Werklund School of Education
University of Calgary
What does it mean to be productive as a researcher? Is it number of papers and presentations produced? Publications in high impact journals? Research collaborations with leaders in the field or the communities we serve? In considering these questions, one might be wise to consider the etymology of the word productive. Derived from the word produce which means to “bring forward; bring into existence; extend in length,” it is linked to the Latin prōdūcere, pro + ducere meaning “lead.” (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, 2003). If productivity as a researcher relates to leadership, how is that made manifest? Nygard (2017) articulates four sites of negotiation that emerged from a study of scholarly writing productivity at a research institute in Norway: (a) genre, that is, how scholars determine the form that research output should take; (b) collaboration, that is, choosing whether to co-author; (c) quality, that is, choosing where to submit for publication, and (d) process, that is, understanding the ways in which individuals engage in writing.
In the case of the 10th Canadian Association for Teacher Education (CATE) Working Conference, held at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, from October 24th-26th, 2019, the first three of Nygard’s (2017) four sites of negotiation were established in advance, leaving the writing process as the prime focus of the gathering. The CATE Working Conference, held every two years, is an opportunity for researchers from across the country to gather to present and discuss their current research in teacher education and also to engage in scholarly dialogue about diverse approaches to such research. Authors engage in knowledge building in community by sharing insights and reflection on their own writing in progress and by offering ideas, feedback, and suggestions on the writing shared by other authors. Authors make connections to broader research questions, literatures, and methodologies they may not have considered that often expands collective thinking on the shared topic. Meant to provide a community in which researchers can flesh out ideas related to Canadian teacher education, the end goal of the working conference is a peer-reviewed research contribution to a current and timely national publication.
For both early career researchers and even more seasoned academics, academic writing can be a challenging and stressful aspect of the scholarly experience (Belcher, 2019; Heron et al., 2020). Benefits to academic writing include intellectual stimulation, the activation of thinking, the creation of collaborative and supportive research networks, and the development of academic identity (Dwyer et al., 2012; Hammond, 2020; Heron et al., 2020). There are tensions in the academic writing exercise, however, which include the pressure of production over process and feelings related to insecurity and rejection in the development of academic identity (Dakka & Wade, 2019; French, 2020; Hammond, 2020; Heron et al., 2020).
The atmosphere at the CATE working conference was relaxed and supportive, yet focused and intentional. As an early career researcher, I found the process included just the right mix of formal and informal academic discussion and networking opportunities. Themes for each working conference are selected with the intent that they are broad and inclusive enough to invite a range of creative ideas and research in teacher education but bounded in such a way that they can be published in a coherent e-book volume. The theme for the 10th working conference was Preparing Teachers as Curriculum Designers which blended well with my PhD research focused on teacher as designer in makerspace environments. Participants whose initial proposals were selected, were grouped according to four research sub-topics: student engagement, instructional design, disciplinary thinking, and practicum/school divisions. Prior to attending, we submitted drafts of our research papers that were sent to members in our small group; This meant we could read and prepare feedback in advance, engage thoughtfully and intentionally with each others’ papers during the conference, and then continue with our academic writing. We all left the conference aware of the expectation that we would participate in peer review of the final chapters. The conference itself included whole group presentations with opportunities for engagement and interaction, small group sessions involving in-depth consideration of participant papers by theme, a guest speaker, and organized socializing and relationship building during dinners in local restaurants.
The CATE Working Conference was a worthwhile introduction to collaborative research writing and peer review in a national setting, outside my home university. For this new scholar, the situated nature of the writing established within the goals and framing of the conference allowed me to observe and participate in “different conceptualizations of academic writing and productivity” (Nygard, 2017, p. 520). The national community of teacher educators at the working conference had vastly different approaches to thinking about teacher education in their local contexts, often because of their unique student populations and institutional priorities. In particular, I noted anecdotally that coming from a larger research-intensive university as opposed to other participants whose locations were smaller and more teaching intensive led to unique foci in the writing process. For example, researchers from the University of the Fraser Valley addressed the topic of microaggressions with teacher candidates by designing a social justice curriculum innovation specifically for their location (McMath et al., 2021), and a Red River College scholar explored the creation of a micropracticum as a supportive bridge between teaching in a campus classroom and a full practicum experience (Brown & Jacobsen, 2021). These innovative approaches to teacher education challenges identified at the local level were in juxtaposition, for example, to a collaboration between researchers at Nipissing University in the development of an Education for Innovation curriculum resource for use by teachers across Canada (Black et al., 2021).
