The Adolescent at the Center of Activity Systems in the Context of COVID-19: Redefining Routines and Relationships at the Heart of Learning



In March 2020, teenagers in Quebec, Canada suddenly faced with a challenge related to the way their learning activity was mediated following the closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies reporting the effects of human disasters and confinement in young people are limited. This study identifies the tensions experienced by 1057 adolescents as they redefine their relationship to family life, learning and school: mediation tools to their learning activities, spatiotemporal redefinition of their activities, modification of relationships with significant adults for them. Two theoretical frameworks are combined: the overlapping spheres of influence model and cultural historical activity theory. A questionnaire was sent online on an opensource survey software. The results present the demographic characteristics of the adolescents’ participants and their family, their general state of mind and daily routines adjustments at school and at home, and their perceptions with regards to their relations to their peers, teachers and their parents’ support. Findings pinpoint the tensions related to loss in the activity systems of adolescents as their school activity is challenged by the pandemic and proposes avenues to put in place a boundary zone to support the adolescent.

General Information

Keywords: adolescents, boundary crossing, cultural historical activity theory, school, family, tensions

Journal rubric: Educational Psychology


Acknowledgements. The research was done in context of the Centre of Research and Intervention for Student and School Success (CRI_SAS/CRIRES) Laval University.

For citation: Barma S., Deslandes R., Ste-Marie N. The Adolescent at the Center of Activity Systems in the Context of COVID-19: Redefining Routines and Relationships at the Heart of Learning. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2021. Vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 133–143. DOI: 10.17759/chp.2021170213.


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Information About the Authors

Sylvie Barma, Full Professor Faculty of Education, Laval University, Quebec, Director of the CRI_SAS, Canada, ORCID:, e-mail:

Rollande Deslandes, Emeritus and Associate Professor, Education Sciences Department, Quebec University in Trois-Rivieres, Canada, e-mail:

Nathalie Ste-Marie, Research Professional for the CRI_SAS, Laval University, Quebec, Canada, e-mail:



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