[xmca] CRADLE: New research center on CHAT

From: Yrjö Engeström <yrjo.engestrom who-is-at helsinki.fi>
Date: Wed Nov 19 2008 - 04:16:13 PST


Two research centers functioning under the auspices of the Faculty of
Behavioral Sciences, University of Helsinki, namely, the Center for
Research on Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research (Department
of Education) and the Centre for Research on Networked Learning and
Knowledge Building (Department of Psychology), have decided to merge
and form a new, internationally oriented research unit starting on
January 1, 2009. The name of the new unit is the Center for Research on
Activity, Development, and Learning (CRADLE). The Department of
Education will be the mother organization of the new Center at the
University of Helsinki. Through a series of workshops and discussions,
the participating investigators and partners are creating a research
program for the new centre and developing the model of its scientific

The Center for Research on Activity Theory and Developmental Work
Research (http://www.edu.helsinki.fi/activity/) has pursued
ground-breaking research based on cultural-historical activity theory
(CHAT) since 1994. This multi-disciplinary research unit, which
functioned as a national centre of excellence from 2000 to 2005, has
significantly contributed to the development of CHAT-based research to
a globally highly regarded paradigm. The methodology of developmental
work research elaborated in the Center has significantly enriched
research on work life and work-related learning. The Center has carried
out a large number of research projects concerning work, education, and
innovations; trained several generations of doctoral students; and
produced numerous international publications. The doctoral program of
the Center has produced 22 PhD dissertations; in addition,
investigators of the Center have supervised 11 other doctoral
dissertations. International evaluations indicate that the Center’s
impact has increased continuously.

For more that 10 years, the Centre for Research on Networked Learning
and Knowledge Building (www.helsinki.fi/science/networkedlearning) has
pursued learning research based on psychology and cognitive science,
from elementary-level education to higher education. Many
investigations have addressed how learning and human intellectual
resources can be expanded by relying on collaborative technologies
based on information and communication technologies. During the most
recent years, the centre’s research activity has expanded toward
investigating personal and collective learning processes taking place
in knowledge-intensive organizations. Simultaneously, the group that
was originally oriented toward cognitive study of individual learning
has moved toward socio-cultural and activity-theoretical research.

In the background of merging the research units are positive
collaborative experiences concerning the large EU-funded
Knowledge-Practices Laboratory project (www.kp-lab.org) and exciting
novel research challenges emerging from these interactions. There are
22 organizations from 15 countries which take part in this project,
focused on developing ”trialogical” technology for facilitating
collective creation of knowledge.

The purpose of the new CRADLE is to create a stronger research
community with higher international impact and attraction, a national
and international cradle of activity-theoretical and socio-cultural
research. Within the new Center, the following five professors will
each lead their respective research groups: Yrjö Engeström (research on
activity theory and expansive learning in transformations of work and
organizations), Kai Hakkarainen (research on epistemic technologies),
Reijo Miettinen (research on innovations and organization of research
work), Pirita Seitamaa-Hakkarainen (research on craft, design, and
learning), and Jaakko Virkkunen (research on interventions and the
formation of new operating concepts in organizations). A number of
post-doctoral researchers and doctoral students, as well as visiting
researchers pursuing nationally and internationally funded research
projects, will work in the new Center. The Center is responsible for
the Doctoral Program of Adult Education and Developmental Work Research
(part of the national graduate school of educational research KASVA -
http://vanha.edu.utu.fi/kasva/) as well as for the Master’s Program of
Adult Education and Work Development (ATMO -

The following will be some of the research foci of the new CRADLE:
- Human activity in societal and cultural contexts across everyday
life, school, work, and communities of science and culture;
- Technology-intensive knowledge practices in educational systems and
working life; expansion and augmentation of human activity potentials
through collaborative learning supported by information and
communication technologies;
- Learning from the developmental perspective, especially expansive
learning associated with radical transformations of activity concepts;
- Human activity in heterogeneous networks that break organizational,
institutional, cultural, and national boundaries by various means;
- New forms of work and organization of activity within a globalizing
world; human potentials of guiding the development of their activities
within global organizations;
- Pursuit of innovation and design as challenges of work and learning;
- New potentials, instruments, and forms of agency and collaboration.

The Center is focused on reciprocal interaction between theory and
practice. Many investigations of the Center are formative interventions
that use the Change Laboratory method. CRADLE will work in a close
collaboration with work organizations, educational institutions, and
organizations pursuing investigative developmental consulting
(including the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Verve
Consulting). The Center continues and expands its collaboration with
polytechnics (universities of applied sciences), developing and
investigating pedagogical solutions that cross boundaries between
education and work. International collaborators of CRADLE include the
Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition at University of California,
San Diego, as well as research centers based on activity theory and
socio-cultural approaches at the universities of Bath and Oxford
(United Kingdom) and Kansai University (Osaka, Japan).

Helsinki, November 19, 2008

Yrjö Engeström (yrjo.engestrom@helsinki.fi)
Kai Hakkarainen (kai.hakkarainen@helsinki.fi)

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