Understanding Change in Teachers’ Ways of Being through Collaborative Action Research: A Cultural–Historical Activity Theory Analysis

Document Type


Publication Date



educational technology, cultural–historical activity theory, action research, empowerment evaluation, professional development

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



Despite major efforts to change teachers’ practice through professional development activities, much remains as it always was. Our claim is that this rarely happens because significant change in how one teaches can only come about as a result of some realization about oneself as a teacher, and the resulting changes in identity. In recent years we have been studying the ways in which participation in collaborative action research (CAR) can result in changes in teachers’ ways of being. In this paper we report on a study of teachers engaged in CAR to improve their implementation of digital photography in their teaching. The whole group (n = 28) completed one cycle of action research as part of the evaluation of the program using empowerment evaluation methods. A subset (n = 5) chose to continue doing CAR. We used ethnographic methods including participant observation, interviews, and document analysis. In this paper we use cultural–historical activity theory to understand why our data suggest that there was little change in the teachers’ identity by the end of the first cycle of action research, while those who participated in both the initial action research and the CAR group had a change in their identities.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Educational Action Research, v. 18, issue 1, p. 29-55