Category Archive: Scholarly Activity

Apr 10

Finding Time for Research

In any given week, University of North Georgia (UNG) faculty will attend meetings on such a range of topics that our neural cortex becomes a bit like pudding. By Friday of last week, I wanted a way to redeem the meeting-pudding with which I found my mind filled. The way I chose to do so is by acknowledging the ever-apparent commonality between all meetings; they are all about trying to improve the University. I saw a sub-theme of the scholarship of teaching and learning. It is no surprise; we are under pressure to improve our teaching and our research, simultaneously. It made sense why my thoughts would go there. If you are lucky enough to work in a department with resources and structural systems dedicated to research, this is an easier task to accomplish. For the majority of faculty at UNG, however, we must find the way to make our little domain in this teaching machine also produce research.

Two options exist, the first is break the machine. That is, drop your responsibilities to teaching and service, for a while or indefinitely, if convenient. Making this easier choice would be the incorrect thing to do. For the committed educator, a system where research is supported by teaching, and vice-versa, is the only choice.

The second – and correct – option is to develop a mechanism that attaches a second gear to your place in the machine. This option is vastly preferable to the first. After all, UNG’s goal is to produce quality people. There is no doubt; we are primarily a teaching institution. If our students are not achieving at their highest, we have become irrelevant in our profession.

How I am fighting to be successful with the second option research project?

First things first. Learn.

I’m relatively new to this type of research. So, I keep finding new information that helps me rethink what I am doing. Here are two selected articles that are guiding me in choosing research methods in general and in the writing of a qualitative case-study specifically.

Using Constructivist Case Study Methodology to Understand Community Development Processes: Proposed Methodological Questions to Guide the Research Process is a little thick on the tongue, but the article’s premise is a decision tree about how we chose research models and how to frame research projects. I copied the questions almost word for word and systematically have been working through them on each research topic. The first author, Laucker, is actually a student, and Paterson and Krupa are her advisors. As a teacher education professor, I’m always impressed with explicit modeling of scholarship in the classroom.

Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research by Bent Flyvbjerg, helped shape my thoughts around how case-study approaches would work best as a starting place in my independent research at UNG. It also dispelled some nasty concepts that were holdovers from my PhD training in the biomedical sciences. A light went off after reading this, and I recognized that my role in scholarship is one of empowerment. Using a co-written case-study approach is empowering to our students and makes for a more dynamic expression of classroom teaching. I think almost all faculty have at least one student who is causing them to excel in teaching practices, or who are asking tough questions in class. Work with them and make something bigger from that interaction. More about this idea in Step 3.

Second. Plan.

Organize your time appropriately. , so focus on the crucial tasks of making your teaching process a research process. I have dedicated times in my busy weekly schedule when nothing, except my spouse, is allowed to interrupt. Email and text notifications are turned off. The door is closed. A timer is set. I have only one item on my agenda and I will focus on that one item. When something comes to mind as I work, it gets jotted down for later.  If planning isn’t your strong suit, I highly recommend Textbook & Academic Authors Association’s blog to help focus your productivity. A great recent topic by Noelle Sterne covers 6 techniques to jumpstart writing efficiency and productivity.

Third. Collaborate.

Pick people you think you can work with. Don’t know who that is? Experiment with different people. Tell them the writing relationship is on a probationary period. If your partnership goals haven’t been met by a mutually agreed upon time, it is worth considering forming a different partnership. There are some faculty and students who I have greatly enjoyed talking with, we have similar research interests, but we can’t seem to accomplish anything together. There are no hard feelings; some work habits don’t mesh. No worries. Keep building those partnerships.

In your scholarship, don’t forget that Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership (CTLL) is on your side. Everything from helping you form a writing group to working on copyright issues is within their expertise. A quick recommendation from the CTLL blog: Diana Edelman did a piece about the Benefits of Faculty Writing Groups that is well worth considering. CTLL also offers Write@UNG, a faculty development program which focuses on research and writing skills, led by Michael Rifenburg. Check out his blog.

What is most important to remember is that we are all in this together. Every faculty and staff member wants to improve the University. If they didn’t, I’m sure that they can find adequate replacement salary elsewhere. Work as a team and continue to share your passion for teaching. When we are actively engaged in the scholarship of teaching, our students benefit. Make the most of your opportunities.

