Making connections and keeping connected

Ferry trip to Hong Kong Is (N.Lemon, 2014)
I’m in Hong Kong at the moment attending the #HERDSA14 conference and thought I’d share the poster presentation my colleagues and I have prepared for those who can’t be here.

Making connections and keeping connected: Engaging diverse learners across multiple sites

Our research team: Dr Narelle Lemon, Professor Tanya Fitzgerald, Dr Caroline Walta, Dr Deborah Neal, Dr Rebecca Miles, Ms Jude Warren, and Ms Karen Corneille, Faculty of Education, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

Abstract

Student retention and success at higher education has been widely researched (James, et al., 2010; Kifts & Nelson, 2005; Roberts, 2011) however, much of the data available is positioned within policy responsibilities and discussions around institutional structures. With emerging research indicating that there is no one singular reason for students’ withdrawal from higher education it is important to look at a number of inter-related factors that leads to disengagement. Ultimately, there is support showing unsuccessful experiences are driven by issues around pedagogy, practical organisational issues, and support provided (Devlin, 2010; Kirk, 2008; Laing & Robinson, 2003; Yorke & Longden, 2008). Building from these recommendations, this paper aims to share the beginning phase of a funded project that aims to focus on social integration and socially inclusive pedagogies (Gale & Mills, 2013) that connects students within a supportive learning community. The project is based in Australia at a multi campus university that actively encourages the use of online tools to build and nurture peer support and collaborative learning. An unintended consequence of this tool has been the fostering of friendships within and across multiple campuses. As we argue in this paper, it is this online community that has the potential to connect students with their peers as well as with the institution. Importantly, student voices already speak to ways in which these connections encourage their learning and have cemented their intention to remain at university.

This poster reports the first stage  of the project – investigation of student needs for effective online learning – and the impact for subject development in Stage 3.

IMG_1003Aim

The intention of this project is to devise, implement and evaluate an online peer mentoring model that connects teacher education students across campuses (five in total situated in the state of Victoria, Australia), and which contributes to the ongoing success and retention of undergraduate low SES (LSES) students.

To devise and implement socially inclusive pedagogies that connects students across campuses and which contributes to the ongoing success and retention of undergraduate low SES (LSES) students.

Participants

Participants of this study are 17+ year old undergraduate students (n = 500) undertaking studies in education, thus to become an education professional.

Approach

A mixed methods approach utilising focus groups, interviews and online surveys will be used in this study.The first stage is to determine components which promote social connectedness in a regional-based teacher education program, and to put these into practice in the development and implementation of two new online elective subjects to be offered across a city and regional campus in 2014. This will be achieved by inviting the cohort of students who were enrolled in 2013 to participate in an online survey.The second stage is to identify concerns that the new 2014 cohort of Education students have in their first year of a bachelor program of study at Melbourne and Mildura campuses. An invitation to a brief online survey will be issued at the commencement of the year, middle of the year and end of the year. Results from the surveys will be used to provide support to students in their transition to university life. The third stage will involve development of two new elective subjects to be delivered across campuses by a team who are located across campuses. Fourth stage is an evaluation of the two new electives with the use of focus groups, interviews and online surveys involving students and staff. At the end of each semester study participant student retention data will be examined and compared to that of previous years.

Literature

There is a growing body of evidence relating to student retention and success (for example James, Krause and Jenkins, 2010; Kift and Nelson, 2005; Roberts, 2011). Much of this is institutional research that examines policy responsibilities and obligations at subject, departments or single institutional level. Where larger studies have been undertaken the emphasis has been on institutional comparisons or the national picture, although some research has been international in scope (for example Yorke and Longden, 2004; Kahu, 2013, Trowler and Trowler, 2010). More recently, research studies have concluded that there is rarely a single reason why students withdraw; there are a number of inter-related factors that lead students to disengage with their studies and the institution. Certainly there is significant research evidence that learning and teaching environments are highly influential for students’ retention and success (Laing and Robinson, 2003). Similarly, Kirk (2008) and Devlin (2010) found that issues relating to pedagogy, practical organisational issues and the support provided have the most pronounced impact on retention rates. Yorke and Longden (2008) suggest the following factors contribute to student retention:

  • an institutional commitment to student learning, and hence to student engagement;
  • proactive management of student transition;
  • curriculum issues such as treating learning as an academic and social milieu; and
  • and choosing curricular structures that increase the chances of student success.

