Figure 2 The network of ESeN partners

In addition, we have been able to interview six of the 11 steering group members regarding their perceptions and experience of learning in networks of collaboration. Given the interviews were of an exploratory nature a small number was felt to be sufficient. We aimed to include at least 50 per cent of the partner group and sought to achieve a mix of nationalities and partner "type." The six interviewees did represent over 50 per cent of the partner group. They were drawn from five steering group organizations across three of the six different countries involved in the project. Of the six, four were from academic partners and two from practitioner partners.

An approach to interviewing was adopted which utilised "conversation as method" (for more information, see Josselson et al., 1997; Levy, 2002). This approach is rooted in the belief that learning is situated and contextual and that participants will have a range of different collaborative experiences upon which to draw. In brief the approach is relatively unstructured, reflecting a conversation around a

"frame" which is agreed in advance by the research team. In this case, four core areas were identified, these were:

• Why have you been involved in learning networks/ networks of collaboration?

• How have you been involved in the past (steer the conversation here into successful/unsuccessful examples)?

• What, in your experience serves to support the process of networks of collaboration/learning?

• Reflections on your learning in networks.

Given the fact that we did not wish the research to be construed as evaluative of the ongoing ESeN project we did not overtly seek input or views on this particular collaborative experience, although we were happy for it to emerge naturally during the conversation, should it do so. The interviews took place either face to face or over the telephone and lasted between 20-40 minutes. They were not taped, but notes were typed up from each interview.

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