Activity, Subjectification, and Personality: Science Education from a Diversity-of-Life Perspective

  • Wolff-Michael RothEmail author
Part of the Cultural Studies of Science Education book series (CSSE, volume 8)


Science education research tends to be concerned with phenomena that appear on its inside – e.g., inside science classrooms, labs, museums, clubs – and generally forgets that we structure our everyday lives in terms of the activities that we engage in and the hierarchical relations between the object/motives that orient each of these activities. But life is diverse, and science education is only a minor part in the everyday life of a person. Rather than thinking about learning through the narrow perspective of the science curriculum, I suggest we need to think it from a diversity-of-life perspective. It is precisely this diversity of life that is at the source of diversity science educators often write about. In this chapter, I articulate a cultural-historical activity theoretic perspective that contextualizes science and science education in the everyday life of a person more generally. I show how within and across the diverse activities, which are characterized by specific object/motives that they are oriented to, we become subjects (a process that I denote by the term subjectification) and persons simultaneously. Moving across multiple activities leads each individual to develop of a hierarchy of collective object/motives. The hierarchy of object/motives developing as a result of our continual movement across the diverse activities of our daily lives shapes a continual developmental process that I term personality. The individual personality, therefore, consists of an ensemble of collective objects/motives that are arranged in a singular hierarchy. To concretize the theoretical aspects of this chapter, I draw on materials from the ten ethnographic studies in which my students and I have followed individuals over periods of 3–10 years within and outside of science.


Science Education Fecal Coliform Care Assistant Science Identity Personal Trainer 
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This research was supported by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I am grateful to Pei-Ling Hsu, who, supported through these grants, collected the data as part of her dissertation and postdoctoral work in my laboratory. I thank the participants, who have agreed to be part of our research program over such a long period of time.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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