Research about specific student groups in higher education repeatedly concludes that the learning environment is critical for students to feel integrated and to reach their academic potential. For example, Devlin and O’Shea (2012) conclude that it is essential to take into account the wider socio-economic context of students within the learning and teaching context. Crucially, universities have a social and moral responsibility to genuinely and proactively provide support for students from non-traditional backgrounds. Of importance then is the need for socially inclusive pedagogies (Gale and Mills, 2013) that work to connect students within a supportive learning community.

What this points to is the critical importance of social integration. Students must be able to feel that they ‘fit in’, both socially and academically. For students from LSES backgrounds, the need to ‘fit in’ is imperative as they tend to have weaker support networks, display attributes linked with social isolation and withdraw more easily as they have no sense of connection to the institution (Furlong and Cartmel, 2009; Harvey and Drew, 2006). Hence, a range of formal and informal social experiences may serve to reinforce students’ attachment to an institution, facilitate development of their educational goals and improve their academic performance (Tinto, 1993).

In Tinto’s work, students found that learning communities had academic and social benefits that impacted positively on student achievement and persistence. It is these established learning communities that have promoted social, as well as academic, integration. And it is this form of social and academic integration that connects students within and beyond their own campus that is the focus of this project.

IMG_0998Stage 1 reporting

What we have learnt from students who have completed a post-graduate teacher degree online?

A survey of students (n=34) revealed 61.7% of students (n=21) commented that strategies implemented by the teacher and subject design were significant for establishing a successful online community of support. Highly featured were:

ü  Resource and ideas sharing (cognitive presence)

ü  Feedback (teacher presence)

ü  Support (social presence)

ü  Sense of community developed face to face helped develop relationships for the online components of delivery (social presence)

Twenty-one likert scale items (1SD – 5SA) relating to the online components were listed covering levels of support, interaction, engagement, feedback and technical skills . The lowest mean (3.68) indicates that there was a strong level of agreement to all 21 items with the top 5 being:

  • I was happy to share information with other students (n=31 mean 4.35 sd 0.66)
  • I had the right amount of technical skills to participate fully (n=31 mean 4.35 sd 0.66)
  • I valued the feedback I got from teaching staff (n=31 mean 4.42 sd 0.56)
  • The teaching staff were responsive (n=30 mean 4.47 sd0.51)
  • The teaching staff created a safe online learning environment  (n=31 mean 4.58 sd 0.56)

Proposed implementation

From listening to the feedback from students who have undertaken studies online and in partnership with literature, this project aims to implement the following guiding principles for Stage 3:

ü  Develop two new elective for delivery across multiple campuses.

ü  Social pedagogies applied to subject design.

ü  Socially connect students in a learning space with students who they would not normally connect with.

ü  Build a community of learners for students through online spaces.

ü  Provide online resources across the university.

ü  Build in orientation to subject to assist in the ongoing support for success.

ü  Build in how to participate in a community of learners to assist in the ongoing support for success. This will focus on support and scaffolding how students can support one another and how to connect across networks from multiple sites. There will be purposeful pedagogical decisions by teachers to scaffold this experience.

ü  Take into consideration teacher presence and the impact on pedagogical decisions that establish and support student success.

Build a community of researchers not located in the same physical location that model to the students how to network and participate in a community of learners.  This will mirror social connectedness as a teaching team

Conclusion

The presentation shares a project that focuses on online spaces as a place of and for collaboration, community building, participation, and sharing. We view this as an institutional responsibility not just a student responsibility. The poster presentation presents implications for supporting diverse learners to be successful at higher education while becoming global citizens. Specifically we raise attention to those responsible for course design for online and blended learning environments and the need to be particularly mindful of embedded opportunities for students to learn collaboratively, engage in social interaction and readily communicate with and receive feedback from course administrators.

