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