Activity theory as a framework for designing constructivist learning environments

  • David H. Jonassen
  • Lucia Rohrer-Murphy

DOI: 10.1007/BF02299477

Cite this article as:
Jonassen, D.H. & Rohrer-Murphy, L. ETR&D (1999) 47: 61. doi:10.1007/BF02299477


The epistemic assumptions of constructive learning are different from those of traditional instruction, so classical methods of needs and task analysis are inappropriate for designing constructivist learning environments (CLEs). This paper argues that activity theory provides an appropriate framework for analyzing needs, tasks, and outcomes for designing CLEs. Activity theory is a socio-cultural, socio-historical lens through which designers can analyze human activity systems. It focuses on the interaction of human activity and consciousness within its relevant environmental context. Since conscious learning emerges from activity (performance), not as a precursor to it, CLEs should attempt to replicate the activity structures, tools and sign systems, socio-cultural rules, and community expectations that performers must accommodate while acting on some object of learning. After explicating assumptions of activity theory and briefly describing the components of CLEs, this paper describes a process for using activity theory as a framework for describing the components of an activity system that can be modeled in CLEs.

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • David H. Jonassen
    • 1
  • Lucia Rohrer-Murphy
    • 2
  1. 1.The Pennsylvania State UniversityUSA
  2. 2.The Pennsylvania State UniversityUSA