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Creating a Culture of Faculty Writing on Campus

10 April 2018 Written by   Christine E. Tulley
University of Findlay students and faculty discussing writing identities. University of Findlay students and faculty discussing writing identities.

For faculty across disciplines, the processes of writing for publication are often mysterious. The act of writing for publication is rarely mentioned and is typically unseen, compared to the public nature of a published article or book. To strengthen a faculty “writing culture” on campus, both writing faculty and campus support areas, such as writing centers and centers for teaching excellence, can use two specific strategies to support faculty across disciplines in completing writing projects.


Strategy 1: Encourage Faculty Who Publish to Identify as Writers

Institutions can encourage faculty who are already publishing to view themselves as writers in addition to researchers. Most faculty prefer to call themselves “researchers” or “project directors” and view an identity as a writer as too “lofty” (Toor 2015), yet the field of rhetoric and composition can help faculty in other fields to also think of themselves as writers. While identifying as a writer might be “easier” for writing faculty, it is possible to teach faculty across disciplines to similarly identify as writers with practice and reflection (Carnell et al. 2008; Geller 2013).

Faculty developers might also rethink casting writing retreats as scholarship bootcamps for cranking out academic projects and focus instead on teaching faculty to find their writing identities through the writing process. Writing retreats should give faculty time to get re-engaged with the writing process, with the end goal of focusing on the process, not publications, “since the writing process will have more impact on the participants’ identities as writers and practices as teachers” (Cox and Brunjes 2013, 195). Though it may seem counterintuitive, identifying as a writer is especially important for the large numbers of faculty working at “teaching-mission” institutions that prioritize teaching. Here, many faculty solely identify as teachers or find difficulty in reconciling identities as teachers and as scholars, particularly when the institution makes it clear which one is more valuable. Rethinking the typical study hall model of a faculty writing retreat is especially valuable for these faculty at non-R1 institutions, where after the intervention, “faculty at teaching-mission institutions return to the reality of intensive teaching and service commitments, with little, if any, time reserved for writing” (Cox and Brunjes 2013, 195). A sustained discussion and activities during the retreat that help to foster an identity as a teacher-writer may have a larger impact and make visible faculty writing processes across campus.

As another option, faculty from all disciplines who do write successfully could be assigned as mentors to model their writing processes for incoming faculty. Alternatively, prolific pre-tenure faculty can serve as mentors for more senior colleagues who may have lost momentum or taken time off to serve in administration and need to restart. Having to explain how pieces of an article actively came together helps both the faculty mentors--whether pre-tenure or senior--to reflect on their writing processes while simultaneously demystifying the writing process for novice or returning writers. Existing help for tenure and promotion preparation could be modified to help new faculty plan and execute writing projects effectively with mentoring from experienced faculty writers. This last suggestion is particularly important since understanding the timing that goes into publishing enough for tenure is crucial for tenure-track faculty to be successful.

Strategy Two: Link Teaching of Writing across Disciplines with Writing for Publication

Another possible entry point for rhetoric and composition faculty to help develop a faculty writing culture is to talk to colleagues in other disciplines about how to teach writing. This approach may offer another space to develop a faculty writing culture, as many professors consider the teaching of writing through their own past identities as writers (Geller 2013, 3). Such conversations are rich terrain for fostering conversations about faculty identities as writers and have strong tie-ins to other faculty development efforts offered by centers for teaching excellence on campus.

Working from an emphasis on teaching writing works especially well at teaching-mission colleges and universities because it combats the impulse to disconnect faculty from research writing and, in fact, draws attention to the similarities between faculty and student writing difficulties (Geller 2013). Suggesting one avenue for teaching writing pedagogy to faculty writers, Moore, Felten, and Strickland (2013) point out that writing across the curriculum (WAC) programs could offer faculty residencies where faculty who teach these courses can learn writing pedagogy and work on their own writing as a means to better learn the writing pedagogy. This, in turn, could lead to faculty giving stronger writing assignments to students, as Cox and Brunjes assert: “When faculty learn about their own writing through writing pedagogy, they keep their knowledge and practice around the teaching of writing invigorated and effective” (2013, 192).

Once faculty see themselves as writers, they are more sympathetic to the struggles their students face as writers because “teachers who experience writing difficulty not only connect emotionally to their students, something they might do after writing what their students write, but they gain clarity about how students learn to write better” (Reid 2009, W201). For institutions that pride themselves on strengthening student writing, this strategy not only strengthens faculty writing culture but also writing across disciplines. Connecting the teaching of writing and writing for publication is already an established practice in the field of rhetoric and composition , and this practice should be shared with other faculty, particularly those worried about how to balance research writing and teaching. Both encouraging an identity as a writer and linking publication writing with teaching benefit universities by offering more sustainable models for faculty writing lives.



Carnell, Eileen, Jacqui MacDonald, Bet McCallum, and Mary Scott. 2008. Passion and Politics: Academics Reflect on Writing for Publication. London: University of London.
Cox, Michelle, and Ann Brujes. 2013. “Guiding Principles for Supporting Faculty as Writers at a Teaching-Mission Institution.” In Working with Faculty Writers, ed. Anne E. Geller and Michele Eodice, 191–209. Logan: Utah State University Press.
Geller, Anne Ellen. 2013. “Introduction.” In Working with Faculty Writers, ed. Anne E. Geller and Michele Eodice, 1–20. Logan: Utah State University Press.
Moore, Jessie L., Peter Felton, and Donna Strickland. 2013. “Supporting a Culture of Writing: Faculty Residencies as a WAC Initiative.” In Working with Faculty Writers, ed. Anne E. Geller and Michele Eodice, 127–41. Logan: Utah State University Press.
Reid, E. Shelley. 2009. “Teaching Writing Teachers Writing: Difficulty, Exploration, and Critical Reflection.” College Composition and Communication 61 (2): W197–W221.
Toor, Rachel. 2015. “Scholars Talk Writing: Anthony Grafton.” Chronicle of Higher Education, September 12.

Christine E. Tulley is professor of rhetoric and writing and founder and director of the Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing Program at the University of Findlay. She also serves as the Academic Career Development Coordinator for the UF Center for Teaching Excellence to support faculty scholarship productivity on campus. She is the former Praxis section editor for Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, the reviews editor for Computers and Composition, and winner of the Ellen Nold Award for Best Article in Computers and Composition for 2014.