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Understanding change in the educational system - concepts in cultural historical activity theory Sten Ludvigsen InterMedia, University of Oslo

Understanding change  Reform research has traditionally been too preoccupied with looking for the intended changes  Also in approaches like design based research  Relation between intended interventions, “intended” objects, and emerging practices  The significance of accounts of history, structures….

Understanding change  Multiple level analysis Actions and artifacts Rules, communities and division of labor Combination of actions, activities and long cycles of activity, historical development

Understanding change 

How to understand reforms: 

‘top-down’ approaches

 Problems:

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conceals changes that happen at the mico-level the idea of ‘direct’ correspondence between intentions and, ideas as expressed in reform documents

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But what kind actual changes occur in institutions? Reforms as transformation

Result is that we are left with little understanding of how educational practices change in relation to ICT reform interventions. Focus on emerging rather than intended changes in educational practices 

the analyst needs to bring together a historical and interactional perspective to understand how ‘top-down’ processes meet and merge with ‘bottom-up’ processes.

Understanding change 

General agreement that prior studies have often:  overlooked the recipients’ process of negotiating and making sense of the reform (Hargreaves, Earl, Moore, & Manning, 2001);  not recognised the impact of the history of the institution (Cuban, 1993);  not accounted for the significance of artefact mediation in human activity (Olson, 2003).

In addition, several have argued for the need for conceptual tools that can guide such analysis (Hoban, 2002; Hubbard, Mehan, & Stein, 2006, and others).

Understanding change  We need:  Approaches that combine short-term and historical changes with interactional analysis of how people use tools.  Approaches that offer conceptual tools with which to investigate and combine several levels in analysing reforms,  In order to understand that short-term impact can be identified and discussed in the light of more established historical patterns of change

ICT – reforms in higher education 

Evidence and justification – state-of-the-art....  Reforms and significant expectations to higher education  Main factor in the “knowledge economy”  Legitimizing the sector has become a continual process and  The use of ICT has become a central theme in these legitimization processes.  ICT affect educational practice – the question how to understand it…

ICT reforms in teacher education 

PLUTO – teacher education – national program 10 institutions over four years  Develop new pedagogic and organizational models for adapting and performing studies and learning activities where ICT has a substantial roll  Develop, adapt, or make available digital learning materials (software, contents, and services) that support these models  Establish new forms of collaboration with schools where students carry out their student teaching  Establish new forms of assessment and evaluation

ICT reforms in teacher education  Steering: National board Network meetings Yearly follow up meetings Incentive structure: 50% national – 50% local

ICT reforms in teacher education  Questions:  What are the strength and weaknesses of historical approaches versus activity theoretical approaches to the study of fast ICT reforms?  To what extent did the teaching and learning practices change at the institutions that took part in the reform program and what characterised these changes?

Understanding change  The hedgehog and the fox as representatives of two approaches in reform research  ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing’ {Berlin, 1998 #476: 437}.

Understanding change ďƒ˜Reform intensions and outcome? ďƒ˜How to study reforms?

Understanding change Historical perspective Change versus stability Incremental – fundamental change Reforms often becomes system reorganization – not at the level of teaching and learning

Understanding change Type of change – stepwise Hybrid version of teacher-centered and student centered activities Oversold and underused – computers in schools

Understanding change  ‘Although we need to know how often students turn on computers in school, we also need to know what they do when the screen lights up' {Cuban, 2001 #471: 175}.  Problem with his own approach  What he does not include in his analysis – and that is: how people use and make sense of ICT.  Historical patterns and structure do not give insights in:  How people in interaction make sense of their actions; nor do they say much about how and why some changes occur rather than others, or what it is that gives change a certain direction.

Understanding change 

Cultural Historical Activity Theory  Concepts has been developed that create an analytical position for understanding how institutions work and how individuals act within the institutions  Follow the Objects as the empirical level of inquiry!  Direction of change Change, tensions, conflicts, breakdowns, and contradictions, and “object”  Change – expansive learning and objects the key concepts

Understanding change  Tension between analysing social interaction and meaning-making within institutions here-and-now while taking into account historical developments.  How to bring different levels together – what emerges.  The notion of object is intended to solve this problem in the CHAT (Engeström, 1987).

Understanding change  Types of change Ad hoc innovation Trajectory innovation System innovation

Understanding change  Micro-studies of ICT shows change Design experiments Ethnographic studies

ICT reforms…  

Summary: Change as change towards an ideal or theoretical idea   

An ideal version of ICT use in schools. The danger with this analytic stance is that the analyst easily overlooks emergent new practices at the social level. This conception of change creates difficulties when used for making sense of the emerging of new practices with ICT.

Change as how they occur. 

The analyst focus on practice and meaning making and looks for how new objects emerge. Change is here identified at the social level, where historical contradictions come to the front.

ICT reforms….  Reforms in teacher education Foundation – normative – empirical ?

ICT reforms….  The empirical basis for the PLUTO reform Report local National evaluation Survey PhD work

ICT reforms….  Electronic portfolio assessment Work folder Presentation folder Continuity

ICT reforms….  Individual and group work  Portfolio works across levels  Individual and collective  Change in norms – community and division of labor

ICT reforms…..  New tasks – trivial or necessary condition?  Structure for task production  Partner schools  The group as unit for tasks

ICT reforms……  Objects and activities that ”drives” change Electronic portfolio assessment System change – why – works across levels

Understanding change ďƒ˜ Summary: ďƒ˜ Different types of short-term impact of the reform in the teacher-education institutions and to unpack how new practices emerge. ďƒ˜ The different concepts that have been developed in activity theory over the last years make multilevel analysis possible since it combines concepts that are sensitive to individual use of specific tools and to how individuals perform tasks based on collective long-term motives. But:

Understanding change  However:  It is still a question how we at a theoretical level can understand the relationship between incremental changes and expansive learning; because the theory of expansive learning aims to understand the expansion it self – and not the incremental aspects that create the condition for the changes, or?

Understanding change in the educational system - concepts in cultural historical activity theory  
Understanding change in the educational system - concepts in cultural historical activity theory  

The talk given by Dr. Stem Ludvigsen at the symposium on cultural-historical activity theory at Moscow State University of Psychology and Ed...