Articulating the Shape and Purpose of the ‘Knot’ in Collaborative Activity, and Unraveling it Back at the Ranch
Mike Doyle, email@example.com
‘Partnership’ or inter-agency working is seen as the means to deliver educational policy initiatives, such as in widening participation in higher education in the UK. In attempting to access new work practices of partnering this paper evaluates the use of an ‘interventionist’ and developmental research strategy (from cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT)) to obtain data on initial conceptualisations of the learning priorities of partners from three sectors (university, college and local government) on a shared Foundation Degree, and how they articulate and prioritise its subsequent development. This involves consideration of the perspectives that partners bring to the collective process (at the ‘knot’), and their impact on the prioritising of interpretations, as well as their subsequent implementation in partners’ own contexts. CHAT provides access to researching processes of development.
However, a problem with this theoretical and methodological perspective is that the partnership developmental process is taken, ontologically, to be collective: individuals are contributing to collective social practices, and learning is conceptualized as the transformation of the social practice of the group. This causes difficulties when trying to ‘unpack’ partnership, for example in accessing interpretations, perspectives and priorities of partners in processes of development. It is also problematic when attempting to analyze issues of power, competing discourses and hierarchies of expertise within the partnership and its emergence, as well as how issues are interpreted and afforded in different partner professional contexts away from the ‘knot’.
The paper proposes using an analytical framework which accesses individual and collective perspectives heuristically, not as conceptual polarities, but as linked and interdependent (analytical dualism). This approach enables an analysis of partnership over time (temporal-longitudinal dimension) and between locations (collective-individual practices, socio-spatial dimension). In doing this it models a process of partnering which recognizes the interdependence and complexity of individual-collective, and contextual dimensions in a way that is consistent with CHAT.