Evaluation approach

An Activity Theory approach was used to frame this evaluation.  Activity theory views human activities, such as providing open classes, as complex socially situated phenomena.

Activity systems are socio-cultural settings where community members (subjects) work on some sort of object or ‘problem space’, transforming it into an outcome using tools which may be technological (such as software) or conceptual (such as pedagogic theory). The tool-mediated action may be constrained or enabled by implicit and explicit rules and the broader social context (community) within which the activity takes place. Labour is divided among the community members (roles). (Centre for Activity Theory 2004).

Activity theorists focus on the factors that shape activities and interactions, norms and practices at the local level (Billet, 2003; Englestrom & Middleton, 2006). They are concerned with the role of those activities in mediating and influencing the nature of the outcome, as well as the extent to which individuals are able to make decisions about how they engage in these activities (which in turn influences social practice).

Focus areas (from Activity Theory Triangle)


  • Community: social context; all actors involved in the activity system (impact/changes)
  • Tools: the artifacts (or concepts) used by actors in the system (model/approaches)
  • Rules: conventions, guidelines and rules regulating activities in the system (institutional context)
  • Roles (division of labour): social strata, hierarchical structure of activity, the division of activities among actors in the system (roles/skills)

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