Institute for Teaching & Learning

Faculty Development for Research, Scholarly, & Creative Activities

Terre Allen, Ph.D.

Professor and Director, Faculty Center for Professional Development
California State University, Long Beach

Terre AllenTerre Allen is a Professor of Communication Studies and Director of CSULB’s Faculty Center for Professional Development.  Her Ph.D. is in interpersonal communication and cognitive psychology and her research includes theoretical and applied work in communication and group decision-making. She has published numerous articles and book chapters on group communication, communication in instruction, instructional technology, and faculty development. Terre received several research awards from the National Communication Association, where she served as a member of the assessment council, general education advisory board, and several journal editorial boards. Her current research is on STEM-specific culturally responsive pedagogy. Terre is co-developer and co-author of a 24 book series on student success, called USAFunds Life Skills© .

Typically, faculty development activities focus exclusively on teaching and learning, or a broader mission associated with supporting faculty work.  CSULB’s Faculty Center for Professional Development’s mission is the latter, “initiating programs and implementing services that support all members of the faculty in their multiple roles and responsibilities in the university’s academic community.”  Servicing a broad mission is rewarding, challenging; requiring partnerships with other campus units to provide efficient and effective faculty support for teaching, scholarly/creative activities, and service.   One of our most successful partnerships has been with the Office of University Research and Sponsored Programs; collaborating to provide the CSULB Scholarly Writing Institute (SWI).  The institute has become our most popular event (CSULB Faculty Worklife Survey, 2011).  We offer the SWI twice yearly; early January and early June as a three- day, writing-intensive opportunity for faculty.  SWI participant assessment indicates that our model is particularly well suited for faculty members at comprehensive universities who have demanding teaching and service schedules.

The SWI provides faculty with three days of uninterrupted writing time, professional editors, and a statistical consultant.  Additionally, provide modest food and beverages throughout the day.  Complete details about the SWI can be found in Romancing the muse:  Faculty writing institutes as professional development (Ambos, Wiley, & Allen, 2008).  Numerous faculty members are self-described “repeaters” and we’ve recently begun to collect data about their accomplishments.  Our most recent call for participation went out late in the fall semester for our January 2012 event and more than 60 applications came in within the first 24 hours.  We were able to open a second session to handle the overload; our normal capacity is approximately 35 faculty (a room/space issue).  Most of our budget is dedicated to food and beverage. The editors are graduate students or adjunct faculty from our English department, and our statistical consultant is a staff member in Academic Technology Services.  Editors receive a very modest stipend and the statistical consultant provides the service as a part of his normal job duties. 

Faculty perceptions of research value and support have significant impact on faculty satisfaction and retention (see Rosser, 2004).  An application review indicated that most participants work on “revise and resubmit” papers for peer-reviewed publications. Importantly, we have found that the SWI positively influences faculty scholarly productivity, faculty perceptions of university value of scholarly/creative activity, and faculty perceptions of university support for scholarly/creative activities (CSULB Faculty Worklife Survey, 2011, SWI Assessment 2005 – 2011).  We completed our first survey of self-reported participant outcomes in June 2011. We surveyed repeat participants (two or more SWIs).  Most respondents were assistant professors (n = 13), with fewer associate (n = three) and full (n = two) professors responding.  All colleges (except Engineering) were represented.  Respondents attended an average of five SWIs. Respondents attributed an average of four published, peer-reviewed journal articles, six conference presentations, three other works (books, book chapters, book proposals, grant applications), and two scholarly awards to their SWI work time.

We have experimented with several formats (e.g., speakers, panel discussions, library research sessions, etc.).  However, what faculty members want is simply uninterrupted time to write/work.  Walking through our event at noon that day, most faculty members had taken their lunch back to their table/work area to continue their writing.  We provide first-time attendees with Boice’s book, Professors as Writers.  We encourage faculty to write daily and provide a follow-up, during-semester “boosters” with “Faculty Writing Fridays” at the Faculty Center for Professional Development (Fridays during-semester).  We don’t provide the editorial, statistical, or food and beverages services on Faculty Writing Fridays, but faculty can bring their own food and beverages (a campus café is located near the entrance to our building).

Why is this type of support for scholarship important in the CSU?  University faculty members are scholar/teachers who have chosen their career because they are passionate about their combined teaching/research/service roles.  Additionally, faculty satisfaction and retention are highly correlated with perceived institutional support for scholarly activities. We’ve seen funds for reassigned time, travel, and other supports dwindle in tough economic times.  This is a relatively low-cost event with high levels of perceived support and dividends for participants. The event is also relatively easy to manage.  Faculty report that being in a room with others engaged in the scholarly activities is all they need to feel “motivated and obligated” to work.  Additionally, they appreciate the time away from distractions at work or home offices.

