ERIC Identifier: ED282091
Publication Date: 1987-00-00
Author: Ament, Rebecca R.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Collaboration in Adult Education. Overview. ERIC Digest No. 60.
When one investigates collaboration, one finds a variety of terms applied
indiscriminately (e.g., partnerships, linkages, cosponsorships, interagency or
interorganizational cooperation) to many types of relationships between
organizations. To qualify a collaborative relationship for this digest, five
criteria have been identified:
--Programs or projects are jointly designed and monitored. --Some autonomy is
sacrificed by participants. --Resources are contributed. --Organizations are
mutually benefitted. --Administrators are actively involved or are supportive of
the relationship and maintain final decision-making powers.
ADVANTAGES OF COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS
Current issues are complex and funding is difficult as adult education
providers try to meet the needs of the community, business, and industry;
therefore, collaboration can be very advantageous. Information, ideas, and
resources can be pooled, and duplication and harmful competition can be avoided.
Beder (1984a) suggests that collaboration can be a major agency expansion
strategy. Partners can provide useful information on needs assessments and
program evaluation, suggestions for curriculum development, participants, use of
facilities and/or state-of-the-art equipment, specialized staff, and additional
revenue from increased enrollments or from donations. If these resources are
used by the education agency to provide quality educational programs, power and
prestige increase and expand options for programing and marketing.
FEATURES OF PRODUCTIVE COLLABORATIONS
In spite of the numerous benefits of collaboration, some relationships have
failed to accomplish desired objectives and have been terminated, resulting in
negative relationships among participants and frustrations over unproductive
investments of time and resources. Beder (1984b) identifies four dominant themes
that are important for successful relationships:
--Reciprocity. There must be a balance in giving and receiving resources and
in giving up domain and power. Each participant must perceive that resources
less valued are being exchanged for resources that are more valued.
--System Openness. External relationships should be actively sought, and
there should be a receptiveness to external perspectives.
--Trust and Commitment. Organizations cannot relinquish autonomy or
perpetuate their collaborative relationship without trust and commitment. The
level of trust and commitment can be affected by the history of past
collaborative efforts and the styles and personalities of the people involved.
--Structure. The compatibility of organizational structures and cultures is
an important factor. Fluid, flexible organizational structure helps partners
adapt to one another and creates an environment of openness and receptivity.
Obviously, the people participating in a collaborative relationship will
contribute to its success or failure. The summary of a study that explored the
benefits and problems of collaboration of 247 organizations (Hohmann, 1985)
identifies the individual behavior of administrators as having significant
consequences. The following behaviors characterize administrators who are
--The ability to recognize the value and bargaining power of resources in
hand and to identify outsiders who can contribute needed resources --The
willingness to serve on committees and boards outside their organizations to
develop networks that could lead to collaboration opportunities --Skill in human
relations and mediation --Attentiveness to the details of planning and
Boundary spanners, individuals designated to represent an organization in a
collaboration, profoundly influence their organization's perception of the
relationship since information will be evaluated, interpreted, and selectively
communicated at the spanner's discretion. The characteristics of the
representative chosen can be indicative of the interest an organization has in
the relationship. When there is a strong commitment toward expansion, high-level
staff with the authority to contribute resources from their organizations are
selected. These representatives communicate frequently with their organizations
and are very influential in decision-making processes. If an organization wishes
to protect a domain rather than expand it, people in lower level positions who
have little influence and communicate minimally are selected (Hohmann, 1985).
Several authors (Bovard and Silling, 1986; Hemmings, 1984; Hohmann, 1985)
suggest the following strategies for developing productive collaborative
--Identify and clearly state specific purposes for desiring a collaborative
relationship --Develop objective criteria for selecting partners --Survey the
environment to locate possible partners --Negotiate written agreements that
delineate organizational esponsibilities, program design, fiscal arrangements,
and established time frames --Allow time during negotiations to consider all
ideas and options, so that final decisions will be more fully supported
--Determine communication mechanisms and use them frequently --Establish
monitoring and evaluation procedures and channels to correct problems
--Familiarize the staff of the participating organizations with the agreements
in the collaboration
Beder (1984b) warns that relying too heavily on one collaboration can
threaten the autonomy of an organization; therefore, it is advisable to explore
several options. Although developing a program with partners is more time
consuming than working alone (Cervero, 1984), planning time will diminish as the
organization becomes more experienced.
