Blending activity theory and critical realism to theorise the relationship between the individual and society and the implications for pedagogy
This paper draws on Margaret Archer's morphogenetic realist social theory and the philosophy of critical realism upon which it is based, and activity theory to analyse the relationship between the individual and society, and the implications this relationship has for the way we understand learning. It is important that we theorise this relationship, because our ontological assumptions shape our understandings of the nature of learning, and have implications for the way we construct learning environments and develop policy, qualifications, and curriculum. In particular, I argue that conceptions that downplay individual agency tend to privilege workplace learning at the expense of the broader development of the individual, and do not take sufficient account of the unequal power relationships that structure the socio-cultural context in which learning takes place. Approaches that ignore the social, result in abstract and disembodied learning divorced from the social context in which it is to be realised. Understanding the relational interplay between the individual and society and the relative autonomy of both, results in policy and pedagogy that does not reduce the needs of the learner to the needs of work-place and identifies the different needs of both.
Studies in the Education of Adults