Research in the Sociocultural and Activity Theory research group focuses on learning across the age range, with a particular focus on the institutional conditions for learning and professional practices.

Our members also collaborate with researchers across the department’s research groups to bring insights from Sociocultural and Activity Theory to bear on a wide range of research projects. Members draw broadly on cultural historical theory and the work of Vygotsky and his intellectual legacy. These intellectual resources allow us to:

  • examine the relationship between individual learning and the social situations in which that learning occurs. The focus helps us to see teaching and learning, whether in the workplace or in more formal settings, as a process through which we take on what is valued in a culture and in turn begin to contribute to that culture;
  • focus on activity and the actions within activities in order to understand why and how people engage with tasks and problems.
  • focus simultaneously on individual learning and changes in the system or systems in which learning is occurring.

Selected publications

  • Tatto, M. Burn, K. Menter, I., Mutton, T. & Thompson, I. (2018) Learning to Teach in England and the United States: The Evolution of Policy and Practice. London: Routledge.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9781315160320
  • Daniels, H. (2017) Introduction to Vygotsky: Third edition.  DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9781315647654
  • Edwards, A. (2017) Cultural historical theory and pedagogy: the influence of Vygotsky on the field, in R. MacLean (Ed.) Handbook on Life in Schools and Classrooms: Past, present and future visions. Dordrecht, Springer.
  • Thompson, I. (2017) Tackling Social Disadvantage through Teacher Education. St Albans: Critical Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9781315160320.
  • Thompson, I. and Tawell, A. (2017) Becoming Other: Social and Emotional Development through the Creative Arts for Young People with Behavioural Difficulties. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 22 (1): 18-34. doi/full/10.1080/13632752.2017.1287342
  • Daniels, H. (2016) Vygotsky and dialogic pedagogy.  In D. Skidmore and K. Murakami (eds.) Dialogic pedagogy: The importance of dialogue in teaching and learning.48-67:
  • Daniels, H, Tse, HM, Stables, A, and Cox, S (2017) “Design as a social practice: the design of new build schools”, Oxford Review of Education. 43(6): 767-787.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2017.1360176
  • Daniels, H. (2016) Applying Activity Theory in Multiagency Settings. Cultural-Historical Psychology. 12(3) 15-26.
  • Fancourt, N. (2016) Creating a System of Distributed Expertise: The Oxford Education Deanery Narrative. In: A. Edwards (ed.) Working Relationally in and across Practices A Cultural-Historical Approach to Collaboration. Cambridge University Press.
  • Thompson, I. and Wittek, A.L. (2016) Writing as a mediational tool for learning in the collaborative composition of texts. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 11: 85-96.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lcsi.2016.05.004

Study with us

Taught courses

DPhil in Education
MSc in Learning and Teaching
MSc in Education

Examples of current DPhil projects

  • Kasper Munk ‘External dimensions of in-the-moment teacher decision-making’
  • Sonia Khan ‘Learning from classroom experiences: A sociocultural analysis of teacher expertise’
  • Issac Lim ‘Interprofessional Teams: A Complex Adaptive System Approach’
  • Alice Tawell  ‘Enacting school exclusion policy in England: a multiple case study’
  • Marion Waite ‘Exploration of genre and development of academic identity between learner-teacher dyads when participating in a facilitated writing group’

Examples of past DPhil projects

  • Minjeong Song ‘Beginning teachers’ identity and agency: A case study of L2 English teachers in South Korea’
  • Jessica Chan ‘Teachers’ understanding of the purposes of group work and their relationship with practice’
  • Tatiana Rodriguez Leal ‘”I sometimes question myself ” the learning trajectories of four senior managers as they confronted changing demands at work’
  • Desmond Tan ‘Student teachers learning to use Assessment for Learning in schools’
  • Prabhat Rai ‘Building Common Knwoledge: A cultural historical analysis of pedagogical pracieces at a rural school in Rajashtan, India’


Daniels, H., Ming-Tse, H., Porter, J. and Thompson, I. (2017 – 2018) Building on Design Matters: The codesign of guidance on building schools University of Oxford’s Social Sciences ESRC Impact Acceleration Account