Although teacher and learner-centred paradigms often dominate educational thinking—because each paradigm effectively determines the other—some writers prefer ‘third way’ alternatives to resorting to a rather stark and over-simple dichotomy. Since these alternatives give formal parity to teachers and learners, they can be called ‘partnership’ approaches (Ingram and Worral 1993), accepting that teachers and pupils will not normally have parity of authority or influence in all areas. They may be equals in status while making unequal contributions to tasks; or they may have unequal status while retaining complementary roles. So although the term ‘partnership’ implies some parity of responsibility for outcomes, the partners concerned can tackle their joint enterprise in very different ways.
Generally speaking, a partnership approach will take one of three forms. Teacher and learner-oriented methods may, first, combine pragmatically. Sometimes one stance is taken, sometimes another, according to resource, the background and attitude of pupils and so forth. Second, divergent strategies and techniques can be brought together for no other reason than that a teacher has a solid, professional sense of ‘what works’. Guided by past successes, teachers may lean towards eclecticism. Third, teacher and learner-oriented systems may be given up altogether in favour of strategies relying on teacher—pupil negotiations within a collaborative framework. Negotiated partnerships are, arguably, ‘true’ partnerships, given that we cannot properly consider one role without considering the other. Decision-making rules agreed democratically govern how the relationship works.
Pragmatic and eclectic strategies rarely enlighten us on how circumstances actually dictate method. Advocates of ideologically neutral approaches hinging on ‘goodness of fit’ or ‘fitness for purpose’ (Alexander