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Project POST-16 STRATEGIES - Finding new strategies for post-16 education by networking vocational and academic/general education and working life to improve the parity of esteem for initial vocational training (initial project)

SPES-NET - Sharpening the post-16 educational strategies by horizontal and vertical networking (multiplier project)

Overview The initial project POST-16 STRATEGIES aimed to examine and compare [national] strategies of integrating vocational and general education and training (Lasonen, 1996, p. V).

Through collaboration the partnership gradually adopted comparative elements while reaching understanding through mutual learning (Lasonen 1998a, p. 22; 1998). The major method was a structured collaborative writing process where an interdisciplinary international team of experts generates the results of its analysis in and through writing. The project also applied joint seminars (workshop) of the partners and cross-national study visits. Study visits to (pilot) schools were used to promote collaboration between research institutes, educational agencies and schools, thereby reinforcing existing networks between teachers, administrators and researchers, and giving an impetus to create new ones. (Lasonen, 1996, pp. VI; 1996a, p.7; 1998a, pp. 16, 22-26)

A provisional synthesis of country studies (case studies) resulted in a conceptual framework, describing four strategies (Raffe 1996, pp. 273-278); the reports were reconstructed according to common themes, and the strategies were analysed once more against a common conceptual map, the inter-strategy comparison was combined with intra-strategy comparison in country pairs, the focus of this collaborative process was on the lessons and questions received from the other partners' experience (Lasonen, 1998a, pp. 26-31).

The project SPES-NET, picking up on the collaborative approach including workshops, evaluated the strategies in an enlarged partnership and created a typology of strategies and substrategies. The partners disseminated the findings (dissemination) in a process of shared learning, involving national and transnational networks (networking) (Stenström, 2000, pp. 15-28; 2000a; Young, 2000).

Insight The research approach is described in detail, referring both to the interplay of methodological elements and their evolution in the process of project work (Lasonen, 1998a, pp. 15-33). Particular attention is paid to the results of shared learning, including an overview of the questions that team members asked one another, and a table assembling the lessons and critique that team members gave each other (Lasonen, 1998b, pp. 169-185). 

Raffe (1996, pp. 273-278) presents a conceptual framework, including a grid showing typical contexts of the four strategies, and offers hypotheses for further study. Young (1998, pp. 147-162) takes the comparative analysis further by developing a framework of substrategies. Outlines of a common framework of comparison, related to the four strategies and the relationship between general and vocational education, are elaborated by Kämäräinen (1996, pp. 21-26). 

Further reflection on the approach to comparative and collaborative analysis, related to these two projects and to INTEQUAL/ DUOQUAL, is provided in a joint study (Lasonen et al., 2000a, pp. 316-325; 2001). For a discussion on the complementary relations between research issues, modes of work and experiences on collaboration and mutual learning in the projects INTEQUAL/ DUOQUAL and POST-16 STRATEGIES/ SPES-NET see Kämäräinen (1999a, 2000a, 2001).

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