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Advancing the Writing of Academics

Stories from the Writing Group

Series:

Jennifer Lock, Yvonne Kjorlien, M. Gregory Tweedie, Roswita Dressler, Sarah Elaine Eaton and Erin Spring

Abstract

In today’s higher educational context, an increased focus on accountability and impact factors brings with it a greater expectation for academics to publish. Within the scholarship of teaching and learning, academic writing is a complex act that requires attention. Academics with strong expectations to be productive may nonetheless experience the writing process as isolating, lonely or overwhelming. In this chapter, we examine models and structures that foster a culture of academic writing within a post-secondary context. We then describe the evolution of our writing group’s community of practice approach – one in which academics engaged in various forms of writing spanning the spectrum from reporting for academic and scholarly journals to writing for the general public and social media. Drawing from Schön’s (1983) reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action model, we illustrate through current members’ experiences and insights how the writing group has – and is – impacting their writing and professional growth as academics. Through the analysis of our narratives, we identified factors that influenced the success of several cycles of our writing group, as well as the conditions required to support both individuals and the collective. Recommendations for writing group practices emerge from our findings.

Series:

Geneviève Maheux-Pelletier, Heidi Marsh and Mandy Frake-Mistak

Abstract

In this chapter, we examine examples of writing communities embodied in two writing retreats, the Writing Circle at York University and the Writers’ Collective at Humber College. Although similar in aim and structure, one has not succeeded in fostering a community of writers while the other one has – Humber’s success being attributed, in part, to an intensive off-campus retreat that fed the Writers’ Collective. In our analysis, we discovered that retreat attributes such as protected time and space, community of practice, improved writing competency, intrapersonal benefits, and institutional investment are valuable outcomes in and of themselves, in addition to uncertain and often overemphasized writing productivity. For our communities, characterised by peripheral participation into the writing for publication paradigm, prioritizing relationship building and increased self-efficacy were critically important. We conclude by suggesting that writing communities such as the ones described here can empower an increasingly diverse group of academics such as female scholars, early career academics, contract professors, and college-sector faculty to see themselves as capable writers. For these individuals, institutionalized experiences that foster a sense of community and self-efficacy may be as important as engagement with writing per se. The challenge, then, is to find ways to nurture a sense of belonging, both as a legitimate member of such communities and as a capable writer.

Campus-Wide, Non-Residential, Five-Day Faculty Writing Retreat

Partnerships Lead to a Sustainable Writing Program

Series:

Dannelle D. Stevens and Janelle Voegele

Abstract

More and more institutions are expecting faculty to write and publish their work. Yet, many faculty do not have the tools and strategies that undergird a sustainable and successful writing practice. Some researchers assert that universities should find ways to support faculty as writers. For five years, our university has partnered with the campus center for teaching and learning to sponsor a summer five-day non-residential faculty writing retreat. The purpose of this chapter is to describe the university partnership as well the partnerships among faculty across the campus that have grown out of this retreat program. Besides a full description of the program, we identify four key themes from faculty evaluations of the retreat. Finally, we include suggestions for others who might be interested in creating writing retreats that support faculty success as writers.

Cheaper Than Therapy

The Unexpected Benefits and Challenges of an Academic Writing Partnership

Series:

Karen Julien and Jacqueline L. Beres

Abstract

Academic writing can be a daunting, lonely process. To alleviate what we perceived as the unpleasant aspects of writing and to meet our writing goals, we formed a two-person writing group. Using a self-study action research approach, we reflect on our experiences within our writing partnership according to Haas’ (2014) Pick-n-Mix typology of writing group dimensions. While our initial goals for increased productivity were not met, we benefitted from our partnership in unanticipated ways. Our results point to the importance of social support and goal alignment for writing group success. This chapter contributes to the body of knowledge documenting the importance of social support in overcoming the challenges of academic writing. We also offer suggestions for academics wishing to develop their own social support systems for academic writing.

