Tenured and non-tenured college of education faculty motivators and barriers in grant writing: a public university in the South.

Author:Walden, Patrick R.


Securing funding to conduct research is increasingly important in today's higher education environment (Boyer & Cockriel, 1998; Sterner, 1999). Writing research grant proposals is a major means of seeking funding for research at institutions of higher education. For universities to increase research funding and subsequently increase research productivity, it is essential that university faculty members receive adequate support in writing research grant proposals. To provide such support, universities need a clearer understanding of faculty's perceptions of motivators and barriers in the research grant proposal writing process. While all faculty members have at least some academic writing experience, experience with grant writing may be limited to non-existent for some faculty. Academic and grant writing represent two distinctive genres of writing, each necessitating differing approaches.

Porter (2007) described grant writing as an activity that is geared toward the future, oriented toward service, focused on a single project, written to persuade the reader using a personal and lay tone, team-focused and brief. Academic writing, on the other hand, is geared toward the past, oriented toward individual pursuits, centered on a theme, uses an explanatory discourse genre with an impersonal tone, individual-focused and lengthy. Obviously, writing for academia and writing to obtain grant funds are two very different activities requiring varying skill sets. For many faculty, professional development in grant writing may be both needed and welcomed. These same faculty members may, however, require varying amounts of support from their research organization, which must probe employees regarding their past experiences and future goals for grant writing activities.

Similarly, understanding university faculty's perceptions of motivators and barriers is important in the development of organizational support to encourage faculty to write grants, subsequently carry out research, and publish. Campbell (1998) reported an increase in both the number of proposals submitted and the level of external funding at a small undergraduate teaching institution following a focused initiative by the university's office of Grants and Research to write proposals with faculty. Banta et al. (2004) reported that a fellowship program award created at the University of Northern Colorado to support new faculty in writing grants is actively leading participants in pursuing grant funding as well as enhancing grant writing skills. Focused initiatives such as these may arise out of a greater understanding of what university faculty members deem important in pursuing grants (motivators) and what keeps them from moving forward (barriers) with grant proposals. Efforts to understand faculty perceptions are likely to vary from institution to institution according to variables such as institutional size, resources available, and the institution's culture regarding the grant-seeking and procurement process.

For instance, Boyer and Cockriel (1998) randomly surveyed 370 faculty members (67% response rate) within Colleges of Education (COE) at American Association of Universities (AAU) Research I institutions and found that consideration in tenure and promotion, building professional research reputations, and a strong commitment from the college president were significant motivators in writing grants. They also found that lack of training in seeking and writing grants, lack of knowledge in the development of budgets, and lack of knowledge regarding potential funding sources were significant barriers to grant writing. These motivators and barriers were more significant for non-tenured faculty than for tenured faculty.

Similarly, Cole (2007) reported that faculty need more administrative assistance with grant proposal preparation, as well as a more streamlined review procedure. Insights into what faculty consider motivators and barriers to grant writing, such as those reported by Cole as well as Boyer and Cockriel (1998), may better inform institutionally sponsored initiatives to increase grant writing activities and, ultimately, the level of funding received. The current study sought to accomplish just that within a Southern university's COE.

The purpose of this investigation was to: (a) identify COE faculty perceptions of successful grant writing motivators and barriers at a public, four-year, coeducational, doctoral-granting university in the South classified as a Research University with high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; (b) compare the university's COE faculty perceptions to previously published survey results of Colleges of Education at Research I institutions; and (c) compare and contrast tenured and non-tenured faculty's responses.

Five research questions guided this study: (1) Which grant writing motivators are perceived as important to the faculty? (2) Which grant writing barriers are perceived as important to the faculty? (3) Is there a difference in tenured and non-tenured faculty in perceived importance of grant-writing motivators? (4) Is there a difference in tenured and non-tenured faculty in perceived importance of barriers to grant writing? (5) Are these survey findings similar to Boyer and Cockriel's (1998)?

These findings bore significance internally for the university in attempting to create programs that encourage, support, and remove barriers to grant writing. Externally, these findings demonstrated successful use of Boyer and Cockriel's (1998) instrument in surveying perceived importance of motivators and barriers to writing grants in higher education, as well as its utility in guiding recommendations for improvement. The information derived from this study provided the university with a useful perspective from which to begin to understand its COE faculty's perceptions of motivators for and barriers to grant writing. These data also provided insight into a comparison of the university's COE faculty to other COE faculty at AAU Research I institutions. Further, this information may be used by the university in creating future projects that focus on increasing the quantity and quality of faculty research grant writing activities.

Participant Recruitment, Survey Adaptation and Implementation

Before contacting any potential participants, Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from the university was granted. Special attention in the IRB process was needed to protect the anonymity of the respondents in the online environment. Individual permission was granted through the research office of the college within which the study was conducted. Written permission was also obtained from Dr. Patricia Boyer to use and adapt the survey instrument employed by Boyer and Cockriel (1998).

The survey instrument was then adapted for online use. The survey included 15 motivators and 15 barriers to grant writing and required that participants rate the perceived importance of each as Very Important, Moderately Important, Marginally Important, or Not Important. The only item altered from the original survey was the word "boilerplates," which, to avoid semantic confusion, was replaced with the term "templates." In addition to the opportunity to add motivators and barriers, the participants were permitted to add comments at the end of the survey. See Boyer and Cockriel (1998) for the complete survey, including all motivator and barrier items.

The adapted survey was produced online with software provided by...

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