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Service as activity. A cultural historical approach to service learning Christopher G pupik dean Why sociocultural theories?. Suggestions of the need to examine practice through sociocultural lenses: Levine & Higgins-D’Alessandro, 2010 McIntosh & Youniss , 2010

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service as activity

Service as activity

A cultural historical approach to service learning

Christopher G pupik dean

why sociocultural theories
Why sociocultural theories?
  • Suggestions of the need to examine practice through sociocultural lenses:
    • Levine & Higgins-D’Alessandro, 2010
    • McIntosh & Youniss, 2010
    • Torney-Purta, Amadeo, & Andolina, 2010
  • Why?
    • We have: examined knowledge, skills, dispositions
    • We need to examine the ways that knowledge, skills, dispositions are being put to use in civic engagement (practice)
  • Goals:
    • Provide some background on these theories
    • Illustrate how they can add to SL & CE research
sociocultural theories
Sociocultural Theories
  • Building off Vygotsky:
    • Cultural historical activity theory (CHAT or activity theory) (Cole & Engeström, 1993; Engeström, 1987)
    • Legitimate Peripheral Participation (Lave & Wenger, 1991)
mediating artifacts tools
Mediating artifacts/tools

Are social

Are historical

Are cultural

Are material/ideal

Are transformed over time


Engestrom, 2001

legitimate peripheral participation
Legitimate Peripheral Participation
  • Novices  Masters
    • Butchers (Lave & Wenger, 1991)
    • Teachers (Tsui & Law, 2007)
    • Service Learning Students?
  • Subjects interact with the world through the use of meditational artifacts (tools)
  • These tools are:
    • Socially, culturally, and historically developed (and continuously developing)
    • Within systems
    • Consisting of communities
    • With particular rules & divisions of labor
    • New tools can be appropriated (or old tools modified) when systems interact
so how is this helpful
So how is this helpful?
  • A structure for focusing on practice:
    • Identify and examine the transformation of tools of civic engagement (where knowledge, skills, dispositions interact)
    • Examine the rules and communities that structure tool use
    • Consider historical development of the tool
    • Look for: LPP, boundary crossing, and boundary objects
  • A change in the unit of analysis:
    • From individual development to development of systems
    • 2 layer analysis:
      • Individual phenomenological perspectives
      • Outsider 30,000 ft view
using sociocultural theory to explain phenomena
Using sociocultural theory to explain phenomena
  • Phenomena:
    • Students in a 10th grade SL class (tutoring 1st graders) exhibited a change in how they talked about the teachers they worked with:
      • Initial tool: critical stories of classroom practice:
        • yelling, disorganization
      • Subsequent tool: more positive orientation to classroom practice
        • Teachers care, have tough job, know individual student needs
    • But maintained an orientation that teachers are the problem in public education
      • Lazy
      • In it for the money (unions)
    • WHY?
knowledge skills mindsets
Knowledge, Skills, Mindsets
  • Knowledge:
    • Teaching is hard
    • These teachers care
  • Skills:
    • Tutoring in a classroom
    • Talking about classroom practice
  • Mindsets:
    • The teachers care
    • Teachers are the problem
  • Initial tool: Teachers are the key to educational success
  • History: developed in own experience, stories of others about public schools
  • Community: privileged, high value on ed, teachers held in great esteem
  • Rules: value teachers in our school, maintain prestige of own ed
  • Boundary crossing/LPP: engaged in classroom practice, not in larger issues
  • Closing tool: Teachers are key… this school is an exception
    • (does not contradict the model)
    • Object of discourse did not connect

Cole, M. (1996). Cultural psychology. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Cole, M., & Engeström, Y. (1993). A cultural historical approach to distributed cognition. In G. Salomon (Ed.), Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations (pp. 1–46). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding. Helsinki: Orienta-KonsultitOy. Retrieved from

Engeström, Y. (1993). Developmental studies of work as a testbench of activity theory: The case of primary care medical practice. In S. Chaiklin & J. Lave (Eds.), Understanding practice: Perspectices on activity and context (pp. 64–103). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Toward and activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 133–156.

Engeström, Y., & Miettinen, R. (1999). Introduction. Perspectives on Activity Theory (pp. 1–18). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and Society. New York: Norton.

Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity, Youth, and Crisis (1st ed.). New York: Norton.

Fenwick, T., Edwards, R., & Sawchuk, P. (2011). Emerging Approaches to Educational Research: Tracing the Socio-Material. London: Routledge. Retrieved from

Levine, P., & Higgins-D’Alessandro. (2010). Youth civic engagement: Normative issues. In L. R. Sherrod, J. Torney-Purta, & C. A. Flanagan (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Civic Engagement in Youth (E-Book.). Wiley.

McIntosh, H., & Youniss, J. (2010). Toward a political theory of political socialization of youth. In L. R. Sherrod, J. Torney-Purta, & C. Flanagan (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Civic Engagement in Youth. New Jersey: Wiley.

Rhoads, R. A. (1997). Community Service and Higher Learning: Explorations of the Caring Self. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Torney-Purta, J., Amadeo, J.-A., & Andolina, M. (2010). A conceptual framework and multimethod approach for research on political socialization and civic engagement. Handbook of Research on Civic Engagement in Youth (E-book.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Tsui, A. B. M., & Law, D. Y. K. (2007). Learning as Boundary-Crossing in School-University Partnership. Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 23.

Youniss, J., & Yates, M. (1997). Community Service and Social Responsibility in Youth. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press.