Tenured and Non-Tenured College of Education Faculty Motivators and Barriers in Grant Writing: A Public University in the South

Article excerpt

Introduction

Securing funding to conduct research is increasingly important in today's higher education environment (Boyer & Cockriel, 1998; Sterner, 1999). Writing research grant proposals is a major means of seeking funding for research at institutions of higher education. For universities to increase research funding and subsequently increase research productivity, it is essential that university faculty members receive adequate support in writing research grant proposals. To provide such support, universities need a clearer understanding of faculty's perceptions of motivators and barriers in the research grant proposal writing process. While all faculty members have at least some academic writing experience, experience with grant writing may be limited to non-existent for some faculty. Academic and grant writing represent two distinctive genres of writing, each necessitating differing approaches.

Porter (2007) described grant writing as an activity that is geared toward the future, oriented toward service, focused on a single project, written to persuade the reader using a personal and lay tone, team-focused and brief. Academic writing, on the other hand, is geared toward the past, oriented toward individual pursuits, centered on a theme, uses an explanatory discourse genre with an impersonal tone, individual-focused and lengthy. Obviously, writing for academia and writing to obtain grant funds are two very different activities requiring varying skill sets. For many faculty, professional development in grant writing may be both needed and welcomed. These same faculty members may, however, require varying amounts of support from their research organization, which must probe employees regarding their past experiences and future goals for grant writing activities.

Similarly, understanding university faculty's perceptions of motivators and barriers is important in the development of organizational support to encourage faculty to write grants, subsequently carry out research, and publish. Campbell (1998) reported an increase in both the number of proposals submitted and the level of external funding at a small undergraduate teaching institution following a focused initiative by the university's office of Grants and Research to write proposals with faculty. Banta et al. (2004) reported that a fellowship program award created at the University of Northern Colorado to support new faculty in writing grants is actively leading participants in pursuing grant funding as well as enhancing grant writing skills. Focused initiatives such as these may arise out of a greater understanding of what university faculty members deem important in pursuing grants (motivators) and what keeps them from moving forward (barriers) with grant proposals. Efforts to understand faculty perceptions are likely to vary from institution to institution according to variables such as institutional size, resources available, and the institution's culture regarding the grant-seeking and procurement process.

For instance, Boyer and Cockriel (1998) randomly surveyed 370 faculty members (67% response rate) within Colleges of Education (COE) at American Association of Universities (AAU) Research I institutions and found that consideration in tenure and promotion, building professional research reputations, and a strong commitment from the college president were significant motivators in writing grants. They also found that lack of training in seeking and writing grants, lack of knowledge in the development of budgets, and lack of knowledge regarding potential funding sources were significant barriers to grant writing. These motivators and barriers were more significant for non-tenured faculty than for tenured faculty.

Similarly, Cole (2007) reported that faculty need more administrative assistance with grant proposal preparation, as well as a more streamlined review procedure. Insights into what faculty consider motivators and barriers to grant writing, such as those reported by Cole as well as Boyer and Cockriel (1998), may better inform institutionally sponsored initiatives to increase grant writing activities and, ultimately, the level of funding received. …