 

Sep 02

Write@UNG

The Write@UNG is a new multifaceted faculty development program that stretches across five campuses and enriches scholarly productivity through a focus on research and writing skills. Workshops are facilitated by Dr. Michael Rifenburg, Department of English, CTLL Faculty Fellow for Scholarly Writing and sponsored by the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership.

Click on the image below to enlarge.

Write@UNG_Page_2

To register, please here to view all the upcoming Write@UNG workshops.

Mar 10

Finding Government Information

This article is the fourth part of a series by UNG Libraries covering some of the newest and most exciting additions to our GALILEO Database collections. A new post will appear on the last Monday of every month of Academic year 2015-2016. Please note: login required for off-campus access to some links.


 

Information created by the United States federal government seems appealingly useful because it is authoritative and much of it seems reliable; finding the government information you need, however, isn’t always easy. Sure, you can do a Google search or you can search USA.gov (the official web portal of the United States government), but you may have to sift through many – even hundreds of thousands of results to find a particular document or information resource. Even after you’ve drilled through all the results, you still may come up empty-handed. Fortunately, there are some governmental databases that are especially useful for locating U.S. government information.

Catalog of U.S. Government Publications

CatalogofUSpubsOne of the most user-friendly federal government databases is the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP). Sponsored by the Government Publishing Office (GPO), the CGP creates records of print and digitized government information that is distributed through the Federal Depository Library Program. Users can choose from basic, advanced, and expert search options—although most people start with the basic search and type one or two keywords in the search box. Recent government publications are often fully digitized and the CGP provides links that will connect the user to digitized information resources.(figure 1)

 

ListofLinkedDocuments

figure 1


MetaLib

metalibIn addition to the CGP, the Government Publishing Office created MetaLib, a search engine that searches over 60 governmental resources. MetaLib allow users to select and search up to ten databases at once. These include “catalogs, reference databases, digital repositories or subject-based Web gateways.” Once the results are generated, then the search can be narrowed by clicking on one of the facets (e.g. topics, dates, authors, etc.) on the right side of the search results page (see figure 2 below). People accustomed to getting search results at the speed of a Google search may become frustrated using MetaLib. Users may have to perform multiple searches to locate the desired information resources and that can get to be a bit tedious. As is true with all database searches–the better your search terms, the better your results.

authors

figure 2


Federal Digital System (FDsys)

FDSYS

Another tool from the Government Publishing Office is the Federal Digital System, or FDsys. The emphasis of FDsys is on “authentic government information.” Because digital text and images can be manipulated, it isn’t always easy to determine if the information presented is both original and legitimate. FDsys provides authentic, verified, and digitally signed PDF documents that mitigate those concerns. In addition, the GPO guarantees “permanent public access to all FDsys resources.” FDsys include around 50 collections from the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the Federal Government.

 


Google: Effective .gov Searches

CGP ix

figure 3

The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, MetaLib, and FDsys are important tools for discovering government information. These tools work well for researchers and advanced students. But some students are going perform a Google search, almost by instinct. For these students – and anyone else seeking government information – there’s a way to search Google more effectively. One can limit the domains that Google searches by typing the word site followed by a colon and then dot gov. (In other words, type:  site:.gov,) followed by your specific search terms. Google will only search website with a .gov domain (see figure 3).

 

cgp X

figure 4

 

These searches will also pull in government information authored by the state legislatures, departments, agencies, and so on. If you want to limit your search to just information from Georgia state governmental and regulatory bodies, simply type site:.ga.gov followed by your search terms (see figure 4).

If you have any questions about finding government information, please ask the UNG librarians. We’d love to help you.

Nov 02

GALILEO database: Artstor

This article is the third part of a series by UNG Libraries covering some of the newest and most exciting additions to our GALILEO Database collections. A new post will appear on the last Monday of every month of Academic year 2015-2016. Please note: login required for off-campus access to some links


Pictorial Quilt; Harriet Powers (1837-1910); United States; 1895-98; Textiles: Cotton plain weave, pieced, appliqued, embroidered, and quilted; 175 x 266.7 cm (68 7/8 x 105 in.