EXAMPLES OF COLLABORATIVE ARRANGEMENTS IN ADULT EDUCATION
The literature contains many examples of collaborative arrangements developed
by adult education providers. The following are some of the most common types.
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
To meet their training needs, business and industry leaders can establish
their own training centers or collaborate with existing adult education
agencies. A major difficulty with such collaborative arrangements has been the
educational institutions' rigid orientation toward emphasizing broad-based
education, which includes theoretical background; and the orientation of
business and industry toward practical, job-relevant knowledge (Fingeret, 1984).
Fearing loss of control, educational agencies are reluctant to allow business
and industry to assist with developing and updating the curriculum. In spite of
these deterrents, collaboration is still a desirable option because business and
industry cannot underrate the need for educational program planning and teaching
expertise and the cost-effectiveness factor. Educational institutions can become
more flexible with registration procedures and scheduling; customize and update
curriculum; and offer on-site instruction. In exchange they will receive the
opportunity to increase enrollments, and therefore revenue; have increased
visibility and credibility within the community; and have the use of
state-of-the-art technology and equipment while working directly in the business
According to Cervero (1984), interorganizational collaboration is extensively
practiced by continuing professional education providers and colleges and
universities. Among the advantages he lists are the following:
--More prestige from being associated with a college or university --Closer
links between preservice and continuing education --Higher quality programs
resulting from shared resources --Increased visibility for partners --Greater
probability that there will be a sufficient number of participants
--Availability of competent instruction on specialized topics --Increased
referrals to the college or university
COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS
From the various community economic and social structures emerge problems
that necessitate programs in adult education: job obsolescence, unemployment,
illiteracy, limited-English proficiency, and education and employment for older
adults. Concerned agencies such as the state department of education, city
government, social service agencies, an urban renewal committee, or a state
employment commission may form an interagency collaboration council to identify
resources for the needed programs, or the council may choose to develop its own
adult education center. Valentine's (1984) case study demonstrates the necessity
of particularly competent leadership for this type of collaboration. Satisfying
the diverse interests of program sponsors and program participants requires
strong organizational, management, and interpersonal relations skills.
Collaborative relationships are desirable because they expand the capacity of
the participants to accomplish objectives that could not be accomplished as well
alone (Hemmings, 1984). Additionally, as agencies work cooperatively, they learn
about each other, understanding "what lies behind an organization's point of
view, the constraints under which an organization operates, and the strengths
and weaknesses" (p. 6). Successful collaborations are difficult to achieve
because of the need to balance autonomy and involvement while sustaining the
organizing force or goal (Hohmann, 1985). Some key factors necessary for a
productive relationship are trust, flexibility, cooperation, compatibility of
organizational structures, sufficient planning and organization, competent
leadership, and perception of mutual benefit.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Beder, H. "Interorganizational Cooperation: Why and How?" NEW DIRECTIONS FOR
CONTINUING EDUCATION no. 23 (September 1984a): 3-22.
Beder, H. "Principles for Successful Collaboration." NEW DIRECTIONS FOR
CONTINUING EDUCATION no. 23 (September 1984b): 85-90.
Bovard, D., and M. Silling. "Colleges and Corporations: Partners in
Continuing Education." OHIO CONTINUING HIGHER EDUCATION ASSOCIATION SUMMER
CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS. Mount Sterling, OH. 1986. ED 271 579.
Cervero, R.M. "Collaboration in University Continuing Professional
Education." NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION no 23 (September 1984):
Fingeret, A. "Who's in Control? A Case Study of University-Industry
Collaboration." NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION no. 23 (September 1984):
Hemmings, M.B. NEXT STEPS IN PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS. 1984. ED 253 702.
Hohmann, L. "Interorganizational Collaboration in Continuing Professional
Education." NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION no. 27 (September 1985):
Valentine, T. "The Consequences of Mismanaged Interagency Collaborations."
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION no. 23 (September 1984): 65-83.