AAU logo

Change Laboratory as Intervention Method for Research Team Building on Expansive Learning Theory

Lecturer: Professor Jaakoo Virkkunnen. Change and development research in education remains an intriguing area of knowledge. Professional Development is one of the main strategies in education to promote innovation but new ways of research and intervention methods are required. The course will set the basics of Change Laboratory as a formative intervention method for development in work educational settings.


15.12.2015 kl. 13.00 - 18.12.2015 kl. 11.30


Download program (pdf)

The Change Laboratory is a method for formative intervention in work activities developed by Prof. Yrjö Engeström and his colleagues in the CRADLE research center at the University of Helsinki. The method is based on collaboration between researchers and the practitioners in an activity. Contrary to many methods of intervention in work activities that focus on producing incremental improvements in work practices, the Change Laboratory method has been designed to initiate and support a concept-level transformation in an activity. It also produces unique data about the causes of problems and developmental possibilities in the target activity. That data can be analyzed to produce insights and generalizations concerning the challenges and developmental possibilities in the kind of activity as well as on processes of expansive learning and transformation of activities.  The method is based on the Cultural Historical Activity Theory, the Developmental Work Research Methodology, and the Theory of Expansive Learning (Engeström, 2000; Engeström, 1987/2015).   

The objective of the course: The course gives a basic knowledge of the concepts and principles the method is based on as well as how to plan, carry out, and follow up a Change Laboratory intervention. This knowledge prepares the participants to start developing the competence of applying the method in practice. The various ways of analyzing the data produced in the intervention are also discussed during the course.

The participants: Researchers that are interested in applying the Cultural Historical Activity theory and plan to carry out a developmental intervention in some work activity with another researcher. (The use of the method requires collaboration between at least two researchers as well as with the practitioners of a work community).  

Work methods in the course: Working in the course consists of lectures, case examples, application exercises and discussions. It is recommended that the participants familiarize themselves with Virkkunen & Newnham’s book: “The Change Laboratory. A tool for Collaborative Development of Work and Education” published by Sense Publishers in 2013.

The teacher: Prof. emer. of Developmental Work Research Jaakko Virkkunen from the University of Helsinki has been actively involved in the development of the Change Laboratory method and has used it in formative interventions in various kinds of public and private work activities for studying expansive learning and transformation processes in work activities.

Course program

Tuesday 15.12.

13.00            Introduction of the course and the participants

14.00            The Change Laboratory as an application of the three principles of

                      formative intervention:

                      1) activity as the unit of analysis

14.45             Coffee

15.15.           2) double stimulation

                      3) ascending from the abstract to the concrete      

16.30             End of course day 


Wednesday 16.12.

 9.00            Specifying the Change Laboratory intervention

10.00            Discussion on how to specify the Change Laboratory intervention

11.00            Planning the CL intervention as an expansive learning process

11.45             Lunch

13.00            Planning and carrying out Change Laboratory sessions

13.45            Coffee

14.15            Planning tasks to stimulate the questioning of prevalent practices

                       and ways of thinking

15.15            An exercise on planning the CL as an expansive learning process and on

                      planning a task to stimulate questioning 

 15.50            Discussion on the exercise        

 16.30            End of course day


Thursday 17.12.


  9.00            Historical analysis and the modeling of contradictions within the activity system

 10.00           Discussion on historical analysis and modeling of contradictions 

 11.00           Actual empirical analysis in the Change Laboratory                   

 11.45            Lunch

 13.00           Discussion on actual empirical analysis 

 13.45           Coffee

 14.15           Constructing a new model for the activity 

 15.15           Discussion on modeling

 15.45           Experimental implementation and follow up of the new model

 16.30            End of course day


Friday 18.12.


  9.00            Types of results of Change Laboratory interventions/

                      analysis of realized interventions

10.00            Review of and discussion on the core concepts and ideas of the

                      course. Concluding discussion

 11.30            End of the course




Engestròˆm, Y. (2000). Activity theory as a framework for analyzing and redesigning work. Ergonomics, 43(7), 960-974.

Engeström, Y. (1987/2015). Learning by Expanding.  An Activity-Theoretical Approach to Developmental Research. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

Virkkunen & Newnham (2013) The Change Laboratory. A tool for Collaborative Development of Work and Education. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. An e-version of the book is  available on Ebrary, EBSCO and SpringerLink.




Aalborg University, Rendsburggade 14, Room 6.235, 9000 Aalborg

Registration Deadline

18.11.2015 kl. 12.00

Register at


Go to event list