Tuesday, November 15, 2005

what Engestrom thinks

Hi everyone, I was looking around for some responses to Lave & Wenger's model of situated learning for my paper. I read an article by Yrjo Engestrom (the activity theory guy as most probably know), called "Expansive Learning at Work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization" (2001). In it, he lumps together LPP (that's how I've seen people referring to Legitimate Peripheral Participation) with Hutchins' work, as both rely on well-bound systems:

"Recent theories of situated learning (L&W, 1993 and W, 1998) and distributed cognition (Hutchins, 1995) tell us to look for well-bound communities of practice or functional systems, such as task-oriented teams or work units, to become collaborative subjects of learning...But in the multi-organizational field of children's medical health care in Helsinki, there is no well-bounded work unit that could conceivably be the center of coordination...the center does not hold...in our case, learning needs to occur in a changing mosaic of interconnected activity systems which are energized by their own inner contradictions" (140).

And elsewhere:

"For situated learning theory, motivation to learn stems from participation in culturally valued collaborative practices in which something useful is produced. This seems a satisfactory starting point when we look at novices gradually gaining competence in relatively stable practices. However, motivation for risky expansive learning processes associated with major transformations in activity systems is not well explained by mere participation and gradual acquisition of mastery" (142).

Seems interesting. He doesn’t say that Hutchins and LPP are not useful, rather, that activity theory is a better method/framework for more complicated systems. But, the language of “mere” participation...hmmm.

(Whenever I see the term LPP, I get that terrible song in my head..."you down with LPP? Yeah you know me." that's just terrible. i'll bet it's in your head now too. ha ha. too bad for you.)


Blogger Jim said...

"When [L]PP comes, damn skippy I'm with it"

Question: Is it fair to lump LPP and Hutchins together? I'm not so sure. It seems that Hutchins goes a step further than L&W by saying that context isn't just a backdrop - rather, it's constitutive.

Still, I'm interested in this idea that Hutchins/LPP rely on "stable" or "well-bound systems." I'm still not completely convinced that the systems analyzed are as well-bound as Engstrom says, though.

I'm curious about this part, though:

"risky expansive learning processes associated with major transformations in activity systems"

What kind of systems is he talking about here?

9:54 PM  
Blogger jmj said...

I like that song.

I don't think Hutchins's theory is dependent on examination of "well-bounded systems." Perhaps the confusion is that the system he examines is well-bounded. It seems the theory has really flexible boundareis: the hospital system might need to be the entire hospital, for instance.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Anthony M. said...

I don't know about lumping LPP and Hutchins either, but I don't think Laave and Wenger take context as neutral backdrop. At the very least I think they want to consider overlapping communities of practice; that is, they consider communities of practice as the backdrop for other communities of practice and these intersections do not lack significance.

I also really don't think that groupd have to be well-bound to be communities of practice. The definition of the group depends on what is identified as the relevant practice....etc.

4:54 PM  
Blogger mdl said...

hey guys--if y'all are interested in looking at this question further I can bring in the article.I agree it is a debatable, artificial "lumping." Engestrom seems to be clearing space for his thesis--which is obviously a rhetorical move. But I'd like to debate/explore this notion of a methodological split between "open" and "functional system" more (unless I missed a cool debate in class last night, in which case, I'll take a recap).

Also, I agree with Anthony in his assessment of L&W. Context seems to be constitutive of not just process but "identit" as well. far more that just a backdrop?

9:08 AM  

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