Acknowledgement

The research team would like to acknowledge that this  research is funded by the  Commonwealth Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).

 

#shutupandfindajournal

This morning I set up a session with some colleagues that dedicated time to searching for a suitable journal for publications we are all working on. We thought we would do it together to support one another and to be able to ask questions to assist in the thinking process. Participating in this dedication of time together also meant we were being accountable for the final outcome…that is, find a journal we can focus on and guide our writing by as we aim to disseminate findings from research carried out.

We called this session Shut up and find a journal. Inspired by Shut up and Write session, the aim is to look at one identified possible journal for 30 minutes, then chat for 10 minutes about possibilities, ask any questions, and refocus the point of the activity. In sharing we are also helping each other learn a bit more about another journal.

So we started out by addressing the question – How do I pick a journal? We decided our guiding principles were:

Find a journal that will be appropriate for the research being undertaken at the moment. So we have to know our work, know our argument, and know the contribution we are making (applied/practical or theoretical). Two drivers that helped us make this decision were:

  1. What journals are on my institution publication list (high cited journals relevant to specific fields) that will enable me to be effective with my time in that I will eventually have a successful publication and at the same time earn pocket money to pay for professional development or conference registration?
  2. What journals are relevant to my field and the appropriate audience?

What do I look for?

While searching the journals and doing some research on what will be appropriate for the research I’m working on I’m thinking about:

  • Who publishes in the journal?
  • What is the format?
  • What is the style?
  • Does the style fit my research?
  • What are common topics published?
  • Are the patches of innovation published?
  • Is this journal rights for me?
  • How many times a year is it published?
  • Will there be a quick turn over for review to publish?

An icky place in this process can be you get caught up with the paper content and learning from them. So my strategy is to set up a folder that you can save the interesting articles into and make time to come back to them at a later stage. This activity is all about researching the types of journals you want to publish in.

How do you look for journals to publish in?

Tips for managing your time

IMG_0327Lately a few people in higher education have been asking me about how I manage my time. It’s a great question as it encouraged me to reflect upon the strategies I use and have been trying as I manage my time and commitments associated to working as an academic. I thought I’d share some of my strategies in a post – some new and others that have been a part of me and the way I work for a little while now.

 Tip 1: Calm inbox

This is a great strategy that was shared with me by @kyliebudge via @themusicbaby and is one of the best ways to make sure email does not rule my work life and downtime. The approach means that email is checked once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Utilising this strategy encourages you to consciously block in a period of time in your diary and think about when you access the email rather than checking it on every device you have multiple times (and often too many times) a day. The strategy means that you communicate this with those who contact you via your email signature so there is transparency… and often requests to know more.

 This is a Calm Inbox: email is checked once in the AM and once in the PM. Learn why at www.calmbox.me

 Tip 2: Write every day

Research and dissemination is a significant part of my job so I book in time everyday to write. I block out each morning for 1 to 2 hours in my diary to write as I know this is when I can produce new words best, plus my mind is fresh and less distracted by other projects, collegial conversations, ideas, meetings, and teaching.

Tip 3: Map your projects

This tip came from a dear colleague of mine, @jod999, who sat me down a few years ago for a serious conversation about mapping projects to build research capacity. I have several charts on my whiteboard in my office and on digital spreadsheets that I use to map my projects. This helps me project manage myself across a variety of areas – it also gives me permission to put aside some details as I know I have accurate records to come back to. I also apply this to publications to track write up, submission, review, proof and publication stages. The mapping is especially helpful when collaborating with others to assist in my contribution and meeting deadlines.

