22 SES 10 C, Academic Work and Professional Development
In the study of tertiary education, multi-national initiatives such as the Bologna Process have led increasing numbers of scholars to seek understanding across cultural and national differences. The number of studies based on international research collaborationhas increased over the past two decades (Kosmützky and Krücken, 2013). A growing proportion of published research in higher education is the product of international research collaboration (Kosmützky and Nokkala, 2013; Teichler, 2013). Despite increases in the frequency in which researchers from different nations collaborate to study tertiary education, there is by comparison little systematic discussion of what sorts of collaborative research arrangements in multi-cultural teams are effective.
This paper presents findings from an exploratory study of one international research collaboration in the field of higher education. It draws on the analysis of the authors’ experience and is informed by prior research on cross-cultural research methods.
Rambur (2009) offers a conceptual framework that describes various kinds of academic research collaborations. The framework suggests that research collaborations differ based on the complexity of individual and institutional interfaces that have to be negotiated in order for the research collaboration to achieve its aims. Our paper focuses on what Rambur labels a Category 4 type of research collaboration, namely, a project characterized by disparate academic languages and cultures.
International research collaboration is one form of cross-cultural research. Cross-cultural research is defined by Ember and Ember (2001) as a series of “systematic comparisons that explicitly aim to answer questions about the incidence, distribution, and causes of cultural variation” (p. 2). Prior research from the health sciences, psychology, sociology, and anthropology has delineated some of the challenges and opportunities associated with conducting cross-cultural research (e.g. Colucci, 2008; Harkness et al, 2006; Laverack and Brown, 2003). These include cultural sensitivity, language issues, participation of bicultural researchers, gaining access to participants, ethical issues, and obtaining socially and culturally appropriate form of informed consent (Liamputtong, 2008). The main characteristics of effective cross-cultural research are contextual understanding, sensitivity to language and culture, and the adoption of a collaborative, flexible stance (Sullivan and Cottone, 2010). Our study connects the broader notion of cultural sensitivity to the specific concept of cultural intuition (Strauss and Corbin, 1990), the ability of individuals with special insider knowledge to navigate and understand various contexts.
While studies in other disciplinary fields offer important insights about the characteristics of cross-cultural research, there are comparatively few examples (Penny et al, 2000; Brew et al, 2013) of detailed cases based on naturalistic inquiry that describe how specific research teams have collaborated in the field of education research.
A review of recently published research in the field of comparative education found that only 22% of studies used a case study methodology and few of these were in the area of higher education (Foster et al., 2011). This low usage of case study methodology may reflect incomplete understandings of both the opportunities of using case study methodology in a cross-cultural, collaborative setting in higher education research and approaches to overcoming the challenges.
To improve understanding of the challenges and opportunities of using case study methodology in international research collaborations, this study addresses the following research questions:
- What are the key challenges related to conducting research on higher education in a cross-cultural, collaborative setting?
- What particular challenges pertain to conducting case study research in such a setting?
- What are some of the strategies that researchers have used to overcome these challenges?
The findings offer useful insights and implications for designing and conducting case study research on higher education in an international research partnership.
Brew, A., Boud, D., Lucas, L., & Crawford, K. (2013). Reflexive deliberation in international research collaboration: Minimising risk and maximising opportunity. Higher Education, 66, 93-104. Colucci, E. (2008). On the use of focus groups in cross-cultural research. In P. Liamputtong (Ed.), Doing cross-cultural research: Ethical and methodological perspectives (pp. 233-252) Springer. Ember, C. R., & Ember, M. (2001). Cross-cultural research methods. Lanham, MD: Altamira Press. Foster, J., Antiaye Addi, N., & Samoff, J. (2011). Crossing borders: Research in comparative and international education. International Journal of Educational Development, 32, 711-732. Harkness, S., et al (2006). Mixed methods in international collaborative research: The experiences of the international study of parents, children, and schools. Cross-Cultural Research, 40(1), 65-82. Kosmützky, A., & Nokkala, T. (2013). Challenges and trends in comparative higher education: An editorial. Higher Education, Published online 26 November 2013. Kosmützky, A., & Krücken, G. (2013). Growth or steady state? A bibliometric focus on international comparative higher education research. Higher Education, Published online 8 December 2013. Laverack, G. R., & Brown, K. M. (2003). Qualitative research in a cross-cultural context: Fijian experiences. Qualitative Health Research, 13(3), 333-342. Liamputtong, P. (2001). Doing research in a cross-cultural context: Methodological and ethical challenges. In P. Liamputtong (Ed.), Doing cross-cultural research: Ethical and methodological perspectives (pp. 3-20) Springer. Penny, A. J., Ali, M. A., Farah, I., Ostberg, S., & Smith, R. L. (2000). A study of cross-national collaborative research: reflecting on experience in Pakistan. International Journal of Educational Development, 20, 443-455. Rambur, B. (2009). Creating collaboration: An exploration of multinational research partnerships. In A. Brew & L. Lucas (Eds.), Academic research and researchers (pp. 80–95). Basingstoke: Society for Research into Higher Education and the Open University Press. Sullivan, C., & Cottone, R. R. (2010). Emergent characteristics of effective cross-cultural research: A review of the literature. Journal of Counseling and Development, 88, 357-362. Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1990) Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Teichler, U. (2013). Opportunities and problems of comparative higher education research: The daily life of research. Higher Education, Published online 14 November 2013.
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