Challenges of development work: Instrumentality and constellation of rules as conceptual resources

Marianne Teräs


Professional and vocational institutions are facing challenges due to changes in working life: increase of knowledge work, digitalization, globalization and constant need for improvement of practices. The aim of this paper is to explore organizational change efforts in two educational institutions. First case introduces the vocational college, in which focus of development was new training for immigrant students. The second case presents development work done within training of dentists and oral-hygienists. Theoretical and methodological anchoring of both cases was cultural-historical activity theory and developmental work research, which is an approach evolved in the 1980s in Finland. It combines scientific research, practical development work and learning, called expansive learning. In developmental work research projects one of the theoretical tools is an activity-system model. My focus will be on two elements of the activity-system model: instruments or instrumentality and rules or constellation of rules. It seemed that, at least, partial failure of development work in two educational institutions was due to lack of taking into account the systemic whole of activities under development: activity of learning in multicultural context and in context of patient care.



instrumentality; rules; developmental work research; cultural-historical activity theory; activity-system model

Full Text:




CAIRNS, L. & MALLOCH, M. (2011): Theories of work, place and learning: New directions, in M. MALLOCH et al., The SAGE handbook of workplace learning, pp. 3-16 (Los Angeles, SAGE)

COLE, M. & ENGESTRÖM, Y. (2011): Cultural-historical approaches to designing for development, in J. VAALSNER & A. ROSA, The Cambridge handbook of sociocultural psychology, pp. 484-507 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press)

ENGESTRÖM, Y. (1987/2015): Learning by expanding. An activity-theoretical approach to developmental research, Second edition (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press)

ENGESTRÖM, Y. (1990): Learning, working and imagining: Twelve studies in activity theory (Helsinki, Orienta-Konsultit)

ENGESTRÖM, Y. (1999): Expansive visibilization of work: An activity-theoretical perspective, Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 8, pp. 63-93.

ENGESTRÖM, Y. (2001): Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization, Journal of Education and Work, 1, pp. 133-156.

ENGESTRÖM, Y. (2007): Enriching the theory of expansive learning: Lessons from journeys toward coconfiguration, Mind, Culture, and Activity, 1, pp. 23-39.

ENGESTRÖM, Y. (2011): Activity theory and learning at work, in M. MALLOCH et al., The SAGE Handbook of Workplace Learning, pp. 86-104 (Los Angeles, SAGE )

ENGESTRÖM, Y., ENGESTRÖM, R., & VÄHÄAHO, T. (1999): When the center does not hold: The importance of knotworking. In S. CHAIKLIN et al., Activity theory and social practice: Cultural-historical approaches, pp. 345-374 (Aarhus, Aarhus University Press)

ENGESTRÖM, Y., & MIETTINEN, R. (1999): Introduction, in Y. ENGESTRÖM et al., Perspectives on activity theory, pp.1-16 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press)

ENGESTRÖM, Y. & SANNINO, A. (2010): Studies of expansive learning: Foundations, findings and future challenges, Educational Research Review, 1, pp. 1-24.

ILJENKOV, E. V. (1977): Dialectical Logic: Essays on its history and theory (Moscow, Progress)

LEONT’EV, A. N. (1978): Activity, consciousness and personality (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall)

OSTROM, E. (2007): Developing a method for analyzing institutional change. Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University. Working Papers 07-1. Retrieved December, 17, 2015 from

TERÄS, M. (2007): Intercultural Learning and Hybridity in the Culture Laboratory (Helsinki, University of Helsinki, Department of Education)

TERÄS, M. (2015): Kehittävä kulttuurienvälisyys [Developmental interculturality]. Ammattikasvatuksen aikakauskirja, erikoisnumero,pp. 41-54. Retrieved January, 20th, 2016 from

TERÄS, M. (2012): Learning in “Paperland”: Cultural tools and learning practices in Finland, Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 2, pp. 183–197.

TERÄS, M. (2016): Inter-professional working and learning: instructional actions and boundary crossing or boundary making in oral healthcare. Journal of Education and Work, 5, pp. 614-636.

TERÄS, M. & NUUTINEN, E. (2010): Ammattikorkeakoulu- ja yliopisto-opiskelijat oppimassa työtä yhdessä [The students at the university of applied sciences and at the university are learning work together], Ammattikasvatuksen aikakauskirja, 2, pp. 55-67.

TERÄS, M. & MIETTINEN, R. (forthcoming): The problem of remediation in the development of work – the case of oral-health care. Manuscript in progress.

WARTOFSKY, M. W. (1979): Models: Representation and the scientific understanding (Vol.XLVIII) (Dordecht, D. Reidel)

VYGOTSKY, L.S. (1978): Mind in society: The development of higher mental processes (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press)



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 Revista Española de Educación Comparada

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Revista Española de Educación Comparada (REEC)

Faculty of Education. UNED. 
c/ Juan del Rosal, 14
28040 - MADRID (Spain) 
Phone number: +34 654 73 1122



ISSN (printed version): 1137-8654
ISSN (electronic version): 2174-5382
Legal Deposit: M.38499-1995