Changing Educational Traditions with the Change Laboratory

  • Louis Royce Botha University of South Africa-SA Medical Research Council Francie van Zijl Drive Cape Town, Western Cape, 7505, ZA South African Medical Research Council Tygerberg, 7505, ZA
Keywords: Change Laboratory, educational traditions, mapping, mediation, cultural-historical activity theory


This paper outlines the use of a form of research intervention known as the Change Laboratory to illustrate how the processes of organisational change initiated at a secondary school can be applied to develop tools and practices to analyse and potentially re-make educational traditions in a bottom-up manner. In this regard it is shown how a cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) perspective can be combined with a relational approach to generate the theoretical and practical tools for managing change at a school. Referring to an ongoing research project at a school, the paper describes how teachers and management there, with the aid of the researcher, attempt to re-configure their educational praxis by drawing on past, present and future scenarios from their schooling activity. These are correlated with similarly historically evolving theoretical models and recorded empirical data using the Vygotskyian method of double stimulation employed by the Change Laboratory. A relational conceptualisation of the school’s epistemological, pedagogical and organisational traditions is used to map out the connections between various actors, resources, roles and divisions of labour at the school. In this way the research intervention proposes a model of educational change that graphically represents it as a network of mediated relationships so that its artefacts, practices and traditions can be clearly understood and effectively manipulated according to the shared objectives of the teachers and school management. Such a relationally-oriented activity theory approach has significant implications in terms of challenging conventional processes of educational transformation as well as hegemonic knowledge-making traditions themselves.