‘Case studies exploring the tensions and challenges of educational collaboration: practitioner research practices to improve collaborative learning.’


Article written by Cloud 3: Strategies to Improve Teaching and Learning Environments

One of the most effective ways to support new – or experienced – teachers and researchers is collaborating with others. And even better if our collaborations are both local and international!

But collaboration does not always go as smoothly as one would hope. So how can we use the possible tensions and conflict inherent in some practitioner-researcher collaborations creatively? How can we co-construct and gather ideas and resources relating to educational collaboration? What methods, tools and spaces are at our disposal for collaborative practitioner research to improve learning?

During the EAPRIL 2018 Conference in Slovenia, Cloud 3 explored practitioner-researcher practices which aim to improve collaborative learning. Using three case studies, we explored the pros and cons of collaborative learning. We shared our understanding of some of the key words:

Collaborative learning: The expression collaborative learningis used to describe a situation in which people attempt to learn together under certain socio-cognitive conditions: it involves face-to-face interactions or teacher-student interactions, as well as ICT or mediated social interactions (Giglio, 2015; Tartas & Giglio, 2016).

Complementarity, vulnerability/security and emergence:Indeed, Moran & John-Steiner (2004) examined identity and motivation in light of three characteristics of collaboration in creative work: complementarity (with different perspectives, expertise, temperaments, needs…); tension between vulnerability and security; and emergence as a creative process based on roles, working methods and levels of commitment.

Based on three cases, the Cloud 3 workshop participants explored different types of collaborations and levels of difficulty (e.g. teacher trainers and trainees, practitioner and research collaborations) examining the nuances of language; people’s vulnerabilities and inhibitions; and/or power imbalances.

(Inter)individual and international collaboration: The first case study examined the unprecedented collaboration between over 100 international media organisations. Over a year, journalists worked on a secret investigation into the ‘Panama Papers’ which comprised 11.5 million leaked files, with 40 years of data from Mossack Fonseca, a law firm based in Panama. During the largest collaborative investigation in journalism history, reporters jointly exposed the offshore holdings of world political leaders, as well as hidden financial dealings of fraudsters, drug traffickers, billionaires, celebrities, sports stars and more. Over 100 media organisations, which had not necessarily worked together before, agreed to keep this collaborative investigation quiet for a year and to publish their stories on the same date.

(Inter)institutional collaboration:The second case study looked at an Australian professional development project entitled ‘Quality Teaching Action Learning’ (Reynolds et al 2013) which encouraged collaboration between three University academics and 35 school teachers in 2003, to improve practice.  Teacher educators worked as partners to schools in a state-sponsored teaching and learning skills project. They described this collaboration as ‘dancing in the ditches’ (Australian ditches can harbour snakes and other dangers), often requiring both groups to get out of their comfortable spaces and engage with each other in constantly moving situations.

(Inter)professional activities’ collaboration: finally, the third case exposed the partnership which had been formed between Formula 1 motor racing and London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), to change the way that young patients were treated. Two senior doctors had realised that there were similarities between the handover disciplines from an Operating Theatre to Intensive Care Unit in their hospital; and what they were seeing in the pit lane of a racing team, when a team changed all tyres on a racing car within seven seconds.

The Formula One team analysed the hospital’s procedures and recommended a new hospital handover protocol with more sophisticated procedures and better choreographed teamwork. The gain for patients was safety. Before the new handover protocol, approximately 30% of patient errors occurred in both equipment and information. Afterwards, only 10% occurred in both areas.

This interactive workshop was inspired by the concept of ‘‘interthinking’’ (Littleton & Mercer, 2013; Eliahoo, Giglio, & van Wessum) as a process of investigating collaborative talk. We have asked Cloud 3 participants to help co-construct and gather elements of collaboration and also to suggest ways of using possible tensions/conflict creatively which are being collated in an online collaborative text in evolution.

Rebecca Eliahoo, EAPRIL board member, UK

Marcelo Giglio, HEP-BEJUNE, Switzerland


Eliahoo, R., Giglio, M., & van Wessum, L. (2018). Tools to Improve Collaborative Lifelong Learning. Journal of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences, SPECIAL ISSUE “Practitioner researchers’ current and future visions of education & learning”, https://uasjournal.fi/in-english/improve-collaborative-lifelong-learning/.

Giglio, M. (2015). Creative Collaboration in Teaching. New York, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Great Ormond Street Hospital http://asq.org/healthcare-use/why-quality/great-ormond-street-hospital.html

Littleton, K. and Mercer, N. (2013). ‘interthinking’: putting talk to work. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Moran, S., & John-Steiner, V. (2004). How Collaboration in Creative Work Impacts Identity and Motivation. In D. Miell, & K. Littleton (Eds.), Collaborative Creativity: Contemporary perspectives.London : Free Association Books.

Panama Papers https://www.icij.org/investigations/panama-papers/

Reynolds, R., Ferguson-Patrick, K. and McCormack, A. (2013). ‘Dancing in the ditches: reflecting on the capacity of a university/school partnership to clarify the role of a teacher educator’. European Journal of Teacher Education, 36(3), 307-319.

Tartas, V., & Giglio, M. (2016). Collaborative design in school: Conflicts, contradictions, agreements and disagreements to learn. In E. Railean, G, Walker, L. Jackson & A.