Historical Transformations of Pedagogic Practice: a Socio-cultural and Activity Theory Analysis of Preparation for Work in Russian Schools

  • Anna Popova

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis investigates how students are prepared for work in schools in the context of post-communism in Russia. It aims to gain an understanding of what theories and processes constitute preparation for work in Russian schools. In the light of how they have changed as a result of the fall of communism in 1991, the thesis seeks to explore the ways in which students are prepared to enter the world of work. The socio-cultural and activity theory is employed to explore the relationship between students’ engagement in pedagogic practices and macro historical transformations in Russia that have affected it. The methodology includes a documentary analysis of teacher-training textbooks, which were used in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and a case study of preparation for work in a secondary school in Perm, Russia, which involved a group of thirty teachers and thirty students. Biographical interviews were conducted with thirty individuals who lived through the economic and social transformations caused by the events of 1991. The analysis of the data demonstrates that preparation for work in Russian schools is a combination of two pedagogic processes – vospitanie, which refers to the overall up-bringing of children, and ‘professional orientation’, which provides career guidance. The literature review and documentary analysis have revealed that the events of 1991 have influenced the ideological underpinning of vospitanie and professional orientation, especially in terms of humanisation of pedagogic processes. However, with regard to the conceptual framework, vospitanie and professional orientation have remained relatively intact. These pedagogic concepts emphasise a dialogic relationship between students and teachers. The case study analysis shows that the teachers’ conceptualisation of vospitanie and professional orientation reflect the findings from the documentary analysis, but the teachers have interpreted the theory in the ways that reflect their various, historically formed views of preparation for work. Some of these views, expressed by the teachers who were trained in the Soviet time, do not support the new humanistic approach advocated in the literature; instead, the focus is on differentiation by ability and on academic achievement. Combined with the fact that the case study school does not offer practical vocational experience, this provides some explanation of why only those students who receive support from outside the school are better prepared than others to overcome the challenges of the new market economy. Those students who do not receive relevant support outside the school are developing dispositions towards employment, which are less likely to help them progress in the context of the market economy.
Date of Award1 Oct 2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHarry Daniels (Supervisor)


  • pedagogy
  • Russian education
  • preparation for work
  • Vygotsky

Cite this