A Study of Collaborative School-University Partnerships Involving Teams of Educators from Bulgaria and the United States
Date of Award
Doctor of Education
Vincent A. Anfara, Jr.
Robert B. Cunningham, Gregory C. Petty, Gerald C. Ubben
The purpose of this qualitative case study was to analyze collaborations involving three teams of educators participating in a school-university partnership, the "My Place, Your Place, Our Place: Integrating Education for the Neighborhood and the World" project. The three groups of educators included the Tennessee team (a school-university partnership), the Bulgaria team (a school-university partnership), and the setting created by the combination of both (a cross-cultural integration).
The conceptual framework for this research was based upon Sarason’s (1972) work, The Creation of Settings and the Future Societies. Due to the intercultural nature of this project, Hofstede and Hofstede’s (2005) five dimensions of national culture were used to understand the challenges to collaboration within the combined team.
This qualitative case study focused on two research questions. First, what were the challenges in creating collaborations within the three teams of educators involved in the “My Place, Your Place, Our Place (MYO Place)” project? Second, what were the similarities and differences in challenges across these three teams? Data sources included interviews with nine participants from the Bulgaria team and nine from the Tennessee team, a variety of project documents, and field notes. The qualitative software program, Ethnograph Version 5.0, was used to analyze data using the constant comparative method. The principal investigator served as a participant observer.
The challenges to collaboration within and across the three settings of the MYO Place project were consistent with Sarason’s (1972) theory, but differences in findings across the three teams were greater than similarities as a result of national cultural distinctions between Bulgaria and the United States. When comparing the Bulgaria and Tennessee teams, the similarities in challenges included the reality of professional role differences, lack of time, the reluctance to establish norms to deal with inevitable conflict, and the lack of resources. In terms of differences, the unique struggles experience by the Tennessee team included a lack of consensus on values and goals, deficiencies in conceptual understanding, and the challenge of achieving shared leadership and ownership. For the Bulgaria team, their distinctive challenges to collaboration included dependence on their partner, meeting the expectations of a foreign partner, and the language barrier.
The challenges to collaboration for the combined team were time, distance, language, and primarily the differences in culture. The most significant findings of this research were the challenges to collaboration created by the cultural differences.
This study concludes with recommendations for further research and implications for educators engaged in creating collaborative partnerships. This research supports prior knowledge of the difficulty of creating collaboration within new settings and the multiplied complexity when partnerships involve different national cultures.
Diden, Edward L., "A Study of Collaborative School-University Partnerships Involving Teams of Educators from Bulgaria and the United States. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 2007.