02 SES 04 A, Research Transitions: Conceptualising and Framing Knowledge and Approaches to VET
Coupled to the Engestrom (1999) foreseeing that acting upon third generation activity theory will require the development of conceptual tools, this paper addresses an approach to expand activity theory informed conversations. Such conversations beingdirected at enriching research data and increasing the propensity for stakeholders to act upon research outcomes – adding value to researching. Whilst this is an account of generic approach, there is particular relevance to the activity of engaging with vocational education and training in the pursuit of strengthened social capital outcomes and, through this, productivity and enhanced social cohesion outcomes.
With value adding in mind, the author has found Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) to be highly generative in prompting research respondent and other stakeholder conversations. In this respect, the logic of an activity system representation of the issues adds to stakeholder capability in articulating their views and, accordingly, engaging others in conversation in such a way as to prepare the ground for acting upon research outcomes.
Arising from 2002–2005 exploration of the relationship between lifelong learning and organisational achievement, an approach has evolved of hinging interacting activity systems along the axis of “tool”, “object” and one of “rule”, “community” or “division-of-labour” (Hughes 2007, pp. 238-239). Subsequently, along with other applications, the utility of this approach has been further revealed in the 2010-2013 exploration by Lewis and Libby Hughes (2011, 20012, 2013) of the manner in which vocational education and training (VET) when well taught adds to social capital. And across this spectrum of research, there is strong resonance with the Svendsen and Svendsen (2004) suggesting that overlooking social capital matters is a missing link in the quest for productivity.
In essence, the proposition is that conversation between stakeholders leads to a mutually agreed core object which serves as a coupling component between what may initially be seen as competing activity systems. Whilst a core object can be agreed through conversation - including bringing tensions/contradictions into the explicit realm – the respective stakeholder objectives/goals may be different as align with aspects of what they hold as an object outside the core; however, in looking to act upon research, the finding of common ground at “the core” has much to commend it.
Also, there are informing nuances which emerge from selecting which of the ‘rules’, ‘community’ or ‘division of labour’ is most pivotal in acting upon the core object - noting that this doesn’t prejudice the mediating integrity within each of the interacting activity systems.
When coupled with the quest for a tool(s) supporting achievement of interacting activity systems objectives, the agreed core object and the selected pivot, form a “hinge”. Graphically, this is represented by abutting (two or more) systems as right angle triangles hinged along the axis of tool, object, and pivot choice. The act of constructing the hinge is a conversation expanding device which both adds body to research data and increases (through felt and shared ownership) the likelihood of the research outcome(s) being acted upon – particularly in circumstances where the intent is to achieve by making the most of what people know and can do.
Daniels, H., Edwards, A., Engestrom, Y., Gallagher, T & Ludvigsen, S. (2010), Activity Theory in Practice: Promoting learning across boundaries and agencies, Routledge, London. Engestrom, Y. (1999), Learning by Expanding: Ten Years After. Online at http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm - accessed 11th January 2015 Engestrom, Y. (2010), Expansive Learning at work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization, Journal of Education and Work. Online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13639080020028747 - accessed 11th January 2015 Hughes, L. (2007), Applying outcomes of lifelong learning to organisational achievement, PhD thesis, Deakin University, Geelong. Hughes, L.B. & Hughes L.C. (2013), VET Learner Acquired Social Capital: resonance with the Australian notion of Core Skills for Work, and much more arising from ‘educationalist’ teacher motivations and practices, ECER 2013, Istanbul. Svendsen, G.L.H. & Svendsen, G.T. (2004), The Creation and Destruction of Social Capital: Entrepreneurship, Co-operative Movements and Institutions, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham Vygotsky, L.S. (1978), Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes, Harvard University Press, Cambridge
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