CRADLE - A New Center for Investigation Activity, Development, and Learning

Two research centers functioning under the auspices of the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, namely, the Center for Research on Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research (Department of Education) and the Centre for Research on Networked Learning and Knowledge Building (Department of Psychology), have decided to merge and form a new, internationally oriented research unit at the end of 2008. The name of the new unit is the Center for Research on Activity, Development, and Learning (CRADLE). The Department of Education will be the mother organization of the new Center at the University of Helsinki. Through a series of workshops and discussions, the participating investigators and partners are creating a research program for the new centre and developing the model of its scientific management.

The Center for Research on Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research has pursued ground-breaking research based on cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) since 1994. This multi-disciplinary research unit, which functioned as a national centre of excellence from 2000 to 2005, has significantly contributed to the development of CHAT-based research to a globally highly regarded paradigm. The methodology of developmental work research elaborated in the Center has significantly enriched research on work life and work-related learning. The Center has carried out a large number of research projects concerning work, education, and innovations; trained several generations of doctoral students; and produced numerous international publications. The doctoral program of the Center has produced 22 PhD dissertations; in addition, investigators of the Center have supervised 11 other doctoral dissertations. International evaluations indicate that the Center’s impact has increased continuously.

For more that 10 years, the Centre for Research on Networked Learning and Knowledge Building has pursued learning research based on psychology and cognitive science, from elementary-level education to higher education. Many investigations have addressed how learning and human intellectual resources can be expanded by relying on collaborative technologies based on information and communication technologies. During the most recent years, the centre’s research activity has expanded toward investigating personal and collective learning processes taking place in knowledge-intensive organizations. Simultaneously, the group that was originally oriented toward cognitive study of individual learning has moved toward socio-cultural and activity-theoretical research.

In the background of merging the research units are positive collaborative experiences concerning the large EU-funded Knowledge-Practices Laboratory project and exciting novel research challenges emerging from these interactions. There are 22 organizations from 15 countries which take part in this project, focused on developing ”trialogical” technology for facilitating collective creation of knowledge.

The purpose of the new CRADLE is to create a stronger research community with higher international impact and attraction, a national and international cradle of activity-theoretical and socio-cultural research. Within the new Center, the following five professors will each lead their respective research groups: Yrjö Engeström (research on activity theory and expansive learning in transformations of work and organizations), Kai Hakkarainen (research on epistemic technologies), Reijo Miettinen (research on innovations and organization of research work), Pirita Seitamaa-Hakkarainen (research on craft, design, and learning), and Jaakko Virkkunen (research on interventions and the formation of new operating concepts in organizations). A number of post-doctoral researchers and doctoral students, as well as visiting researchers pursuing nationally and internationally funded research projects, will work in the new Center. The Center is responsible for the Doctoral Program of Adult Education and Developmental Work Research (part of the national graduate school of educational research KASVA) as well as for the Master’s Program of Adult Education and Work Development (ATMO).

The following will be some of the research foci of the new CRADLE:

  • Human activity in societal and cultural contexts across everyday life, school, work, and communities of science and culture;
  • Technology-intensive knowledge practices in educational systems and working life; expansion and augmentation of human activity potentials through collaborative learning supported by information and communication technologies;
  • Learning from the developmental perspective, especially expansive learning associated with radical transformations of activity concepts;
  • Human activity in heterogeneous networks that break organizational, institutional, cultural, and national boundaries by various means;
  • New forms of work and organization of activity within a globalizing world; human potentials of guiding the development of their activities within global organizations;
  • Pursuit of innovation and design as challenges of work and learning;
  • New potentials, instruments, and forms of agency and collaboration.

The Center is focused on reciprocal interaction between theory and practice. Many investigations of the Center are formative interventions that use the Change Laboratory method. CRADLE will work in a close collaboration with work organizations, educational institutions, and organizations pursuing investigative developmental consulting (including the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Verve Consulting). The Center continues and expands its collaboration with polytechnics (universities of applied sciences), developing and investigating pedagogical solutions that cross boundaries between education and work. International collaborators of CRADLE include the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition at University of California, San Diego, as well as research centers based on activity theory and socio-cultural approaches at the universities of Bath and Oxford (United Kingdom) and Kansai University (Osaka, Japan).