Pictorial Quilt; Harriet Powers (1837-1910); United States; 1895-98; Textiles: Cotton plain weave, pieced, appliqued, embroidered, and quilted; 175 x 266.7 cm (68 7/8 x 105 in.)  This image was provided by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All rights reserved. (see footnote)

“One picture is worth ten thousand words.

~ Chinese proverb

Images are powerful communication tools and the UNG Libraries subscribe to a fabulous collection, Artstor Digital Library. Artstor Digital Library shares almost 2 million images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences from museums, photo archives, photographers, scholars, and artists for teaching and educational use.  Any UNG student, faculty, or staff member can immediately start searching and using images through the Libraries’ link to Artstor on campus. You can also opt to create an account to save and organize images into collections and write personal annotations. Faculty and staff may also request “instructor privileges” that allow additional folder rights and the ability to upload your personal images (Login, click My Profile, then click Instructor Privileges tab). The tools within Artstor allow you to easily export images directly into PowerPoint or use their offline presentation tool (OIV) to zoom in to see minute details of a work for presentations.

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Apples; Thomas Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910); United States; 1867; Oil on canvas; 38.73 x 30.8 cm (15 1/4 x 12 1/8 in.) This image was provided by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All rights reserved. (see footnote).

Looking for ideas on how to integrate images in your teaching? This collection is more than “fine art” to be used to teach Art History. Check out Artstor’s case studies and curriculum guides! You can find them at the Teaching Resources link under the Browse section in the Digital Library homepage. (If you’re visiting Artstor on your phone or tablet, you’ll find the case studies under Global Folders.) Artstor’s curriculum guides are broken down into topics or themes, each composed of approximately ten images that illustrate or support the subject. Artstor’s case studies describe the innovative ways subscribers in a variety of disciplines are using the Artstor Digital Library in their teaching, research, and scholarship.

Looking for images for your own publications? Select images in Artstor are part of the Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) program. Initiated by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007 to help address the challenges of scholarly publishing in the digital age by providing free images for academic publications through an automated Web-based service, the Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) program makes available publication-quality images for use in scholarly publications free of charge. All IAP contributors are Artstor image contributors and you can use Artstor to search for IAP eligible images.

  1. Login to Artstor with your username and password
  2. Use the Keyword Search and add IAP to your search criteria.
  3. Click (the IAP icon) to download a high resolution file for publication. A new window will open explaining the process. If you are eligible for the program, click Proceed. In the next window, click Download.
  4. In the next window, review the IAP Terms and Conditions of Use. You may also print this window for reference with the print link at the end of the document. Check the box indicating that you have read and accept these terms before clicking Continue.
  5. Provide the information requested in the space provided. Click Download.
  6. Two windows will open. One warns this download will take some time. The other shows your computer’s directory, where you can choose a place to save this file and continue to download as usual.
CreatorMade by, Ma Yuan, Chinese, active ca. 1190-1225 Culture China Title Scholar Viewing a Waterfall; Guanpu tu Period Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) Date late 12th-early 13th century Material Album leaf; ink and color on silk Measurements 9 7/8 x 10 1/4 in. (25.1 x 26 cm)

Scholar Viewing a Waterfall; Guanpu tu; Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279); late 12th-early 13th century; Album leaf; ink and color on silk This image was provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved. (see footnote)

 

Want to learn more about Artstor? Artstor offers a webinar series that cover both the general usage and Artstor tools as well as subject specific sessions such as “More than Just Art: Image of Psychology” and “The Do’s and Don’ts of Image Copyright and Image Use”. Also, their support center has a wealth of learning aids in a variety of formats for just in time learning.

 


 

*All images provided are available for uses permitted under the ARTstor Terms and Conditions of Use, such as teaching and study, as well as for scholarly publications, through the Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) initiative. Please review the IAP Terms and Conditions of Use.

