Today we met in casual roundtable to discuss academic blogging as a pursuit in the TI RA Program. During our first literature search, we determined that there are many resources out there on writing blog (key reasons [writing practice, personal interests/hobby, research journaling, etc.], style [blogs are more conversational than formal], and formatting [headings, length, images, etc.]. However, very little literature (casual or scholarly) exists on the potential applications and impact of academic blogging as a professional development tool in a higher education context. From our discussion we determined that such a literature gap creates both dilemmas and possibilities. On the one hand, there are no rules! We can experiment with what works for us, reflect on it, and create our own guidelines and metrics for success. On the other hand, oh no, there are no rules! If there are no guidelines or metrics already in existence how do we know what we are doing is impactful, helpful, or successful?
Currently, our answer is to (once again) fall back on our program priorities: 1) creating RA community and communication; 2) developing RA capacity (knowledge, skills, and abilities); 3) empowering RA learning and success. At this time, RAs desire structure and direction, and I wish to give them freedom and flexibility. To strike a balance between these two, we have created the following plan:
- All RAs will have their own pages for them to add/post on as they so desire. They are free to experiment with form, content, language, images, media, and genres however they wish.
- All RAs will have “Editor” access so they can create/curate this content as they like. I will keep my role as website administrator.
- We will meet once every two weeks for dedicated writing time. This is a casual space where RAs can come/go as they wish, and commit to putting one hour exclusively towards the blog.*
- I will keep working on a short scholarship-informed academic blogging guide.
*EDIT: As I mentioned in the meeting, I am concerned at the amount of time in total this would take away from RA’s normal duties. I will follow up with RA supervisors before booking anything official.
The Research Associate (RA) Notebooks chronicles the adventures of undergraduate and graduate students in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning (TI) Research Associate (RA) Program. In recognition of students’ diverse roles at the TI (from Research and Program Assistants to Learning Technology Coaches), the Program refers to them collectively as research associates (RAs).
Launched in 2016, the Program seeks to evaluate how to provide RAs meaningful professional experiences that empower them to engage with their present roles in ways that support their future goals and aspirations. As affirmed by the TI’s “Principles of Good Practice in Collaboration and Knowledge-Sharing,” all TI faculty and staff are encouraged to “invite students as partners in their efforts to better understand and improve student learning and effective teaching”. With additional mentoring, resources, and support from the Program Coordinator (Rachel Braun), the Program provides RAs opportunities to gain professional work experience, build upon their academic studies, and contribute actively to the evaluation, enhancement, and development of the TI’s activities. All Program initiatives are guided by three priorities:
- Creating RA community and communication at the TI. The Program invites RAs to the TI as colleagues, and builds connections and communication across TI teams and projects.
- Developing RA capacity for their specific roles. The Program provides evidence-based resources to strengthen the knowledge, skills, and abilities relevant to RAs’ roles. We additionally evaluate the scope, quality, and impact of our activities working with RAs with a focus on continuous improvement.
- Empowering RA learning and success. The Program promotes RA awareness, application, and evidencing their unique and individual talents, interests, and goals as aspiring professionals and lifelong learners.
Participation is voluntary, and all resources are provided. All RAs and TI staff are also invited to contribute to The RA Notebooks as guest bloggers. For guidelines, please consult here.