Since the Bologna Declaration in 1999, independence is a concept that has gained much importance in higher education, especially in relation to the independent project. Independence is however a concept which could be understood in different ways in different contexts. Since independence is a central concept in many steering documents on different levels it is reasonable that the higher education practice is influenced by how independence, as a concept, is understood and used. Ambiguities in how independence is understood and used in practice can lead to uncertainty and may even be a barrier to student exchange and hamper international comparability in accordance with the intentions of the Bologna Declaration. The project will therefore explore how the concept of independence is understood and used on different levels, in different education programs, as well as in different countries. The project will explore how the concept is understood and used in two education programs, teacher and journalism education, in two different countries – Russia and Sweden.
Accordingly, the aim of this project is to study how independence is constructed, enabled and enacted in the practice of writing independent projects. These practices will be examined in three substudies; by studying local steering documents, by examining supervision interaction and by investigating supervisors’ and students’ opinions and understandings of independence.
The framework for our study is socio-cultural, where the context for writing an independent project is of special importance. We ground our study in the theory around communicative activity types, a theoretical synthesis between micro-based conversational analysis and macro-oriented contextual analysis. The project will study both macro-perspectives through analysis of steering documents, and micro-perspectives through analysis of supervision interaction. In addition, the project has a comparative approach, focussing on differences in ideological or value-based perspectives between the two countries.
The project will fill research gaps and develop the theoretical framework concerning independence, independent projects and supervision, especially as regards empirical studies. The project will also provide practitioners with a theoretical ground and a meta-language to discuss and lift observations from their own practice, thus leading to pedagogical development. Finally the project will contribute to the research area around higher education and internationalization.