Helsinki, November 19, 2008

Yrjö Engeström (
Kai Hakkarainen (

Recent Publications

  • Kaatrakoski, H., Littlejohn, A. & Hood, N. Learning challenges in higher education: an analysis of contradictions within open educational practice. High Educ (2016). doi:10.1007/s10734-016-0067-z Publication>>

  • Kaatrakoski, H., & Lahikainen, J., "What We Do Every Day Is Impossible": Managing Change by Developing a Knotworking Culture in an Academic Library, The Journal of Academic Librarianship (2016), Publication>>

  • Kajamaa, A. & Lahtinen, P. (2016). Carnivalization as a new mode of collaboration. Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 28 Iss 4 pp. 188 - 205. DOI Publication>>

  • Sannino,A., Engeström, Y. & Lemos, M. (2016). Formative Interventions for Expansive Learning and Transformative Agency, Journal of the Learning
    DOI: 10.1080/10508406.2016.1204547 Publication>>
  • Sannino, A., Engeström Y. & Lahikainen, J. (2016). The dialectics of authoring expansive learning: tracing the long tail of a Change Laboratory. Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 28 Iss 4 pp. 245 - 26 Publication>>
  • Engeström, Y. & Sannino, A. (2016). Expansive learning on the move: insights from ongoing research / El aprendizaje expansivo en movimiento: aportaciones de la investigación en curs. Journal for the Study of Education and Development/ Infancia y Aprendizaje Publication >>
  • Rantavuori, J., Engeström, Y., & Lipponen, L. (2016). Learning actions, objects and types of interaction: A methodological analysis of expansive learning among pre-service teachers. Frontline Learning Research, 4(3), 1-27. Publication >>
  • Korpela, J., Miettinen, R., Salmikivi , T., & Ihalainen, J. 2015. The challenges and potentials of utilizing building information modeling in facility management. The case of the Center for Property and facilities of the University of Helsinki. Construction Management and Economies 33(1), 3-17. Publication >>
  • Kerosuo, H., Miettinen, R., Paavola, S., Mäki, T. & Korpela, J. 2015. Challenges of the expansive use of Building Information Modeling in construction projects. Production 25(2), 289-297.Publication >>
  • Miettinen, R., Tuunainen, J. & E.   Esko (2015).  Epistemological, Artefactual and Interactional–Institutional Foundations of Social Impact of Academic Research. Minerva 53(3), 257-277 Publication >>
  • Sannino, A. (2015). The principle of double stimulation: A path to volitional action. Learning, Culture, and Social Interaction, 6, 1-15. Publication >>
  • Sannino, A. (2015). Double stimulation in the waiting experiment with collectives. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science. DOI: 10.1007/s12124-015-9324-4 Publication >>
  • Sannino, A. & Vainio, J. (2015). Gendered hegemony and its contradictions among Finnish university physicists. Gender and Education. DOI:10.1080/09540253.2015.1045455 Publication >>
  • Kerosuo H., Miettinen, R., Paavola S., & Mäki T., (2015). Challenges of the expansive1 use of Building ­Information Modeling (BIM) in construction projects. Production Journal, vol.25, n.2, p.289-297, 2015 Publication >>
  • Engeström Y., Kajamaa A., Lahtinen P. & Sannino A. (2015). Toward a Grammar of Collaboration, Mind, Culture, and Activity, 22:2, 92-111, DOI:10.1080/10749039.2015.1024326 Publication >>
  • Schulz, K-P., Kajamaa, A. & Kerosuo, H. (2015). Creating innovative work practices through reflexive interventions. International Journal of Work Innovation 1 (2): 143 - 160. DOI: 10.1504/IJWI.2015.071193 Publication >>
  • Seppänen, L. (2015). Review of 'Collaborative projects: an interdisciplinary study'. Book edited by Andy Blunden. Outlines - Critical Practice Studies, 16(1), 93-97. Publication >>
  • Vänninen I., Pereira-Querol M., Engeström Y. (2015). Generating transformative agency among horticultural producers: An activity-theoretical approach to transforming Integrated Pest Management Original Research Article. Agricultural Systems, Volume 139, October 2015, Pages 38-49 Publication >>
  • Kerosuo, H. (2015). BIM-based collaboration across organizational and disciplinary boundaries through knotworking. 8th Nordic Conference on Construction Economics and Organization. Procedia Economics and Finance, 21, 201-208.Publication >>
  • Mäki, T. (2015) Multi-disciplinary discourse on design-related issues in construction site meetings. 8th Nordic Conference on Construction Economics and Organization. Procedia Economics and Finance, 21, 231-238. Publication >>
  • Mäki, T. and Kerosuo, H. (2015) Site managers' daily work and the uses of building information modelling in construction site. Construction Management and Economics, published on line 5 May, 2015. Publication >>

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