The Use of Activity Theory in Literacy Research: Working and developing a vocational portfolio and the interaction of the two activities

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Zoe Nikolaidou


In this paper, I show the relevance of using Activity Theory in the study of situated literacy. In order to do that, I draw on ethnographic data collected during a six-month period that focuses on the literacy practices of a warehouse administrator who studies on a work-basis for the completion of a National Vocational Qualification in the UK. The employee’s work context and the process of studying for a qualification are examined here as two distinct activity systems, within which various literacy events are enacted and literacy practices are developed. The result is a detailed study of the interaction of these two activity systems, and it becomes clear that work practices and qualification practices are connected in many ways. One of the most important connecting factors is the vocational portfolio, which acts as a boundary object between the two distinct yet highly recontextualising activity systems.

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Author Biography

Zoe Nikolaidou, Södertörn University

Zoe Nikolaidou is a post-doc researcher at Södertörn University, Sweden. She completed her PhD thesis in Lancaster, UK, where she focused on the uses of literacy within vocational education. Her current research focuses on second language literacy at the workplace, methodological issues of literacy research and discourse analysis.