Purpose: The paper aims to present the objectives, methods and findings of a benchmarking project between four institutions in Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and Germany that are all involved in teacher education, although in different political and educational contexts. This paper reports the research designed to compare the institutions involved against a number of mutually negotiated criteria.
Method: Because of the wide differences in the higher education systems and the political contexts, the participants developed their own framework. It encompassed criteria regarding staff, students, teaching and learning, research and international networks. The intensive process of discussion in meetings and via email across four countries over one year showed participants the challenges and chances to learn about and from each other. Drafts of the joint report were exchanged, commented on and elaborated.
Results: In spite of the concentration on teacher education the diversity, especially in financing, degree of autonomy and data sources made it hard to compare institutions. Staff situations as qualification, tenure or temporary positions and workload varied greatly. The same applied to the duration of programmes and students' workload. Research plays an important role in each institution, but internal and external funding and research output varied widely.
Conclusion: The participants learned through negotiation of meaning, clarification, comparison and evaluation. They consider this “exercise” a first step in an ongoing process in which especially the fields that showed marked differences should be given further attention in specialised follow-up projects and local change initiatives.