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Collaboration not competition
Lisa Pendergast
Drs. Sharon Penney, Rhonda Joy and Cecile Badenhorst participating in a team discussion during their weekly writing group meeting.

A group of faculty members in the Faculty of Education began meeting weekly in 2009 to share and review their writing processes and has since grown into a successful publishing community due to their unique supportive environment.

The group was started by Dr. Cecile Badenhorst, Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Education. The group meets regularly and each member takes a turn hosting the meeting. There are no strict deadlines and action items for the meetings; instead, each member takes a turn checking in with the group and asking for feedback or advice on their writing. It is a relaxed and open setting where networking and socializing are as welcome as producing results.

Dr. Gabrielle Young, Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Education, joined the group as a new faculty member and has found the experience to be invaluable. “The group deliberately created an environment of non-criticism, we can give feedback but not criticism and we agree to promote support rather than competition,” said Dr. Young. “The writing group has served to foster a sense of belonging.”

Although the group consists of all female faculty members at present, male faculty has participated in the past and all members come from diverse areas of teaching and research, such as post-secondary education, science, special education, human kinetics, counseling psychology and social studies.

What makes this writing group unique is the supportive and collaborative environment. In an academic setting, and especially for those on the tenure track, research and writing tends to be competitive and performed individually. This group specifically wanted to overcome that individual experience and turn academic writing into a positive practice.

This process is working as the group has successfully published several papers. “As we have worked together we have mentored each other, learned how others write and incorporated that learning into our own writing,” said Dr. Young. “We have developed a growing confidence in ourselves as researchers.”

The writing group offers support to fellow faculty members, not only when it comes to writing, but also when it comes to common concerns such as negotiating contracts, navigating the tenure process or asking questions about benefits. Members have also found it useful to discuss half-formed research ideas and ask other members for practical advice on the logistics of grants and research designs.

It is rare to have a writing group that lasts as long as this one has. So why has this group been so successful?

Dr. Young says that they value productivity, but more so than their outcomes, the group is a safe space where they can make a connection and support each other. “In the process of developing and maintaining our faculty writing group, our colleagues have become supportive peers and friends who we can continually count on to help navigate the ebbs and flow of our academic careers.”

 

Mar 9th, 2015

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