Department of Education

Learning across boundaries: levering out the findings of research

Research Team: Harry Daniels
Funder: ESRC
Date of Completion: December 2008


This small project was designed to assist in the process of levering out the knowledge from two ESRC TLRP projects.

  • Learning in and for Interagency Working ESRC TLRP RES 139-25-0100
  • Learning in and for interagency working: Multiagency work in Northern Ireland ESRC TLRP RES 139-25-0159

The overall intention was to organise, produce and present TLRP outputs more effectively for different audiences. The original aims and objectives have been met.

The two studies on which this project based developed and tested a model of work based professional learning for interagency working. This is the inter-professional learning that is necessary for, in our case, welfare services to provide joined up responses to complex problems. We enhanced research capacity through our use and development of an Activity Theory driven perspective on learning and Developmental Work Research (DWR) methods with practitioners and our discourse analysis techniques with research staff.

We identified a number of specific findings which are of direct interest to the academic community and whose implications are of interest to the policy field. Examples are: our approach to the analysis of vertical learning between operational and strategic levels within complex organizations; the refinement of notions of identity and subject position within Activity theory; the introduction of the concept of ‘labour power’ into Activity Theory; and the development of a method of analyzing discourse which theoretically coheres with Activity Theory and the design of the projects.

This work was linked with the Finnish Learning for Life Programme and the work of Prof Yrjo Engestrom and his colleagues. During the course of the project links were established with the Interlearn group led by Prof Sten Ludvigsen at the University of Oslo. Their work is exploring interagency learning in commercial and industrial settings. to explore similar issues ( professional learning in and for interagency working) across a number of different workplace settings in welfare, commercial and industrial settings



To convene a workshop with members of the four research sites (England, Northern Ireleand, Norway and Finland) in order to lever out the findings which are generic and those which are context specific. This process was to be facilitated through the preparation of papers and the appointment of respondents and rapporteurs.

The workshop was held at Oxford on 12th and 13th June 2008. The agenda is attached in Appendix A. We explored the extent to which findings are specific to cultural historical settings (states, sectors, professions) and the extent to which common outcomes are indicative of generic features of professional learning for new forms of interagency working.


The first published outcome was to be a publication which would act as a companion to our TLRP gateway book (publication 29/1/09). This was to be designed to present the theoretical and methodological findings which we were to be identified in the workshop and, in a second section, discuss the policy implications across a wide range of workplace settings.

A contract has been signed with Routledge (Taylor and Francis) for a book entitled ‘Activity Theory in Practice: promoting learning across boundaries and agencies’ and all chapters have been submitted following redrafting in the light of the commentaries from the Oxford workshop. The completed text will be sent to the publisher during February.


The second dissemination outcome was the presentation of a symposium at the ISCAR conference (September 2008) in which we presented the theoretical and methodological findings that emerge from the projects to the academic community which is concerned with the root metaphors and theories that have driven the projects.

This was symposium took place as planned and additional papers were presented in other symposia at the conference. See Appendix B for details.


The third planned dissemination outcome stated in the bid was an invited seminar for policy makers at which the generic and specific findings will be presented and discussed. The Childrens’ Workforce Development Council (CWDC) of the Department for Children Schools and Families agreed to collaborate in the development of this invited seminar (Promoting Integrated Practices: a Policy and Research Seminar - December 8th). The announcement of the day and attendance list are given in Appendix C


Summaries will be posted on the LIW website and papers written on the basis of the policy seminar hopefully with policy makers or at minimum with the critical response of policy makers. The paper for the website is in preparation. The CWDC will provide a response to the seminar alongside a summary of the findings as presented by the research team.

In addition to these events, a presentation has been made to the Local Government Association (LGA) by the lead analyst for commissioning and research. On the basis of this event the research team have received invitations to make presentations and join with policy discussions on developments in the post Haringey review context with the LGA and Transport for London and who have requested a presentation on interagency collaboration in May to 'The Injury Inequality Reduction Scheme'.

The LIW study was also presented and discussed at the TLRP final conference in London in November.