This week, Peter Felten, Michael Strickland, and I are facilitating the annual Faculty Writing Residency for Elon faculty working on scholarship related to teaching and learning. Once a year, we invite faculty to apply for the four-day writing residency, and we typically accept 9 to 15 participants (depending on their writing projects). Then, about a week after commencement, we convene off-campus at a conservation site with a “tree house” and trails to write in the company of writers for four, uninterrupted days.
We group participants so that each facilitator is working with 3 to 4 faculty writers, and we meet daily in our small groups to exchange feedback on drafts in progress. We also set goals for the next day. As a result, everyone who participates is accountable to a facilitator and two or three other colleagues to meet daily writing goals.
The model generates a fantastic sense of community. In addition, it introduces faculty to strategies they can try in their own writing or with students in their classes. When someone mentions she’s having trouble keeping a section focused, colleagues will share the strategies they use (e.g., “use temporary headings so you remember what the section is about”). And if someone simply needs to talk through an idea before they can write any more, he has access to three facilitators and his group members, and they can find a sunny spot or walk the trails to talk through the sticky point in the project.
Most participants leave having made significant progress on their writing projects. Equally important, they have plans for finishing and submitting their work – often by the end of the summer. This jump-start has supported several faculty publications, but we’re also excited about the faculty writing culture the residencies sustain.
Even if your institution doesn’t offer a similar program, you can implement many of the strategies we use. Put out a call to colleagues in your department or to other colleagues with whom you like working and form a writing group. Commit to meeting regularly (every other week? once a month?) and to exchanging drafts in advance of each meeting. Then after you’ve offered each other feedback on the current draft, take turns sharing the writing goals you’ll work towards for your next meeting. Accountability, feedback, and goal-setting can move writing projects forward even during the hustle and bustle of the academic year.
How do you jump-start your summer writing?
We’ve written about the residency if you want to learn more about this model for supporting faculty writers:
Felten, Peter, Jessie Moore, and Michael Strickland. “Faculty Writing Residencies: Supporting Scholarly Writing and Teaching.” Journal on Centers for Teaching and Learning 1:1 (2009), 39-56.