Collaboration at a Distance

Exploring History, Communication, Trust and Socialization

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Erik Blair and Georgette Briggs

Abstract

This chapter takes a personal narrative approach to exploring an academic writing partnership. The authors are based in different countries (Erik lives and works in the UK and Georgette lives and works in Trinidad and Tobago) but, through a shared academic history and a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous approaches, they have maintained an academic writing partnership. Collaboration can be difficult in the online context, especially when the partners are located in different parts of the globe where there are differences in time, culture and expectations. In this case, Erik and Georgette also have different disciplinary backgrounds (in the natural and social sciences) and have been ‘trained’ to privilege certain research methods and styles of writing. In investigating collaboration at a distance, Erik and Georgette examine four key qualities of a successful collaborative relationship: history, communication, trust and socialization. They argue that successful academic writing is a learned behaviour that requires deliberate action and suggest that, when working at a distance, this is maintained through regular contact; setting short term goals and having a critical friend who can push you in joint and solo projects.

Collaborative Writing

Intercultural and Interdisciplinary Partnerships as a Means of Identity Formation

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Phillip Motley, Aysha Divan, Valerie Lopes, Lynn O. Ludwig, Kelly E. Matthews and Ana M. Tomljenovic-Berube

Abstract

This chapter describes the collaborative writing experiences of a multidisciplinary group of educators brought together through an International Collaborative Writing Group (ICWG) initiative originally organized by the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSoTL) in 2012. Our ICWG writing partnership helped us develop our scholarship in ways that might not have otherwise been accomplished, had we worked alone or even with colleagues in our same institution or country. Through an analysis of a collection of individual reflective narratives about our collaborative writing experiences, we describe opportunities, affordances, inhibitors, and enablers for this approach to collaborative writing. We delineate the community of practice that we have successfully developed and how it has helped each of us develop our Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). We share the mechanisms that we have used to facilitate our work; the types of choices we have made about what research areas to explore that fit with our interests and the constraints of distance-based collaboration; and, most importantly, the ways in which our writing partnership has developed a stronger understanding of what SoTL is, and can be, moving forward.

Creating and Sustaining a Community of Academic Writing Practice

The Multi-University Residential Academic Writing Retreat Model

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Michelle K. McGinn, Snežana Ratković, Dragana Martinovic and Ruth McQuirter Scott

Abstract

A qualitative case-study narrative documents a series of annual five-day residential academic writing retreats that have brought 39 academics together across universities, fields of study, career stages, and countries since 2007. Inspired by Grant (2008), the retreats foreground goals related to enhancing scholarly writing productivity, fostering participants’ identities as academic writers, strengthening peer relationships, and fostering a community of practice. Writers work on independent and collaborative writing projects, provide feedback to one another, participate in workshops, share meals, and prioritize their work as writers. Together the writers form a community involving joint activities and shared resources for individual and collective academic writing practice. The learning value of the community is captured through writers’ commitments to advancing their own and others’ learning. Evolution, participation, and rhythm sustain the community. The retreat model allows community evolution with attention to individual and social (i.e., private and public) aspects of writing and being writers. Writers engage in different levels of participation, focusing on community values and encouraging open dialogue within and beyond the community. Community activities create a predictable rhythm (i.e., a community heartbeat) that establishes expectations and promotes belonging yet leaves space for diversified rhythms (i.e., a jazz beat) that respect each individual’s process and goals. The chapter concludes with reflections intended to inform and inspire academic writers and retreat facilitators.

Series:

Nicola Simmons

Abstract

This synthesis chapter outlines the common themes of the collaborative writing groups in the book. Prevalent themes include writing retreat pragmatics such as how positive processes are supported by setting and negotiating goals and having a dedicated space. They also include the soul work that comprises trusting and successful writing partnerships that help avoid isolation and support the development of scholarly identity as an academic writer.

Faculty Writing Studio

A Place to Write

Series:

Remica Bingham-Risher and Joyce Armstrong

Abstract

This chapter investigates the importance of a separate place for faculty to leave their offices and go to a place on campus to write. Drawbacks of writing in one’s office and at one’s home are examined. A faculty member needs to be separated from daily tasks and interruptions to concentrate on the business of writing and a Faculty Writing Studio meets this need. Collaboration is also available for faculty who wish to discuss writing, projects, and grants. The dedicated space for writing and research is an outward show of an institution’s support to the faculty’s writing. Both quantitative and qualitative data are presented.