Oct 12

Space to Teach: The Teaching Professor Technology Conference

In 2013, the English Learning Support department at UNG was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As part of the “Adaptive Learning Market Acceleration Program” (ALMAP) grant, several learning support English professors – myself, Ashley Armour, Kelly Dahlin, Dr. Shannon Gilstrap, and Dr. Matthew Horton – took on the task of incorporating adaptive technologies into our courses. We decided to use the McGraw-Hill LearnSmart program, which uses an algorithm to constantly update each student’s learning challenges and successes in order to offer a so-called “personal learning plan.” For three semesters, we incorporated the technology into our pedagogy and into our assessments, and, for three semesters, we gathered data on the students. Were they successful in completing the “learning plan”? How did their work with the technology affect their success in the course? How did using the technology impact our teaching?

The answer, right now, is that the verdict is still out, at least empirically speaking. We do see some correlation between course completion rates and learning plan completion, but we’ll need to look a bit closer to determine whether it’s causative or simply correlative, as the plans were also a percentage of the course grade. We did decide, nearly unanimously, that the program gave us room; we had more space in our classroom lessons to address more holistic issues, such as paragraphing, organization, and critical thinking. We spent less time lecturing about grammar, and we spent more time teaching, and practicing, revision and editing strategies. In other words: we could workshop student papers. Students could collaborate in peer review sessions, feeling more confident about their foundational knowledge.

It was this pedagogical freedom that we focused on in our poster presentation at the Teachning Professor Technology Conference in New Orleans. Our eposter, “Space to Teach: Adaptive Technology in the Developmental English Classroom” (watch it here) drew a bit of attention, as we fancied it up with a Google Slides presentation. The most interesting conversation was with a faculty member from a large university. She was not only skeptical of the technology; she simply refused to believe that we had time to “workshop” and to “work with students” in a writing classroom. We insisted that, as long as the instructor scaffolds the lesson appropriately, with specific tasks and expectations, peer reviewing and student-teaching interaction can work quite well in our courses. Despite our clear experience with this format, the faculty member remained doubtful, and she walked away with a firm shake of her head and a dismissive comment, “I don’t believe that’s possible, what you’re saying. There’s no way to work with individual students to that degree.”

For us, her doubt was suprising, since our student-centered pedagogy has served us so well for so long. We weren’t, however, bothered overmuch by her disregard of our approach. In fact, the exchange reaffirmed the unique beauty of what we’ve been able to accomplish with a focus on teaching and learning at UNG. The adaptive technology, for us, simply allows us more space to do what we want: teach every student how to communicate effectively and confidently, in any context.

 

Further Reading

2015 Teaching Professor Technology Conference

news@UNG (Press Release) “Grant will expand project to support student success at UNG”

Space to Teach: Adaptive Technology in the Developmental English Classroom (ePoster Handout)

Space to Teach: Adaptive Technology in the Developmental English Classroom (ePoster Slides)

 

Feb 02

What it Means to be Connected

October was Connected Educator Month. Started by the U.S. Department of Education in 2012, CEM has gone global and in 2013 reached 14 million educators through twitter alone.

As a college writing teacher and dues-paying member of the National Council of Teaches of English, I was involved this October with CEM, specifically attending (live or remotely; via webcam or twitter) events connected to CEM and curating the conversations via twitter, blogs, Storify, or through other digital platforms.

As we head into the spring semester, I find myself reflecting on a webinar I attended held live in Norway. Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, an educational consultant based in Brazil, provided the keynote address titled “The Globally Connected Educator.” In her presentation, she argued that if the desired outcome is globally connected students, teachers need to be connected globally connected first. This connection happens when teachers communicate, collaborate, and connect with experts and peers from around the world.

We work at a university which prides itself on establishing global connections. We have an active Center for Global Engagement. We have a strong relationship with Liaocheng University in China, as well as the Summer Language Institute’s inclusion of Chinese and Korean languages.

But here at the beginning of a new semester, I encourage us to consider individually and collectively how we can remain connected to educators in generalm, as well as our disciplines — and even subdisciplines. Connecting and remaining connected to our field improves the quality of instruction we offer our students.

Tolisano pushes digital connections via contributing to twitter conversations and webinars. Yet, these connections do not have to be reserved for the technologically savvy.

We connect through attending local, regional, and national conferences, sitting in on sessions or meeting people in the hallways (that is where the “real” conference happens, I believe, and it is blogged about here).

We connect through browsing recent journals in our field, scanning the table of contents and remembering author names and what she, he, they wrote about.

