Chapter 3 Agency and Activity of Students from Non-Dominant Groups

Methodological and Ethical Issues

In: Doing CHAT in the Wild
Authors:
Isabelle Rioux
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Patricia Dionne
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Abstract

Within Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), a growing number of studies are interested in the activity of populations that other frameworks usually considered as passive actors. In the field of education (formal and informal), this is notably the case of the works of Gutiérrez (2008) and Gutiérrez and Jurow (2017) about members of non-dominant communities. In French traditions of ergonomy, linked to CHAT’s epistemological premises, some studies also take the activity of the student as research object. Those works have in common an emphasis on the active role of the subjects in their own apprenticeship and development by focusing on their activity. From this perspective, there is no more question of beneficiaries of services or of students who receive some teachings, but there are actors who, through the mediation of cultural tools, instruments and the interaction with significant others, gain progressive mastery of their learning and development. In addition, by virtue of their transformative aim, those works also contribute to stimulate the power to act of these populations. On a methodological level, this change of point of view requires some adaptations to study activity, or traces of activity, of population members of non-dominant groups. This chapter will discuss some methodological and ethical issues, based on experiences from the field and a review of literature from studies situated in CHAT. In particular, the underlying relation between the transformative and nomothetic aims of those researches will be discussed as other important ethical issues which are addressed by those studies.

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