Tip 4: Busyness activities are not the focus

Last year I spent a day with a consultant at a professional learning opportunity for women in higher education. The top tip shared during this day was that everything you do should align to your KPIs (key performance indictors) as this is what has been defined by the institution one is working at as areas for focus. I found this tip incredibly valuable as it allowed me to become aware of busyness activities that take me away from research, teaching, and leadership responsibilities.

Tip 5: Learn to say “no”

This one is a work in progress as I can get carried away with exciting ideas but I have to remember “no” is not a bad word when committing to a project as it means I am not taking time away from those that I have already committed to.

 

What are your top tips for managing your time while working in higher education? 

Twitter, pre-service teachers and their thoughts on use

#visarts13 in action in the teacher education visual arts classroom (N. Lemon, 2013)

#visarts13 in action in the teacher education visual arts classroom (N. Lemon, 2013)

I’m writing a book chapter at the moment that celebrates pre-service teachers use of Twitter while studying visual arts as a part of their teacher education studies.  I thought I would share some of the findings that I will share in the publication to  get your response. I have been exploring the data through Wenger’s (1998, 2000) Community of Practice framework.

The invitation to participate was offered to 155 pre-service teachers  (Males = 17, Female = 138) with 136 aged 18 to 25, 16 aged 26-40 and 3 aged between 45-50) as a way to experience social media for professional use and to make connections to personal experiences with similar media. The pre-service teachers were invited to participate in order to achieve three goals: a) to extend their professional networks; b) to use Twitter as a digital access point to content; and c) to extend their current knowledge of arts education resources, artists, artworks, art organisations, and pedagogical approaches.

The concept of social media for professional use was unfamiliar to many with only three occasionally using Twitter for personal communication with friends. Only 32.5% had considered Twitter as a social media for professional connections and networking and 24.7% had considered Twitter as a social media for accessing content associated to their role as a teacher prior to the use in this study. All pre-service teachers but one participated in use of Twitter. The one pre-service teacher who did not felt anxious about her digital identity and at the stage of the study preferred to observe from a far rather than in the online space itself.

The notion of community of practice (COP) derives from Wenger who suggests that COPs can be small, highly focused and strictly bounded, or highly fluid and informal. In the case of pre-service teachers using Twitter, the latter is certainly the case. Wenger proposes that groups of people working together as a community of practice are distinguished by:

  •       Meaning – a shared common interest and a way of talking about our (changing) ability to experience meaning making. This research has enabled documenting a domain in which there are overlapping interests, but where pre-service teachers interaction patterns and practices are guided by their lecturer modeling use, peer guidance or teaching and work patterns and practices that develop as a part of studying to become a teacher.
  •       Community – a way of talking about the social configurations including shared activity, joint discussion, sharing information, assisting each other, and seeking advice. The analysis suggests that these are the core activities of pre-service teacher tweeters.
  •       Practice – a way of talking about sharing historical and social resources including a collective repertoire of resources, experiences, narratives, tools, interaction patterns, modes of address which developed over time. The process of constructing a tweet and sharing the content of the tweet lends itself to practices that afford themself to a relatively informal ‘voice’ and that of a developing professional (educator).
  •       Identity – a way of talking about how learning changes and the pre-service teachers interactions with Twitter suggest, form the basis of professional tweeting, reflective practice, and newly formed professional digital practices strongly connected to professional digital identity.

So if we unpack this further communication, connecting to others especially peers, and ability to understand how others were interpreting and exploring visual arts were all ranked highly on the 5 point likert scale evaluation survey.  

Community

Learning as  Belonging

A sense of belonging amongst the cohort enrolled in the subject shifted with Twitter being a space whereby friendship groups were extended to communication within a workshop itself,  across workshops and across the two campuses. This was a significant disruption to usual ways of working where pre-service teachers would work in friendship groups with minimal communication with each other.

