(skynesher/istock/getty images plus) For the past 10 years, I’ve led my university’s faculty writing initiative, Faculty Write . The goal: to advance faculty writing through writing retreats and workshops, writing groups and peer mentoring, and consultations and coaching.
Since it began in 2012, more than 400 hundred faculty from 15 different institutions have participated in the program’s signature Summer Scholarly Writing Retreat and Workshop as well as academic-year writing retreats and faculty writing groups. With the support of the program, participating faculty members have published books and book chapters, academic articles, edited collections, blog posts, and op-eds; earned grants, teaching awards and fellowships; delivered sermons; presented conference papers and invited lectures; and started writing groups within their own departments and programs. And perhaps more important, they have been part of a growing community of writers, staying connected to their writing and to each other after the summer writing retreat ends.
Yet many of the faculty with whom I work struggle with a tension between their writing lives and their teaching lives. That makes sense: as faculty members, we know our teaching and scholarship are assessed in distinct buckets for professional review. Moreover, institutions often distinguish between teaching and writing when providing support for faculty development programs. On the one hand, we can attend workshops about teaching topics such as evidence-based pedagogies, digital tools and assessment techniques. On the other, we can attend faculty writing retreats, join faculty writing groups and attend productivity workshops. Most Popular
However, colleges and universities can better leverage the faculty development resources they have and advance a much-needed institutional shift from an instructional paradigm to a learning paradigm if they integrate support for us across our roles and responsibilities.
When faculty are supported as writers , we can also grow as teachers. In a longitudinal study of faculty participants in an annual summer writing retreat, my colleague Monique Dufour, an associate collegiate professor of history at Virginia Tech, and I noticed what we call a “ turn to teaching .” We found that as those faculty overcame challenges, learned new skills and achieved their goals, they could also apply those insights and accomplishments to the student writers that they worked with.
In fact, support for faculty writers can be leveraged in five key ways to make a big difference for students.
We learn that challenges can and do arise in the writing process, even for the most experienced and accomplished scholars. Challenges are a part of writing, and learning to accept and overcome them is a key to making progress. What a good lesson to extend to our students, too. When we get stuck in our own work, we can have compassion for students when they get stuck in theirs. When we participate in writing retreats and learn how to set realistic expectations for what we can accomplish during dedicated writing time, we can teach students to acknowledge and work within the time that they have. When we realize that relentless demands make it hard to find time to […]