Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Navigating a complex workplace: Unexpected benefits from peer writing support (#157)

Paula Myatt 1 , Ashley Edwards 2 , Fiona Bird 3
  1. formerly Teaching & Educational Development Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia
  2. School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia
  3. School of Life Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Teaching in universities can be a complex, uncertain and even solitary journey. Imagine a workplace in which you can safely share your successes and failures, your fears and your heart-felt aspirations. Imagine also that the environment is non-competitive, supportive and without confrontation. This sounds Utopian, but we propose that a sustainable model of peer support can provide these opportunities. This paper examines the experiences of the authors who established a cross-institutional peer writing group to enhance their individual writing productivity. As science academics moving from our original disciplines into educational research our writing group was established to enhance writing productivity, however the model proved to be personally and professionally rewarding in ways greater than anticipated. Over a two-year period we wrote reflectively to chart our journey. We communicated regularly by telephone and email, committed to specific writing tasks, and discussed our publishing plans, challenges and outcomes. This paper discusses the benefits of peer support in navigating through the uncertainty and complexity of academic careers. We focus on the positive and negative influences on productivity highlighted by our journal entries. Analysis of our data and reflection on our experience enables us to recommend four strategies for optimising the effectiveness of peer writing groups. As academics we rise and fall based on our publication record, however this paper gives guidance for a more supportive journey on the way to the publication destination.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

This showcase presentation relates directly to the subtheme “Navigating uncertainty and complexity” and also to the overall conference theme of “Learning for life and work in a complex world”. Interestingly this presentation does not relate to student learning, instead it focusses on academics, their professional development and support for their careers. The paper has, at its heart, research findings which relate directly to a model of peer support which the authors present as a mechanism for supporting academics as individuals and enhancing their academic careers. While the research outcomes focus on the benefits derived from a peer writing group for increasing publication productivity, the presentation will also include reflections on the role peer support can play in “Navigating uncertainty and complexity” within the academic work place. This paper offers an important alternative perspective on the sub-theme “Learning for life and work in a complex world”, reminding academics that while the future for our students is complex, our own workplace is equally complex and uncertain.

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