Table 3: Items associated to community

Item Agreed and strongly agreed
Twitter Increased interaction with subject teacher and fellow students 68%
Twitter Increased understanding of what peers are doing in class. 89.6%
Twitter Increased understanding of what peers are doing across workshops and campuses 65.2%
Twitter is an effective method of communication between peer and peer 63.5%
 I’m enjoying using social media to facilitate more participation 70.5%
I enjoy the class modeling of Twitter via peer use 82.6%
I enjoy the class modeling of Twitter via teacher use. 77.4%

Practice

Learning as Doing

Pre-service teachers were active participants with Twitter embedded in class and assessment and their tweets became a  shared history of their learning and a shared repertoire of  doing things. They learnt as doing, in action if you like, as all were trying Twitter for the first time in the teacher education context and they were participating in a united positioning in a new discourse of social media being a digital access point to information and resources as professional development. This is a unique undertaking within the university where this was undertaken.

Table 4: Items associated to practice

Item Agreed and strongly agreed
Twitter integrated into the visual arts subject was a student centered approach to support discussion and sharing subject outcomes and aims 60%
Twitter was real world application of technology in class. 68.7%
Twitter is beneficial as a gallery of our work. 88.7%
I am developing confidence in being able to share content about my own art making 84.8%
I am developing confidence in being able to respond to a wider audience about education or arts education 45.3%
Twitter was supporting my ability to reflect on work being undertaken in class 79.1%

Meaning

Learning as Experience

The use of Twitter for professional engagement was generated in a safe and secure environment where the pre-service teachers could all support one another with use and learning how to engage in this online community professionally. They developed a common language, way of operating, habits for use in and out of class, as well as a way to talk about their experiences in becoming a primary school teacher. The pre-service teachers learnt about arts while experiencing theory and practice and they shared these insights and their reflections via Twitter.

Table 5: Items associated to meaning

Item Agreed and strongly agreed
Twitter was supporting my communication and ability to express, learn and share work, ideas and experiences. 87%

Identity

Learning as Becoming

Pre-service teachers were learning to become a teacher, a generalist primary teacher who needs to be able to integrate arts. Through an establishment of a supportive community the pre-service teachers identities were openly explored with each other and a global Tweeps. The Twitter feed for the class hashtag became a gallery of work and supported ways to connect with each other and others who engage with arts education. The personal natural fears and trepidations personally experienced were shifted from being internal worries to public discussions and supportive problem solving to shift towards positive outcomes and building of confidence.

Table 6:Items associated to identity

Item Agreed and strongly agreed
I have an understanding how I could use twitter to access resources and content. 86.1%
I am developing confidence in using Twitter professionally. 70.5%
I like that I am being introduced to Twitter for professional use. 77.4%

Conclusion remarks

Twitter enabled the pre-service teachers to communicate about their subject work in an online space. They were encouraged, through the maximum 140 character construction of a tweet, to carefully think about the content they could share associated to their learning experiences in arts education and to a lesser extent teacher education. Connecting to course work supported the pre-service teachers sharing process, reflections and insights online.  The class hashtag (#visarts13) allowed the pre-service teachers to trace their classroom interactions through the online while also learning from each other, thus forming a gallery of work, while also learning from each other.

The pre-service teachers constructed their knowledge and understandings of visual arts education based on their semesters’ study. They could link to the weekly course content and the checklist that was constructed for them as a guide to types of topics, questions or work they might wish to share.  Throughout the project, the pre-service teachers were invited and encouraged to articulate their learning, understanding and observations with others via Twitter.  The pre-service teachers accessed new resources, content and information from others, or developed their own; all were shared with followers and #visarts2013 as a way to support the constructive use of Twitter as a professional development tool. Of note was the extension of peer-to-peer contact in this online space across workshops and campuses that traditionally would not have engaged with each other.  This was a model for further extension into the global connections power of this online site.

The pre-service teachers’ in their journey to understand and explore how Twitter can support their engagement to visual arts and professional development have embodied the enactment of Wenger’s notions of domain, community and practice. The collective inquiry, that is invitation and participation as a group enrolled in a core subject, supported notions of a community of practice that both transferred face-to-face and virtually. Twitter enabled the ability for the pre-service teachers to explore creativity in a safe and nurturing place – especially important for those addressing and acknowledging low self-efficacy and human dilemmas associated to creativity and the arts (Craft 2006; Lemon and Garvis 2013).