We connect through bringing in guest-speakers, and by being aware of who the president is of our leading professional organization.

As Tolisano said, our students need a connected teacher.

This connection does not have to occur during the weekly #whatisschool twitter chat, though it certainly could.

But this connection needs to happen for the betterment of our own professional development, but more importantly, for the betterment of our students.

Additional Resources

Connected Educator Month: Get Involved

Powerful Learning Practice: Professional Learning for Connected Educators

 

Dec 01

Pretending to Be A Student Reminds Me How to Teach

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Every summer, the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas presents the Intensive Institute on the Study of Science Fiction, a two week seminar covering a list of either 25 novels or a selection of short stories, all deemed “important” to the genre. The seminar begins with the early works, the classics, and moves through the Science Fiction Golden Age, all the way through our contemporary era. The instructor, Chris McKitterick, is a published novelist, has studied astronomy, and has also worked as a technical writer for the gaming and tech industries . He knows his technology and his literature, and was, therefore, the perfect person to take over for the founder and former director, SF guru James Gunn. (I will freely admit that I was pretty starstruck when I met Gunn, my intellectual and academic hero, at a casual lunch with some of the students. To my credit, I did not squeal. Not out loud, anyway).

So it was that, in June of 2014, I spent two weeks studying the classics. From War of the Worlds to Consider Phlebas, a group of seven students deconstructed history, debated politics, conducted thought experiments, and examined imaginary (potential) technologies. For over four hours a day, every day, we talked about books. Books we’d loved for years; books we finished reading only on principle; books we’d heard of and had planned to read anyway; books that shattered everything we thought we knew about narrative/philosophy/genre/[fill-in-the-blank]. In a word, it was good.

In another word, it was nostalgic. Remember those grad school classes where everyone showed up, energized by the readings and ready for lively discussion? It was like that. We see it happen in our own classrooms: those days that we talk about later with our colleagues, friends, partners, those in-class activities we hope to remember to repeat to similar success in a future semester. Those days when we remember that the symbiosis of teaching and learning can be exhilarating, that it can feel like truth, that it can change lives…including our own. That’s what I felt during this course, and that’s what I want my students to feel as often as possible.

I had been eyeing this program for several years, but the expense of the travel, particularly the lodging and airfare, put it out of reach. Until I received the second reminder from CTLL about the Presidential Faculty Professional Engagement Award (PFPE). According to the award information, “Funding is designed to support professional development activities for faculty to remain state-of-the-art in their disciplines.” I could argue that teaching SF is “state-of-the-art,” especially when dealing with the so-called “millennials.” Maybe, just maybe, I could do this.

Perhaps you’re not daunted by the application process for faculty or staff awards. Perhaps you don’t suffer from “imposter syndrome,” the symptoms of which usually reach a peak in graduate school, but often linger for years after one has obtained a good position in higher ed. Perhaps you’re that person: self-assured, always successful, never nervous.

I, however, am not.

When I learned of the PFPE, I resisted applying right away. I had all of usual my wimpy excuses at the ready:

  • I’m still the new kid. (I’ve been here since 2006.)
  • I don’t have time to prepare a proposal. (Who does?)
  • Who would write a recommendation for me? (Just ask someone.)
  • Other faculty deserve it more than I do. (Shouldn’t that be the judges’ decision?)

This time, however, my desire to attend an academic geek-fest a professional development seminar managed to out-shout the self-defeating voices in my head, and I gave it a whirl. If I didn’t succeed, I reasoned, I could always consider the process an important learning experience for my career. I was right, too: I’m nearly certain that, if I hadn’t applied this time, future opportunities would grow less appealing, and the reminder emails from CTLL would more quickly vanish into my deleted items folder. I learned to prepare a (small) budget, found the words to articulate my professional goals, and challenged myself to plan for future collaboration and presentation to my colleagues.

Plus: I got to spend nearly two weeks with some very smart SF scholar / teacher talking philosophy, science, religion, and literature. Definitely worth every moment of anxiety and increased workload.

So, my advice is this: if you see an opportunity to reignite your passion for your calling, whether that calling is teaching, like me, or scholarly activity, take it. Not profound or surprising advice, but, sometimes, we all need a little kick in the pants to do what, in the end, we really want to do.

