00002527.doc - Tale of two institutions exploring...

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Tale of two institutions: exploring collaboration in research partnerships Nicky Solomon, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia David Boud, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia Maria Leontios, NSW Department of Education and Training, Australia Maret Staron, NSW Department of Education and Training, Australia Paper presented at SCUTREA, 31st Annual Conference, 3-5 July 2001, University of East London A drive to collaborate has become a pervasive feature of contemporary research. Collaboration is now a term that has come to have very positive connotations. Researchers should engage with external partners, the contexts they are working in and with the concerns and issues of others. Without an emphasis on collaboration we are not seen as relevant, understanding of priorities or committed to our institutions. What is the reality of such collaborations, what is involved in them and how are they made to work? This paper explores a particular research partnership in which the authors are currently involved. By so doing we hope to identify some of the key features of successful collaboration from the perspective of researchers themselves. The partnership involves two Australian educational institutions, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and Department of Education and Training (DET). DET is a very large state government department responsible for the state school and vocational education system of New South Wales. Together UTS and DET have obtained an Australian Research Council grant as part of the Strategic Partnerships with Industry - Research and Training (SPIRT) program. The research aims to determine the extent and nature of the significance of informal learning and its contribution to organisational performance. In tune with the collaboration process, we, the chief investigators (from UTS) and the industry researchers ( from DET), are co-authoring this paper. Also in the spirit of the 'work as learning' focus of the research, we are collectively using the research process as an opportunity to explore the way we, as researchers, are workplace learners. This exploration, as exemplified in this paper, involves a reflexive commentary on our own collaborative research practices. This commentary involves the development of a case study on 'real' people doing collaborative research in a particular socio-cultural context. But we will also use this reflexive commentary of a 'real life collaboration' to consider methodological processes and conditions that can further develop current understandings of collaborative research practices. The paper begins by discussing the contemporary context of collaborative research and of our enquiry, and then briefly considers the significance of this form of research in relation to existing collaborative research models. We then describe the various reflexive practices that we used to deliberately explore the complexities of collaborative research. The first is an explication of the different layers of collaboration in this research process. The second is an analysis of some texts that have been produced
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