This practitioner action research project involved eight students from an inner Melbourne Primary School who created explanatory animations in 2011. Third generation activity theory was used in this study as a methodological lens to examine the explanatory animation process at various stages as both a tool and an object. The explanatory animation creation task was initially the object of activity but as reflexive practice, the project itself became the unit of analysis. My claim here is that the children’s mental models, as depicted through the animation key frames, functioned as both flexible models and diagnostic tools.
Vygotsky and Sakharov's dual stimulation method was used as a theoretical framework to conduct the current study due to the close unity between conceptual tasks and their resolution. The dual stimulation method requires that “the subject must be faced with a task that can only be resolved through the formation of concepts” (Vygotsky, 1987, p. 124). Vygotsky explained the nature of this link by stating that “the path through which the task is resolved in the experiment corresponds with the actual process of concept formation” (Vygotsky, 1987, p. 128).
This research provides a chronology of the children's conceptual consolidation by providing a tangible insight into the children's evolving mental models.