On a final, more practical note: UNG faculty & staff should also attend this presentation: Writing a Successful Faculty Scholar Award Proposal on December 3. It’s easy to be passionate; it’s less easy to find the funds to follow that passion.  (Presented by CTLL)  Be sure to RSVP.

Resources

CTLL Faculty Awards: http://ung.edu/center-teaching-learning-leadership/awards/index.php

Academic Affairs Faculty Awards: http://ung.edu/academic-affairs/faculty-awards/index.php#UNG%20Faculty%20Awards%20&%20Ceremonies

Oct 27

The Benefits of Faculty Writing Groups

Grab your “to do” list. Whether it’s mental, handwritten, or online, the list probably includes grading papers, preparing lessons for the week, and attending committee meetings (among other things). Have you scheduled any time this week for your own research and writing? Most of us don’t, but can we afford not to? As teachers, we spend a lot of time explaining to students the importance of planning their time, particularly in regards to research and writing. We encourage them to understand their role in the academic community, as thinkers, writers, and readers. Some of us even model this process through in-class peer review workshops where students read and comment on each other’s work.

The question is: do we take our own advice? Are we the kind of professors who would be forced to admit that we prefer that students “do as we say, not as we do”? If you are in academia, writing is an essential part of your job—whether you are writing a textbook on quantum physics or a blog about gender dynamics in the media. Before you send that work to a publisher or post it online, do you workshop it with your peers? Do you get their feedback? Do you do multiple revisions, or are you scrambling to pull it together at the last minute because you have so many other duties (not the least of which is teaching)? Quite often, I find that even the best of us do exactly what we tell our students NOT to do—wait until the last minute and/or hover over our desks in the dark of night (as if writing were a solitary process!).

The point is—writing groups are a win-win. Besides modeling the academic community for our students, peer writing groups can help us develop ideas, fine-tune our prose, and keep us on task. We know how easy it is to get “sucked in” to our other duties—teaching, administration, service. Our writing often goes on the back burner, but it needs to become a priority. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen, and before you know it, that article you’ve been working on will gather more dust than you can handle. The most effective way to ensure that you gain momentum (and keep it) is through peer writing groups.

The Benefits of Peer Writing Groups

  • It’s an opportunity to discuss ideas at all stages of development. You know that article is going to get a review from experts in the field before it’s accepted for publication. If you begin that process in a writing group, even with people in different disciplines, they can help you get it ready for a more “official” peer review.
  • Your peers offer a fresh perspective. We have all gotten to the point with a piece of writing where we can no longer “see” it clearly. We need distance and a fresh pair of eyes.
  • You learn about what others are working on. Your colleagues provide inspiration and knowledge (which is the whole idea behind conferences, right?). Chances are your peers will know of a resource that is just what you need at just the right time.
  • These groups facilitate time management because this scheduled time allows you to say no to other things because you are already committed.
  • Your peers provide emotional support and encouragement. Let’s face it. Writing can be exhausting, and we need moral support.

Okay, so, the benefits are clear, but you might be thinking that the logistics are murky. How do we start one of these groups? How often should we meet? Is this going to be yet another meeting to attend? The most important thing to do is to find people who are interested in participating and go from there. Establish your own rules and guidelines based on the needs of the group. There is no reason this should become another chore; it should be fun and mutually beneficial.

The Logistics of Peer Writing Groups

Since groups like this can be created and maintained in many different ways, I will share some basic principles/tips that worked for the group I am currently participating in.