The strength of Twitter was set in the extension of peer-to-peer interactions, moving beyond friendship and workshop groupings, and the Twitter feed forming an online gallery of work. Reflection, common language, confidence to interact with content and each other as well as global connections were all enacted by the pre-service teachers that inherently supported them to explore creativity as connected to integrating visual arts in the role as primary school teachers. The short text (up to 140 characters) and visual is strength for pre-service teachers in a fast paced environment where reflective practice is highly desirable. Date stamps assist in accurate recording of curation of and generation of content. This timeline documented a semester’s work and offered a space for further reflection, metacognitive thinking, questioning, and inquiry.

References:

Wenger, Etinne. 1998. Communities of practice. Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wenger, Etinne. 2000. “Communities of practice and social learning systems”. Organization. Speaking, 7(2): 225–46.

Educating Laos

This is a guest post By Lindsay Holt. In her second blog post we hear about teaching in Laos and gain insights about space, place and impact of education. Lindsay was so inspired by her experience she has taken up the opportunity to  complete an internship at the Jay Pritzker Academy in Siem Reap.

Sayabury

During my month in Laos I was able to observe the impact education is having on the the children and broader community in developing a sustainable future. From grassroots initiatives to INGOs (International Non-Government Organisations) much is being done beyond the four walls to maximise the spread and depth of delivery in a country where 80% of its residents still live in rural communities.

 The Luang Prabang Library provides an open learning space for the local children, adults, Novices and Monks to study and practice conversational english with visitors (not advertised). Their greatest initiative is their ‘floating library’ whereby a boat library coasts up the Mekong River to areas with limited, or sometimes no access, to books. They allow the people to read the books for as long as they like while the boat is docked, before moving onto another village. The books are sold at the library and when all 20 of the books are sold the floating library goes on another trip. Unfortunately marketing is something Loatians are still mastering the art of, and selling the books can often take months.

 Big Brother Mouse is a local publishing house that prints educational, fun and interesting books not only in Lao script, but many with dual print with either English or French. Many of these books end up on the Floating Library, and are highly recommended as gifts for any local family or village you might visit (along with toothbrushes) rather than lollies or toys. To raise funds the organisation invite foreigners to host ‘publishing parties’ to cover to cost of publishing a new book. They also have advertised times for visitors to chat with locals wanting to practice their english. During the peak season the supply outweighs the demand as the holistic travellers embrace their inner teacher.

 As a massive fan of elephants I would have felt remiss if I didn’t make the most of being in the land of a million elephants. On recommendation from my local Canadian guide from Tiger Trails (formerly Fair-trek, one of the first eco-trekking organisations in the region) I found the Elephant Conservation Camp in Sayaboury. Elephants have traditionally been deeply respected and cared for by their trainers called Mahouts, they speak a particular tongue and develop an incredible bond with the animals over the course of their lifetimes. Increasingly ‘Chinese Buffalo’ (tractors) are replacing elephants and the local logging industry is becoming more regulated hence investing in the lifetime commitment of maintaining a healthy elephant is no longer socially or financially appealing. The Elephant Conservation Centre have taken the initiative to educate local Mahouts on how best to care for their animals, and what their options are for transferring their skills to the tourism industry.

 My Lao teaching experience was with the global voluntourism organisation Global Vision International (GVI).Voluntourism has enabled people from all over the world to access authentic experiences in country that go beyond the shoestring guide. Its increased popularity has many questioning the authenticity of some organisations as the experiences are paid for and run out of country.GVI were open about their concept, where the money goes and how the structure benefits the entire community from the onset. Not only did I have a wonderful experience exploring the challenges of teaching in a third world country, without my time in Luang Prabang I would not have had the confidence to apply for international jobs, nor would I be considered for them.

