A tale of 2 partnerships: the challenges of small-scale and large-scale research communities

Mary Davis, Oxford Brookes International

This study reports on two very different partnerships that the researcher is currently involved in under the umbrella of the British Association for Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes (BALEAP). It will highlight both the challenges and the opportunities for professional development that external collaboration may bring.

The first began in 2007 and is small-scale involving 1-1 collaboration with an expert in phraseology at the University of Manchester who developed Academic Phrasebank, a web-based source of useful phrases for academic purposes. The project involved teaching the phrases to Pre-Master’s students at Brookes using a range of tasks, then assessing students’ skills in re-using the phrases at the end of the course, and six months later on postgraduate courses. The project was set up and developed through phone meetings and e-mails, but no face-to-face contact. Though unfunded, the research has progressed relatively easily and been very productive, generating interest in the role of reusable phrases in academic writing at 5 conferences. The researcher has also benefited from the close collaboration with a phraseology expert, who, in turn, was interested in the practical context to examine use of the web source.

The second is large-scale, involving 16 UK universities, as a tracking project to gauge the effectiveness of EAP courses before degrees. The project is funded by BALEAP and a conference is planned for June 2011 on the results. Efforts have been made to make use of new media such as Moodle to develop the research, and two face-to-face meetings have been held. A huge amount of e-mail contact in mailing groups has also been made and many ideas have been shared. Since the project began in January 2009, many amendments have also been made; for example, the aim was to have a joint methodology, but this has become unfeasible in the range of contexts. The researcher concludes that collaboration in large-scale projects presents different challenges to small-scale research.  Colleagues may be interested in the comparison of issues for small and large-scale research communities in HE.

Powerpoint presentation (649KB)