Re: Self-Determination theory versus SCT and AT

From: George (
Date: Mon Feb 07 2005 - 16:06:13 PST

Dear Lara and Rodrigo,

thank you for your postings. I find that Lara's posting is a key
statement in view of

> ... the self plays a major role--a self embedded in a context.

Because, the following are some of the reasons why I am also breaking
my head (trying to be illogically logical hereafter - so, please feel
free to correct and challenge me!):

- personal activity is also a CONTEXTUAL entity
- one of the source elements of contextual activity is motivation
leading to goal-orientation
- motivation has numerous interconnected facets (that's why I brought
up the article (cf. [1]) which determine one's self
- an integral part of one's self is motivation

Hence, important considerations on the basis of our discussion are:

Does activity theory (I am addressing CHAT as well as SSTA) really
include and address all motivational and goal-oriented aspects relevant
to online learning (or e-Learning)? Online learning is by far more
complex than offline or classroom learning (cf. [2]) because of e.g.,
its interdisciplinary issues, the inclusion of technology, the
impossibility that a computer can make human decisions. Hence, contrary
to offline learning, a learner's self-determination is and should be
regarded a key issue in online learning. Therefore, this means that in
an e-learning environment, a learner's motivational activities need be
explored continuously i.e., throughout an entire course at any point of
milestone activity. In consequence, if true, we will always need to
investigate a learner's motivation. How can this investigation be done
on the basis of activity theory? what are the parameters? Well, then
Rodrigo, would we not then exactly need methods like Landa's? Also, if
you agree that an e-Learning environment continuously needs to
investigate a learner's activity, teacher's activity will also need to
be analysed. Hm, and then, how to combine or elaborate both learner's
and teacher's activity?

 From here then, we will need to investigate further what activity
theory means in view of e-Learning and how to deploy activity theory:

How can we deploy (learning and teaching) activity theory for online
contents (e-Learning) when considering the different facets of
motivation and goal-orientation, the ever so needed self-determination
in virtual environments, and how (i.e., the practical processes,
practical parameters, practical measures, practical indices) can we
continuously analyze the activities (i.e., their motivation and their
goals) of a learner AND the teacher on the basis of activity theory (be
it CHAT or SSTA)?

--> in order to think in an all encompassing schemata for e-Learning
(i.e., Weltanschauung or world view) (cf. [3])?

What do you think? Or, are my questions not eligible?

Best regards,

[1] W. Lens and P. Rand, "Motivation: About the “why” and “what for” of
human behavior", in International conceptual history of psychology, K.
Pawlik and G. d’Ydewalle (Eds.). Hove: Psychology Press, (2005 in

[2] H. von Brevern, "Cognitive and Logical Rationales for e-Learning
Objects", Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 7 (2004) 4, pp.

[3] T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of
Chicago Press, Chicago, 1970.

On Feb 7, 2005, at 9:11 PM, Lara Beaty wrote:

> Jim, Rodrigo, and George,
> I've had the question George started off with (what about SDT?) in the
> back of my mind for days because I started my dissertation with Deci
> and Ryan's work very much in my mind. It is in this last message that
> my thoughts have crystalized.
> As I am finishing my dissertation, Deci and Ryan are no longer on my
> mind. I found that their work was very consistent with my
> undergraduate education and that it was nicely optimistic about what
> was "really" going on in people's heads. But as I have focused on the
> contexts of classroom activity, it no longer had anything to
> contribute. I still tend to fall back on a position like their's when
> I debate "education" with my spouse, but it doesn't help then either;
> I am accused of asserting a belief without evidence. What works is to
> examine the contexts and the histories of the people involved.
> Rodrigo wrote:
>> Usually students must keep the learning demands in the foreground
>> as they manage their work and home life, there is no fixed time to be
>> in
>> class or other cues to say, "time to learn"... In this sense I do
>> think
>> that in the context of online learning, theories that are more focused
>> on the individual, such as SDT, can illuminate an activity analysis
>> approach and vice versa.
> Rodrigo began with an insightful description of possible contexts of
> online learning for students but concluded by stressing the
> individual. Perhaps SDT has something to offer, but everything from
> WHERE students have access to a computer to why they chose an online
> course are important parts of the context and not parts of the
> individual. I agree that Holland's work is useful, more useful than
> SDT.
> As a parent, I am very aware that my children's choice of activities
> has a great deal to do with what I have initiated with them. They
> transform what I have done with them, but their interest in reading,
> for example, has a great deal to do with the fact that I rarely
> withhold my attention when they bring me a book. What I might once
> have thought of as an innate desire to master an activity or as a way
> of asserting one's existence, I now see as--and find concrete evidence
> of--emerging from face to face interactions. On the other hand, my
> research with adolescents suggests that the self plays a major role--a
> self embedded in a context.
> These have shaped my thinking more than SDT:
> Holland, D., Lachicotte, W., Jr., Skinner, D., & Cain, C. (1998).
> Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge: Harvard University
> Press.
> Litowitz, B. E. (1997). Just say no: Responsibility and resistance.
> In M. Cole, Y. Engstrˆm, and O. Vasquez (Eds.), Mind, culture, and
> activity: Seminal papers from the laboratory of comparative human
> cognition (pp. 473-484). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
> Stetsenko, A., & Arievitch, I. M. (2004). The self in
> cultural-historical activity theory: Reclaiming the unity of social
> and individual dimensions of human development. Theory & Psychology,
> 14(4): 475-503.
> I don't feel quite resolved on this issue, though, so please tell me
> what you think.
> Lara
> On Monday, February 7, 2005, at 11:36 AM, Jim Rogers wrote:
>> hi rodrigo,
>> I'm working through similar issues in my research in on-line classes.
>> What I will share with you is based on weekly interviews I conducted
>> with 5 students in an on-line class. I am still in the "figuring out
>> what all this means" stage which the more work with the ideas, the
>> more
>> I realize that this might simply be an endless iterative stage ;)...
>> but
>> still the dissertation must be handed in at some point
>>> It seems to me that quite often what happens in e-learning is that
>>> the
>>> learner is essentially working by himself, of course situated in a
>>> specific learning context, culture, probably with other learners or
>>> at
>>> least a facilitator, etc, but in the absence of a "campus" or
>>> classroom
>>> other contexts such as work, family, personal needs, etc. could
>>> affect
>>> how learners self regulate their learning more than in a face to face
>>> environment... In fact those that choose online learning probably do
>>> it
>>> because that personal context does not allow him to learn in a face
>>> to
>>> face environment.
>> I have found similar issues in my own work. But rather than look at
>> the
>> issues from a 'motivation/goal' standpoint- which to me almost seems
>> 'external' to the individual, i.e. yes there are goals (or possibly in
>> terms of CHAT thought- motive hierarchies- see leontiev and chaiklin's
>> more recent article on personality) but how are they formed and how do
>> they become part of the individual? Rather, the way I have been
>> looking
>> at it is through the lens of identity and agency, e.g. Who are these
>> students who participate in our classes and how do they develop into
>> the
>> students they are? Of course this is the basis of developmental psych
>> (look at Scribner's article on Vygotsky's use of history as an
>> excellent
>> overview). What I am beginning to see is that the students in my
>> class
>> did come in motivated to learn and excited to take the online class
>> but
>> over the course of the semester they sort of fell back on their
>> identity
>> as undergraduate students, which in turn mediated their activity.
>> I'll give a couple of examples here to help clarify. This identity was
>> based partly on how they saw their selves in the classroom (and how
>> they
>> saw the role of the teacher)- for example, they felt it was not their
>> role to comment critically on others' work or ideas and that others
>> might think 'who the heck are you to be saying such things'. You can
>> see that this would severly limit participation in the class (consider
>> this in contrast to a group of teachers I had set up an online
>> workshop
>> for a few years back who far exceeded the participation requirements
>> that I had set out. They saw their role and mine as the teacher
>> completely differently and acted as such. In fact it wasn't until, I
>> had to be gone for a week that the participants actually took control
>> of
>> the class... but that's another story). Another issue was related to
>> how the students viewed the class- which was a required undergraduate
>> writing class. They categorized this class as one of the many
>> required
>> classes which often consisted of a lot of 'jumping through the hoops'
>> tivated' to do them.
>> What I found was that these ideas- which mediated their activity- had
>> formed both in the university and before in high school and had become
>> part of their identity as a student over time. Now of course, the
>> interesting question would be to see if they held a similar identity
>> in
>> one of their major classes (and from my interviews I had the inkling
>> they did) but that is someone else's dissertation.
>> If this sounds interesting to you, I would look to Dorothy Holland's
>> work (Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds) for an excellent overiew
>> which has a good combinateion of theory and examples. I am working
>> on a
>> manuscript with a CSCL slant that might be readable in a couple of
>> weeks
>> and I would be happy to pass that along.
>> what do you think???
>> jim


Research in e-Learning Objects, e-Learning meta data standards,
didactical activity, Systemic-Structural Activity Theory, and
Socio-cultural Theory

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