  GVI

Prior to my departure I spent many of my allotted ‘study hours’ researching NGOs in Laos, trying to find out what else is being done in country in regards to education. I discovered the US NGO Pencil of Promise (POP) an organisation founded on the premise that pencils provide the potential for children to learn and grow. I  was so moved by their simple yet incredibly powerful model I wrote an email asking if I could pop in- I even tried to find their office on arrival- to no avail. By chance I happened to meet a US photographer whose partner is one of two internationals working for POP! My faith in the universe restored, I spent a wonderful evening discussing the trials and tribulations of Monitoring & Evaluation in a third world country.

 One month on and I am still incredibly motivated, so much so that I not only applied for but was accepted to my first Graduate position at the Jay Pritzker Academy in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I look forward to embracing the opportunity and continuing on my global education adventure. You can follow me on twitter @Lindsay_D_H or on my new (work in progress) blog A Global Education. A big Thank You to Narelle for the inspiration to write, a wonderful mentor to have.

Perceptions of Pre-Service Teachers Value of Art Museums and Galleries

Art museums and galleries provide many educational opportunities for generalist classroom teachers to engage in learning experiences with students. Beliefs about engagement with art museums and galleries can begin in teacher education programs. This paper explores the beliefs of pre-service teachers in a Bachelor of Education (primary) program in the state of Victoria, Australia, about engagement with art museums and galleries at the start of semester and at the end of semester after a visit to a gallery. Using a survey, open-ended questions, and course evaluations about the teacher education program, data was collected to show the changes in perceptions regarding beliefs towards engagement with art museums and galleries as a primary teacher. Findings highlight the importance of engaging with art museums and galleries during teacher education to allow pre-service teachers to experience and understand the importance within their teaching and educational contexts.

Read more of this paper …

http://www.maneyonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/1059865013Z.00000000042

Embracing the creation of good writing habits

In the higher education world here in Australia we are busy bees organising for a new semester – selection, subject guides, curriculum development, team meetings, and getting our heads around policy are action items on all our lists. But if I interrupt this busyness and ask the question: So where does research sit? A colleague and I were chatting yesterday and she posed the question, if you can’t find time to research (data collect in the field, analyse, write your outputs up, etc)  now then when will you? This question made me think. I know personally research is a strong priority in my diary, actually it is number one. I designate time everyday to write, with a minimum of one hour. I also guard my one full day of research. I generally connect most of my other tasks to my research as well. Some would call this strategic thinking. In some ways yes, in other ways I’m seriously thinking about what I do, when I do it, why it do it, and am I the best person to do it.

My colleague stimulated an interesting conversation - what are you going to research?  when is your deadline? and how are you going to make it happen? So often we don’t use our time wisely as academics and we can get easily distracted and bogged down with tasks that take us away from one of our core responsibilities. Now don’t get me wrong, learning and teaching are also important, but what is not important is valuing administrative tasks with buckets of time. I wonder how much time we would save and transfer across to research if we attended to these tasks much quicker or perhaps not even at all. I have observed for many years now colleagues dedicating time to tasks that actually do not need to be done or could be completed much more efficiently by someone else.

Now is the time to set good habits. To organise the diary, create pockets of time that are focused on research. As I have blogged before there are numerous strategies that support developing healthy writing habits (Shut up and write sessions, pomodoro technique, #ciricleofnicrness, #acwrimo, etc). So the challenge is set, what are you going to do to create a healthy write habit? What is your first step to assist you creating more time to research, write, or analyse?

Here’s some ideas:

  • Map your diary out for the week with blocks of research time
  • On you computer open up the file for your current writing task the night before you begin to write in the morning, them It will be the first thing you see in the morning when you sit down at you computer
  • Go for a run, stretch and the. Head straight to the computer to write
  • Head to your favourite cafe in the morning, enjoy a coffee while you write before you head into the office
  • Roll out of bed and write I your pj’s
  • Don’t check email until 2pm
  • Read a new article each day to inform your writing the next morning
  • Download a pomodoro app to help you build writing time

How will you embrace the creation of good writing habits?