Adopting a Grounded Theory Approach to Cultural-Historical Research: Conflicting Methodologies or Complementary Methods?
Grounded theory has long been regarded as a valuable way to conduct social and educational research. However, recent constructivist and postmodern insights are challenging long-standing assumptions, most notably by suggesting that grounded theory can be flexibly integrated with existing theories. This move hinges on repositioning grounded theory from a methodology with positivist underpinnings to an approach that can be used within different theoretical frameworks. In this article the author reviews this recent transformation of grounded theory, engages in the project of repositioning it as an approach by using cultural historical activity theory as a test case, and outlines several practical methods implied by the joint use of grounded theory as an approach and activity theory as a methodology. One implication is the adoption of a dialectic, as opposed to a constructivist or objectivist, stance toward grounded theory inquiry, a stance that helps move past the problem of emergence versus forcing.