  • Find colleagues who are interested in dedicating regular time to research and writing and want/need accountability. Send an email to your department, bring it up around the proverbial water cooler, or discuss it with others at a conference. These colleagues need not have the same specialty you do or be in the same discipline. They don’t even have to be in the same geographical location. I am in a group with peers on my campus, but I am also in a virtual one with colleagues in other states. They just need to be ready to participate.
  • After you identify some people, schedule a time to meet informally and discuss each person’s goals and what they hope to achieve from the group. From there, determine the following: when, where, and how often to meet; how to track individual and group progress; and what responsibilities members should have. For the group I am in, we determined that we would like to have a quiet time and place to meet simply to be in the same room working on our projects (I call these “moral support” sessions), but at other times, we wanted to share our writing and get feedback. Thus, we determined that we would alternate between writing sessions and discussion/peer review sessions.
  • Once you schedule a regular meeting time, create a calendar and a place to share materials, due dates, and goals. We use Google calendar to allow participants to sign up for discussion/peer review sessions. Once individuals sign up, they can email their work to the group (or use Google Drive or a similar mechanism). We use Google Drive. Participants post their material the night before a meeting (or sometime that week), and whoever has time can make comments. At other times, individuals have brought hard copies to sessions, and participants read and commented on the work verbally or on the hard copy.
  • Although commenting on others’ writing might seem like extra work, it really isn’t. Our group decided that we would not require individuals to comment every time someone signs up for a peer review session. Our guideline is that you comment at least as many times as you share. Thus, group members can participate as much or as little as they need to.
  • Depending on the level of activity of each member, six to ten is probably the ideal size. You want to have enough people to participate, but not so many that the sessions are mostly peer review. You need those “moral support” sessions too. If you have six to ten members, there will usually be at least two or three who can comment and provide sufficient feedback even if others can’t that week. In other words, those sharing get the feedback they need, and nobody feels pressure if they can’t participate that week.
  • I also recommend that the group keep a log of goals and accomplishments (this can be weekly, biweekly, monthly, whatever works). Goal setting and reporting are vital. They allow you to quantify your progress (“hey, I worked three hours on that article this week” or “I wrote five pages!”) as well as see other people’s progress, which is always encouraging. Our group keeps a document in Google Drive where each member writes out their goals for the week (which can be anything from “write 5 pages” to “work for 2 hours on Project X” to “read three articles on Project Y”). At the end of the week, we fill in a report, which tells what we accomplished that week. This is done electronically and at the convenience of members who can be as detailed as they want (or not post at all). Again, members do what is going to help them. Sometimes we will meet our goals, and sometimes not, but the trajectory is always forward. Setting smaller, obtainable goals is the key to completing any long project, and this kind of documentation facilitates that.
  • Make sure that you keep this time and space SACRED. Avoid grading, meeting with students, or scheduling other non-research-related activities during this time. By carving out a specific time and place for research and writing, you are free to say “no” when you need to. Your calendar says “unavailable,” and you have made writing a regular part of the week. This is sacred time. For me, a defined schedule helps me to be able to say to students (and not feel guilty), “No, I’m sorry, but I can’t meet on Friday afternoons. I’m in meetings.” This keeps me from “caving in” to every demand and ensures that I reserve at least that much time each week. Our group schedules a four-hour session every Friday afternoon, but people don’t have to come for that entire time. Even if someone comes for only 30 minutes, that’s 30 minutes more than they would have done otherwise.
  • And, finally, take time to celebrate accomplishments. Schedule a lunch session, or bring in coffee and doughnuts one day. It’s great to hear what our colleagues are doing and to pat ourselves on the back for accomplishing our goals.

Regardless of the discipline—from mathematics to art history, from biology to political science—scholarship is the reason you do what you do. It allows you to engage with the material that led you to teaching.

If you’d like some more information about how to start a faculty writing group here at UNG (including grant opportunities), see the following:

http://ung.edu/center-teaching-learning-leadership/communities-of-practice/faculty-writing-group.php

This CTLL link also includes a list of electronic and print resources such as Robert Boice’s Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing and Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s article “Shut Up and Write” from Inside Higher Ed.

Other Resources:

The Academic Writing Club

Designed for graduate students, post-docs, and professors, this web site provides online accountability tools, peer support from academics around the country, and other resources to ensure that you meet your research and writing goals.

http://academicwritingclub.com/

The Writing Center @ University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Writing Center provides some excellent advice for starting a group, creating a schedule and establishing workshop guidelines. This site includes a “Writing Group Starter Kit” and other resources for students and scholars.

http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/writing-groups/

UCLA’s Graduate Writing Center

Although geared towards graduate students, UCLA’s page, “Running an Effective Writing Group,” provides resources and guidelines that are applicable to anyone who needs to maintain a rigorous writing schedule.

http://gsrc.ucla.edu/gwc/resources/running-an-effective-writing-group.html

 

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