Whilst there is a growing body of literature on practitioner research and the role of collaborations and partnerships that include universities in that process, there are relatively few studies examining the role of the university in any depth. We reflect on 12 years of working in school-university collaborative research partnerships through an analysis of the exchanges between teachers and academics as documented by interviews, case studies and project reports. We draw upon a sample of 90 teachers in 51 schools covering all phases of compulsory schooling.
Focusing on the exchanges between the university and partnership schools, we extend the idea of radical collegiality to encompass teacher to academic dialogue in the process of mutual transformation. We contribute to the development of greater conceptual clarity regarding school-university research partnerships and their potential to contribute to the creation and translation of knowledge about teaching and learning. The interplay of the project as the context, the role of enquiry and the development and use of tools by the participants is outlined and a model for understanding the dynamics of school-university partnerships proposed.
We suggest that the project as a space- and time-limited context inclusive of partner institutions may have the scope to reconcile the tension between an impetus for exclusive bonding and the flexibility of bridging across structures in social networks. We conclude that the model of the exchanges between partners is fruitful in unravelling the relationship between theory and practice in the pursuit of knowledge about teaching and learning.