Cultural Historical Approach to Thinking
at the University of Victoria


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Research Team




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Dialectics & Identity

Semiotic and Dialectical Approaches to Knowledge This research work was about different types of knowledge necessary for "navigating" between formal education and workplace, and about the coordination of these difference types of knowledge. We were especially interested in the many lively discussions about theoretical and philosophical foundations of Activity Theory that characterizes Chat@UVic. Our results are outlined in two articles: "What you should know to survive in knowledge societies: On a semiotic understanding of 'knowledge'," See abstract here and "Learning by Developing Knowledge Networks: A semiotic approach within a dialectical framework." See abstract here

Learning as Changing Participation From a dialectic perspective, we analyzed kindergarten science activities within the framework of cultural historical activity theory. In this work, we articulated learning as changing participation, and we used metaphors to explain the dialectics of learning and participation, individual and collective. Through the use of the metaphor of margin and centre (margin|centre), we contended that participation and learning are dialectically constituted between individual and collective. See abstract here Similarly, using the metaphor of darkness|ligh we presented learning as a dialectical process, from which children bring forth new worlds.

Navigating Boundaries: Learning in Unfamiliar Environments This reflexive learning research was part of a large-scale project, designed to understand and explain learning in and across different cultural environments: it was reflexive in that as researchers attempted to better understand their participants, they also came to better understand themselves. Through our experiences of collective research with an international student studying science at the university level, we developed dialectically reflexive research praxis and associated theories of human learning, of which the central aspect is the role of human bodies in communication. Our approach is of significant importance because it addresses and articulates the grounds of actions that real human beings use in practice, and therefore provides opportunities to learn about and change the world, as is salient to learners themselves in more ethically valuable ways.

Identity in Science and Mathematics This research is a cultural historical approach to the role of motive, motivation, and emotion in mediating participation and learning. Individual learners expand room to maneuver in their life situations as they recurrently move between different activities (e.g., school, workplace) and contribute to the collective control over the societal life conditions (e.g., scientific technology). Emotion, motivation, and motive are integral to knowing and learning this transitional movement and therefore mediate identity. In this research project, we conduct video-based ethnographic studies in science/mathematics with interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks.

Contact Us: Chat@UVic, MacLaurin Building, A420. University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada. V8W3N4. Tel:(250)721-7834 Fax:(250)721-7598