By Yrjo Engestrom
This slim (122pp. without end matter) guidebook was published by the International Labour Office in 1994, seven years after Engestrom's highly theoretical Learning by Expanding. Although Training for Change is certainly different—a practical guidebook for workers rather than a theoretical text for academics—it's certainly rooted in Engestrom's theoretical work in general and activity theory in particular.
As Engestrom says in the introduction, this guidebook is meant for human resources development, personnel training, and other instances in which adults are being trained. Engestrom wants these adults to undergo actual learning: "meaningful construction and creative use of intelligent cognitive tools"; "participation, collaboration, and dialogue in communities of practice"; and "criticism of the given, as well as innovation and creation of new ideas, artifacts and forms of practice" (p.1).
Meaningful learning, Engestrom argues, involves construction: the student must not just receive but construct a picture of the world (p.12). Engestrom illustrates this proposition with the Vygotskian triangle, in which the "Learner" (subject) examines the object, a "problem" or "phenomenon needing explanation," via instruments, "tools of observation and experimentation, books, other people's explanations, etc." (p.12). The basis of productive learning, he says, is internalization, in which "we gradually loosen ourselves from concrete, external means and switch over to performing actions with the help of abstract concepts" (p.13). In fact, high-quality knowledge results from "continuous two-way movement between concrete details and general principles" (p.14).
Engestrom breaks down learning into different types: conditioning, imitation (p.15), trial-and-error (p.16), investigation (p.17), and expansive learning (p.17). The last is, of course, Engestrom's preferred topic: it represents "third-order learning" in which the learner "questions the validity of tasks and problems posed by the context and begins to transform the context itself" (p.17).
Investigative learning involves exposing contradictions to create a context of criticism (p.24). As in Learning by Expanding, Engestrom here draws on Davydov to describe an integral learning process with moments of motivation, orientation, internalization, externalization, critique, and control (pp.32-33). "An integral learning process also leads back to reality and practice, at a new level," Engestrom adds, neatly explaining the dialectical spiral of learning (p.34). Engestrom also maps Davydov's learning cycle onto the Vygotskian triangle, showing how the steps of the process entail movements among the triangle's elements (here, S=Subject, O=Object, T=Tools):
- motivation: S->O
- orientation: O->T
- internalization: T->S
- externalization: S->O
- critique: O->T
- control: T->S (p.35)