Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Opting into a Faculty Scholarship Community: Benefiting Productivity and Personal Well-Being

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Opting into a Faculty Scholarship Community: Benefiting Productivity and Personal Well-Being

Article excerpt

RADICAL CHANGE DEFINES the landscape of higher education in the early 21st century. Student demographics are shifting. Resources are becoming more scarce. New technologies are changing traditional modes of interaction. Faculty in American colleges and universities feel these "disruptions" profoundly because they often translate into intensified demands on their time. The result is that faculty are increasingly being asked to assume new administrative responsibilities, while at the same time, excel in their teaching, scholarship, and service.

One way to confront these 21st-century "disruptors" is to build a strong connection with peers. A Faculty Scholarship Community (FSC) fosters peer connections to enhance the scholarly productivity of its individual members. Its primary goal is to increase members' scholarly presentations and publications, in part to satisfy an institution's promotion and tenure requirements. FSCs are comprised of a limited number of faculty from different disciplines who support one another's goal of bringing research to publication while simultaneously fostering small group learning (Gillespie et al., 2005; Sapon-White, King, & Christie, 2004).

This article describes the way one group of junior faculty voluntarily came together out of both need and desire to navigate this disruptive landscape. The group formed a fruitful, dynamic FSC as a positive and productive way to address these pressures. Participation in the group strengthened and buoyed those who chose to participate, providing them with a space for connection, collaboration, and co-mentoring. Qualitative evidence will show the trust and well-being that resulted from this union enabled members to manage multiple disruptors and achieve enhanced scholarly output.

Review of Literature

Small-group learning fits within a social constructivist theory where knowledge is built and meaning is made through dialogue with others about shared problems or tasks (Pereles, Lockyer, & Fidler, 2002). While some small groups come together to solve a problem and disband, others are more permanent in nature. Their members may stay together for months if not years, linked by a common purpose. Pereles et al. (2002) posit that these "permanent small groups may function as communities of practice" (p. 206). In a community of practice (CoP), members self-organize based on their collective desire to learn about a domain of shared interest. Members are required to possess a base level of knowledge about the domain to be admitted into the community. As a community, members actively help one another by sharing information and resources. As such, members develop a shared practice through their sustained interactions (Pereles, Lockyer, & Fidler, 2002; Wenger, 1998; Wenger & Wenger-Trayner, 2015).

Consideration of FSCs as Communities of Practice (CoPs)

FSCs appear to satisfy the criteria for a community of practice (Cox, 2004b). An FSC's domain of shared interest is scholarly productivity. Its faculty members form a community that interacts regularly to assist one another in improving each individual member's scholarly output. Notably, FSC members as practitioner-scholars can successfully assist each other in problem-solving many scholarship-related issues (Sapon-White et al., 2004). These concerns include (a) discerning where to publish; (b) determining the steps to manuscript submission; (c) knowing how to respond to editors; and (d) preparing to present at conferences. Practitioner-scholars within these groups can greatly benefit from hearing one another's stories and learning from each other's successes and challenges. Most significantly, they can do so within a "safe space" of collegial support.

Facilitator and Peer Leadership

The facilitator role is of great value to the FSC, which is a type of CoP/Faculty Learning Community (FLC). Writing about this role in a faculty learning community, Ortquist-Ahrens and Torosyan (2009) stated, "The FLC facilitator . …

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