic process D - Analysis used @ each of the 3 sites (Wildside; Seaside & Liberton) 3 analysts per site (2 RO’s + Senior team member as analytic discussant) D - Analysis applied in multiple phases of cyclical analysis to Induct the research teams into communicative analysis pilot compare & refine collate within and cross-site findings

Analytic process applied the D-Analysis in a comprehensive analysis of the whole corpus of workshop data across all 3 sites using search and replay tools (eg., HyperResearch; MSWord; DSS Player and VideoPlayer) iterating between transcripts and audio-visual recordings

Some analytic resources for transcript <> recording iterations

HyperResearch+DSS Player

Within site analysis Within sessions D-Sequences identified Between sessions Strands of delineations and developments identified delineations (emergent issues) and departures and developments (potential and implemented changes) Summary concept matrix and time lines produced for each site recording MAW issue; data sources; CHAT ie linking top down and bottom up analyses


Concept Liberton

Wildside Wildside: creation and development of better tools

Evid ence Delineat i on

Departur e / Develop m ent

Acti vity Theory

Where? (in which workshop?)



2 (83-89)


3 (6, 17, 32)

Need to work on tools to focus on PEP, despite other prof agendas (having sympathy/appreciation of these) Working with tools systemically; teaching schools how to use tools, making tools available to new staff, knowing your own tool

Need to remind profs of responsibilities re. PEPs

Analy sis Resolution

Tools for supporting PEPS



5 (29-32)


5 (35-39)

As above

Clerical support for PEP; LAA as â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;creativeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; tool; additional Beh Supp staff; guidance doc for govs; JAR.



Lack of clarity around prep for PEPs

Checklist for preparation for PEPs


5 (24-26)


5 (108-114


6 (10-17)

Lack of communication between profs As above Tension between ePEP as object and as tool/rule. Need to clarify shared object

JAR encouraged greater MAW; focus on collective responsibility for child ePEP Drawing up document using ECM principles to guide PEPs (this discussed at sen mgt level)

Seaside concept formation time lines



• weaker regulative discourse of liberton /R which was the object of intervention from an external agent. • In seaside I/R the focus of attention was on the rules and practices of communication within the instructional discourse. • In wildside I/R the relation with clients became the predominant concern.

Bernstein: VOICE AND MESSAGE Â . Identity, subject position and discourse

Mediating Artefacts: Tools and Signs

Object Sense



Outcome Meaning


Division of Labour

The structure of a human activity system Engestrom 1987 p. 78

Mediating Artefacts: Tools and Signs

Object Sense



Outcome Meaning


Division of Labour

Tentative typology of hybridities




Switching between specialisms

Collection of distinct specialists


Generalists â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;melting potâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; R may become predominant

Succession of generalists (people)

hybridity • liberton strong boundaries and control individual specialists. • wildside the weak boundaries and control in workshop BUT professional practice of strong boundaries between services and their professional values coordinated by strategy. coordinated collection of specialists in the field. • In seaside weak boundaries and control -- weakened through rule breaking and bending a collection of hybrid workers who drew on the primary strengths of their colleagues.

Bringing it all together • analyse communicative action as mediated by / in the institutional context • see how attention is directed and deflected by history of professional cultures • evidence the ways in which the institution itself is shaped as well as shapes the possibilities for action

Analysing activity in institutions  

The talk given by Dr. Harry Daniels at the symposium on cultural-historical activity theory at Moscow State University of Psychology and Edu...

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