Author(s):Lázaro Moreno Herrera (presenting), Ines Langemeyer (presenting), Marianne Teräs (presenting), Laure Kloetzer (presenting), Lewis Hughes (presenting), Laura Seppänen (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2016, Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)

Format:Round Table

Session Information

02 SES 09 A, Activity Theory and VET - Potentialities and Shortcomings for Research

Round Table


Room:Vet-Theatre 116

Chair:Magdolna Benke


Activity Theory and VET - Potentialities and shotcomings for research.

Activity theory has increasingly strengthened its position as theoretical ground in educational research in different areas. This interest is particularly relevant in research within vocational education and training (VET) in different educational context in Europe and internationally. This goes from using the original works of Vygotsky and Leontiev to the contribution by, e.g., Yrjö Engeström as theoretical ground and methodological tool to investigate different research problems.

The contributions to the roundtable share a similar theoretical and methodological ground: activity theory. At the same time they present different approaches and deal with different researches problems, which is expected to encourage discussion.

The contribution by Lázaro Moreno Herrera (Sweden) looks into the relationship activity and development of personality based on Leontiev´s work. The structure of personality and the process of transformation from individual to personality grounded on Leontiev´s research are used as springboard to discuss motivation in vocational training. By analysing the relationship personality-motivation the contribution suggest ways to look into and discuses problems in VET such as dropouts.

Ines Langemeyer (Germany) presents for discussion the relationship collective experience – personal experience. For Kant, experience is always personal experience because it presupposes the First Person perspective that “I have made an experience”. In Vygotsky’s theoretical framework, by contrast, collective experience is not only possible but in general the starting point for human development. The “zone of proximal development” conceptualizes the idea that individuals need cooperative relationships to more experienced persons to learn and advance their developmental processes. This is valuable for VET; especially, the challenges of a “scientification of work” within complex work processes can be interpreted against the theoretical background of Vygotsky’s theory.

Laure Kloetzer (Switzerland) contributes by looking into activity in controversial discussion: cross self-confrontation as a dialogical framework for supporting activity transformation. Following Vygotski’s research focus on provoking development to study it, Oddone’s ideas on professionals´ collaboration in “associated research groups” to understand and develop work experience, and Clot’s ideas on activity as including at the psychological level both “realised activity” (what gets done) and “real activity” (what couldn’t get done, what should be done differently, what is to be done again, etc.), collaborative frameworks were created based on dialogue and detailed analysis of video data of the work activity. These research and intervention frameworks support the goal of transforming everyday work organisation.

Marianne Teräs (Finland) contributes by discussing the difficulty of re-Mediation in renewing oral-health care practices. Vygotsky’s concept of mediation is central in activity theoretical and developmental work research studies. When organizations respond to changing needs of work and education, they should also renew their policies and practices. However, re-mediation is challenging and obstacles may arise.  Teräs explored transitions between old and new practices within oral-health care. First, transition from individual working practices to collective ones. Second, transition from pathogenesis-based orientation to health-based orientations and third, expert-centered to patient-centered and activated care.

Lewis Hughes (Australia) contribution focuses on activity theory as a device to motivate and empower. In the course of exploring VET contributing to social capital, the usefulness of an activity system representation has emerged as a powerful device to generate culturally appropriate conversation leading to motivation and empowerment to act. In particular, current exploration of ways and means to strengthen VET practitioner engagement with research will be discussed. This engagement spans the practitioner as researcher acting upon the VET related research outcomes of others – i.e. the quest is striving for the ‘reflective VET practitioner’ as the norm; and, hence, enriching community and economic productivity.   

The contributions showcase the diversity in uses of activity theory and problematize potentialities and shortcomings of its use in research within VET.


Engestrom, Y. (2001), Expansive Learning at Work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization, Journal of Education and Work, 14:1, pp 133.

Clot, Y., Faïta, D., Fernandez, G., & Scheller, L. (2001). Entretiens en autoconfrontation croisée: une méthode en clinique de l’activité. Education permanente, 146(1), 17-25.

Hughes, L. (2000), ‘To Live, Inquire and Grow in Interesting Times’, in P. Smith (Ed.), Changing Education, Vol. 6, Nos. 1 & 2, Deakin Centre for Education & Change, Deakin University, Geelong.

Hughes, L. (2007), Applying outcomes of lifelong learning to organisational achievement, PhD thesis, Deakin University, Geelong.

Kant, I. (1956). Kritik der reinen Vernunft, (KrV). Hamburg [Original 1868].

Kloetzer, L., Clot, Y. & Quillerou-Grivot, E. (2015). Stimulating dialogue at work: the activity clinic approach to learning and development. In L. Fillietaz & S. Billett (Eds) Francophone Perspectives of Learning Through Work (pp. 49-70). Springer International Publishing.

Langemeyer, I. (2015). Das Wissen der Achtsamkeit. Kooperative Kompetenz in komplexen Arbeitsprozessen. Münster: Waxmann.

Leontiev, A.N. (1978). Activity, Consciousness, and Personality . Englewood
Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Moreno Herrera, L. (2007). Approaches to Personality in Cultural Historical Theory – An Attempt at Systematisation. Alajuela: CIPET.

Teräs, M. (2015). Inter-professional working and learning: instructional actions and boundary crossing or boundary making in oral healthcare. Journal of Education and Work DOI:10.1080/13639080.2014.997680

Teräs, M., Miettinen, R., Manner, E., & Kervinen, A. Developing Patient Activating and Multi-Professional Oral-Health Care: The Difficulty of Remediation. Manuscript under preparation.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotski, L.S. (1934/1986) Thought and language. MIT Press.

Vygotskij, L. S. (2002). Denken und Sprechen. Weinheim/Basel [Originial russ. 1931-1934].

Wenger, E. (1998), Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Author Information

Lázaro Moreno Herrera (presenting)
Stockholm University
Department of Education
Ines Langemeyer (presenting)
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
Marianne Teräs (presenting)
University of Helsinki, Finland
Laure Kloetzer (presenting)
University of Neuchâtel
Institut de psychologie et éducation
Lewis Hughes (presenting)
Mount Dandenong
Laura Seppänen (presenting)
Finnish Institute of Occupational Health