Investigating educational issues across Europe (ACROSS Base)
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Method Topic study (INTEQUAL/ DUOQUAL)
Description "In order to penetrate deeper into the characteristics of dual qualifications, a different approach was adopted in the second year: the analysis of selected topics by small groups of partners... The aim was to link up joint research in the topic teams with national investigations, mostly accompanying research being carried out by the partners in their own countries...

As a general pattern of collaboration in the teams, partners put forward the evidence of their national investigations, worked out points of common interest and carried out transnational studies on this basis. In some cases, these studies included additional transnational investigations. Mostly, however, they focused on a comparative analysis and evaluation of national results." (Lasonen et al., 1998, p. 2)

"Based on the national case studies and the comparative survey, topics have been selected for carrying out detailed collaborative investigations of the schemes of dual qualification across groups of countries. The topics cover major aspects of dual qualifications... Each investigation draws on evidence both of empirical research available from the countries concerned and of joint analysis within the topic team. This process of collaboration has been supported by a dialogue with practitioners and policy makers, including special workshops." (Manning, 1999+, >Topic studies INTEQUAL/ DUOQUAL)

Discussion "All partners agree that these topic studies in teams have been the most fruitful part of the project. What are the specific merits of this approach? What are the drawbacks? 

(1) By drawing on national accompanying research, a wealth of evidence and experience is fed into the project. The investigations relate to various schemes (reforms, national qualifications, pilot projects) including a wide range of approaches (empirical analyses, evaluations and action research). They provide rich opportunities for building up transnational studies focused on common points of interest. In this way, an enhanced transnational level of accompanying research emerges.

(2) Joint work within an individual topic team obviously benefits from a close match of research approaches... 

(3) Collaborative investigation of a topic requires comparative work at an operational level. This starts out from a basic understanding of each other's schemes acquired in previous project work. However, in the course of the joint topic study each partner reconstructs this understanding in a targeted way: in greater detail and at a higher level of reflection. This is facilitated by integrating studies, direct experience (study visits) and, above all, dialogue between the partners. This process of mutual learning within the topic team builds up the competence for transnational analysis and conclusions.

(4) A major aim of investigating joint topics is to identify shared problems and potential solutions. The collaborative studies greatly feed back to national accompanying research. The ultimate aim of providing a stimulus for the national analysis and debate on the schemes, however, requires an additional dimension: the inclusion of policy makers and practitioners in the joint topic work... 

(5) While the topic studies enable teams of partners to study schemes in depth, they split up the the partnership in fairly separate units. A final phase of collaboration is required to draw threads together and reflection on the joint results." (Lasonen et al., 1998, p. 2f.)

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