Academic and teaching jobs all have specific criteria for employment or promotion, such as education levels, academic publications, professional development and service (to see where you might benefit or fall short, see the article “Balanced Scorecard,”TLT). If you would like to strengthen some areas of your academic CV, an excellent way to help get motivated is to have regular meetings with peers. Just the act of getting together often has the effect of motivating you to generate new ideas and put them into action.
A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education pointed out that one of the important factors in professional development is the act of writing in public. And the idea that the group is in public is also very helpful to give the peer pressure that many of us need. It involves not only sharing your work, but taking it outside the protective shelter of office walls. Meeting in a public place, like a coffee shop or faculty lounge, lowers the affective filter and allows group members to spend time writing and, when appropriate reviewing and critiquing each other’s work while enjoying coffee or tea. In spite of the relaxed atmosphere, it should still be viewed as professional development time rather than just a social time.
An important fact to remember is that in order to produce a lot, there needs to be consistency in the number of times that a person writes. Having a regularly scheduled meeting to discuss writing provides a schedule for writing. Consistent friendly pressure from like-minded colleagues can lead to a more impressive CV over a year or two. While it is helpful to already be working on something, most will find that they organically expand their writing and research as the group moves forward. It is not only an opportunity to write, but to share ideas and opportunities. The projects are not limited to writing, but also include presentations, course improvements, career strategies, and even organizing a conference.
An easy way to start is to find like-minded peers in your own institution, in the part-timer’s lounge, or through JALT local chapters and SIGs. It might be easier than you think: after all who does not know someone who would like to do more presentations and publications, but just needs a little encouragement and guidance? The group can range from just two to twenty, but with larger groups it might be more difficult to coordinate meeting times and places. You might find that there is a core group that are always present and that others will join, then drop in and out. Usually once or twice a week is enough, but your group might find it more appropriate to meet more or less. The inter-semester breaks are excellent opportunities to meet, discuss and write.
Two years ago we formed this kind of informal research group, meeting Tuesday mornings at a coffee shop. While doing a periodic review and update of our academic CVs, we noticed how many of the additions arose from participation in the group: presentations, articles, conference organization. The same was true for all members of the group, not in only in projects we collaborated on, but also in our individual projects. As a result, all of the members of the group have received progressively more satisfying and stable academic positions. Peer collaboration can be aforce multiplier to promote academic publishing and career advancement.