Instrumental genesis in the design studio

  • Lucila CarvalhoEmail author
  • Roberto Martinez-Maldonado
  • Peter Goodyear


The theory of Instrumental Genesis (IG) accounts for the mutual evolution of artefacts and their uses, for specific purposes in specific environments. IG has been used in Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) to explain how instruments are generated through the interactions of learners, teachers and artefacts in ‘downstream’ classroom activities. This paper addresses the neglected ‘upstream’ activities of CSCL design, where teachers, educational designers and educational technologists use CSCL design artefacts in specific design-for-learning situations. The paper shows how the IG approach can be used to follow artefacts and ideas back and forth on the CSCL design and implementation pathway. It demonstrates ways of tracing dynamic relations between artefacts and their uses across the whole complex of instrument-mediated activity implicated in learning and design. This has implications for understanding the communicability of design ideas and informing the iterative improvement of designs and designing for CSCL.


Collaborative design Design for CSCL Design research Educational design Instrumental genesis Mediated action 



The authors acknowledge the financial support of the Australian Research Council (Grant FL100100203). The studies were conducted under protocol 2012/2794 approved by The University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee.


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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of EducationMassey UniversityAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Connected Intelligence CentreUniversity of Technology SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Research on Learning and InnovationThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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