The SWI Basics:  Our faculty feedback, regular assessments, trials and errors have taught us what works in supporting a low cost/high impact, scholarly writing institute.  I’ve compiled a list of the basics for those interested in hosting their own event:

Keys to Event Planning and Preparation

  • Determine if there are good collaborative options available for you (political, cost, work, or space sharing).
  • Determine what restrictions, if any, you want to place on attendees (e.g., we restrict our attendees to tenured and tenure track faculty only — the demand from those required to engage in scholarly/creative work is more than we can accommodate).
  • Determine how much technical support you will need, and make sure you arrange it in advance.  Everyone will need an electrical outlet and internet access.  We’ve required less technical support over the years.  For example, faculty members are required to bring laptops and e-mail their drafts to the consultants.  We once provided a few printers so faculty could print drafts, but in the last year there hasn’t been the demand for printers.
  • Determine what each office/person is responsible for accomplishing and a timeline for accomplishing the tasks: (e.g., space reservation, advertising, food, applications, follow-up communication, daily trouble-shooting, and certificates).
  • Develop a brief application.  The event MUST have some sort of “application” process.  Faculty need to provide you with some preliminary information about their status and the project that they intend to work on during the event.  You’ll also need this to determine food and beverage needs.
  • Advertise your event early and often. The event should be planned and advertised enough in advance so that faculty members can arrange three consecutive days on their calendars.
  • If possible, arrange your space so that work space, consultation space, and eating spaces are separate from one another.  Faculty desire a quiet workspace.  Consultations require lots of conversation, and the eating area should also be a space where faculty can spend breaks talking with other faculty or making necessary phone calls.
  • There is no need to be “fancy” – keep it simply and focused on giving faculty what they want “uninterrupted writing time.”  You will need only one person in the room or nearby to be “on call” in case of questions/problems.  We normally have one of our clerical staff available to answer questions or call one of us.
  • Invite campus administrators to lunch during your event or have one provide a brief welcome to faculty the first day of the event.

Pre-Event Checklist

  • Send a friendly e-mail to all attendees reminding them of what they’ll need for the event.
  • Send consultants a thank you and a reminder.
  • Make sure the food and beverage arrangements are complete.
  • Set up the room so that each person has an ample workspace, electrical outlet, and internet access.
  • Make sure the room is comfortable for work (lighting, temperature, etc).
  • Make sure all technology needs are scheduled.

The Event

  • Provide a brief welcome and have participant introduce themselves (have them state their name, department, current project and past successes – if they are repeat attendees).
  • Provide introductions of staff and consultants.  Explain the consultation process and consultation sign-up.  (We have sign-up sheets with time blocks – first come, first served).  Make ALL announcements at this time.  On each day of the event you should announce when lunch will be served, and about a half hour before your appointed closing time make a wrap-up announcement.
  • Get faculty members working as quickly as possible.
  • Leave faculty alone and let them work.
  • Provide an assessment and feedback form.
  • Provide a brief wrap up on the last day and ask faculty if they’d like to share any accomplishments or feedback.
  • Thank them for their hard work and dedication and send them home with a certificate.
  • COMMUNICATE the value-added to administrators!

Faculty development that addresses all aspects of faculty worklife is of great value to comprehensive universities like the CSU.  Faculty members have heavy teaching loads, they value scholarship and enjoy sharing their scholarly work with students, and they value service activities. Supporting faculty worklife is a good model for faculty development – we encourage our students to engage in integrative activities, shouldn’t we provide integrative support for faculty?  Integrative support empowers faculty to reflect less on their worklife as a set of “competing activities” and more as a set of “complementary activities.”

Faculty Development and The Office of University Research have co-hosted the Scholarly Writing Institute since about 2003.  We noticed that our campus reappointment, tenure, and promotion culture has adopted the SWI as recommendation to faculty who are experiencing trouble balancing their teaching/scholarship time.  The SWI certificates routinely make it into RTP files.   Additionally, many faculty members report that the SWI was instrumental in assisting them with revising papers that they may have otherwise cast aside and not resubmitted.  Overall, it has become a highly valued form of institutional recognition and support for faculty scholarly and creative activities.  We are happy to share our model and successes with others.

Ambos, B., Wiley, M., & Allen, T. H. (2008).  Romancing the muse:  Faculty writing institutes as professional development. In L. Nelson & J. Miller (Eds), To Improve the Academy:  Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Developers, 27 (pp. 135 – 149).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Rosser, V. (2004). Faculty members’ intentions to leave: A national study on their worklife and satisfaction.  Research in Higher Education, 45, 285-309.

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One response on “Faculty Development for Research, Scholarly, & Creative Activities

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