Nygard states “productivity will depend greatly on the researcher’s subjective understanding of their own identity (including abilities, desires, and fears); their subjective interpretation of their institutional environments (including expectations and values); and their own (perceptions of) agency within these constraints” (p. 529). It was my experience that framing research in local contexts in relation to feedback provided by colleagues from across the country resulted in productive and agential insights into myself as researcher, while at the same time enabling me to build a broader appreciation for diverse institutional approaches to teacher education across the country.
A year after the 10th CATE Working Conference, under the direction of Editors Jodi Nickel and Michele Jacobsen, participants celebrated the publication of our e-book Preparing Teachers as Curriculum Designers that provides a unique snapshot of current innovations across the country in teacher education related to curriculum design.
Back to my original question: What does it mean to be productive as a researcher? If we hearken to the Latin derivation of produce (i.e.“lead”), the collaborative knowledge building in community during the working conference that led to the publication of the e-book provides a timely and leading edge understanding of current and future research in Canadian teacher education. Productive work, to be sure.
Plans are well underway for the 11th CATE Working Conference, “Online Learning and Teaching From Kindergarten to Graduate School”, to be held virtually with Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta from October 14 – 16, 2021. Please follow this link to learn more about submitting a proposal: https://cate-acfe.ca/fall-working-conference/
Belcher, W. L. (2019). Writing your journal article in twelve weeks: A guide to academic publishing success (2nd ed.). University of Chicago Press.
Black, G. L., Jarvis, D. H., Cantalini-Williams, M. (2021). Engaging teacher candidates in collaborative curriculum design: Education for Innovation (E4I). In J. Nickel & M. Jacobsen (Eds.), Preparing teachers as curriculum designers (pp. 154-190). Canadian Association for Teacher Education. https://cate-acfe.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Preparing-Teachers-as-Curriculum-Designers_ebook_FINAL.pdf
Brown, E., & Jacobsen, M. (2021). A micropracticum learning design: Bridging content knowledge and participatory field experiences in teacher education. In J. Nickel & M. Jacobsen (Eds.), Preparing teachers as curriculum designers (pp. 122-152). Canadian Association for Teacher Education. https://cate-acfe.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Preparing-Teachers-as-Curriculum-Designers_ebook_FINAL.pdf
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Dwyer, A., Lewis, B., McDonald, F., & Burns, M. (2012). It’s always a pleasure: Exploring productivity and pleasure in a writing group for early career academics. Studies in Continuing Education, 34(2), pp. 129-144. https://doi.org/10.1080/0158037X.2011.580734
French, A. (2020). Academic writing as identity-work in higher education: Forming a ‘professional writing in higher education habitus’. Studies in Higher Education, 45(8), pp. 1605-1617. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2019.1572735
Hammond, K. (2020). Threat, drive, and soothe: Learning self-compassion in an academic writing retreat. Higher Education Research & Development. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2020.1830037
Heron, M., Gravett, K., & Yakovchuk, N. (2020): Publishing and flourishing: Writing for desire in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2020.1773770
McMath, S., Britton, V., & Sivia, Awneet. (2021). Using design thinking to cultivate the #Sociallyjustteacher: What can a teacher education program do? In J. Nickel & M. Jacobsen (Eds.), Preparing teachers as curriculum designers (pp. 92-121). Canadian Association for Teacher Education. https://cate-acfe.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Preparing-Teachers-as-Curriculum-Designers_ebook_FINAL.pdf
Nygaard, L. P. (2017). Publishing and perishing: An academic literacies framework for investigating research productivity. Studies in Higher Education, 42(3), 519-532. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2015.1058351
Produce. (2003). In T. F. Hoad (Ed.), The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, Online Version. Oxford University Press.