Activity Theory and Analyzing Learning in Simulations

Alexis Battista*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose. The purpose of this theoretical article is to demonstrate how activity theory, a neo-Vygotskian sociocultural theory, can be used to analyze learning during simulation-based activities. Background. Simulations are complex, dynamic environments that evolve and change throughout implementation. Moreover, simulations simultaneously support multiple participants’ assigned different roles. This means that the learning within them is often co-constructed, rather than individually derived. These characteristics complicate understanding the learning within them. Method. This article presents a summary of the basic tenants of activity theory (AT), followed by a worked example to demonstrate how AT can be used as an analytic lens to generate rich description and analysis of participant activities as embedded in a complex dynamic simulation. Conclusions. Activity theory can be used as a theoretical lens in order to account for how participants partake in simulation-based learning contexts, which supports the rich description and analysis of how participants accomplish their goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-196
Number of pages10
JournalSimulation and Gaming
Issue number2
StatePublished - 22 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Vygotsky
  • activity analysis
  • activity system
  • activity theory
  • co-construction
  • debriefing
  • roles
  • scenario-based simulation
  • simulation
  • simulation-based learning
  • sociocultural theory


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