By: Dr. Lori Skibbe
It is 4:45 pm and I realize that I haven’t written anything yet today. I am feeling tired, after a day filled with meetings. I prioritized the needs of my students and the pressing deadlines associated with my grants over my scholarly writing time. I still have some time left in my work day, but I know that it will be a tough slog to complete my writing goals. Sound familiar? In my experience, it’s not just about the amount of time that you spend on a task, but also when you choose to do each task and the breaks that you take along the way that will dictate how well you do your job. I thought that you might benefit from some lessons I’ve learned about time management during my career. Even after all these years, I still need occasional reminders about how to use my time most effectively.
It is important to create a daily schedule that fits your individual biological rhythms. When I tracked the times of day when I am most and least productive, I found that I am a morning person, who likes to tackle the tough intellectual tasks first thing in the day. As a result, I schedule my writing first thing in the day most days. Although times of greatest productivity can vary by person, a study of nearly 2 million students in high school found that state test scores were higher in math when students took their math class in the morning rather than the afternoon (Pope, 2016). Grade point averages were also higher for morning classes. Thus, it is not just the amount of time that we need to consider when planning our work day, but also placing our highest priority tasks during times when we are most productive.
We must also recognize that we all need time to recharge. An academic job will take as much of your time as you will give it. Sometimes this tempts me to work long hours without taking time off or to work every day in a week. Research suggests that this is a mistake. The time we spend at work requires effort and energy, which needs to be periodically replenished, as our stores contain a finite supply (Meijman & Mulder, 1998). My energy begins to fade after two or three hours and, without some thoughtful preplanning, I can find myself looking for carbohydrates and caffeine, preferably while aimlessly searching the internet. However, when I rely on quick fixes, I actually get less done than when I manage my time in a way that allows me to take a real break from my work. My experiences resonate with work from Hunter and Wu (2016) who interviewed workers to figure out when, where, and how breaks should be taken during the work day. Most importantly, they found that breaks were critical to enhancing workplace productivity. Other things also stood out as being important: breaks should start early in the work day, be preferred activities, and occur frequently. For me, the best breaks involve physical and/or social activities, as these help me to reset my energy levels.
I encourage you to think about your own biological rhythms and what they mean for your work productivity. Do you produce better output in the morning, afternoon, or evening? What is the optimal amount of time that you can work before you find your attention wandering? What kind of break reinvigorates you most?
Hunter, E. M. & Wu, C. (2016). Give me a better break: Choosing workday break activities to maximize resource recovery. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101, 302-311.
Meijman, L. K. & Mulder, G. (1998). Psychological aspects of workload. In P. J. Drenth & H. Thierry (Eds.). Handbook of work and organizational psychology. Volume 2: Work psychology (pp. 5-33). Hove, England: Psychology Press.
Pope, N. G. (2016). How the time of day affects productivity: Evidence from school studies. Review of Economics and Statistics, 98, 1-11.
By Dr. Hope Gerde
National awards are an important component of a strong research portfolio. Receiving a national award provides prestigious recognition for your program of research and contributes to evaluation metrics such as the Web of Science, which may be valuable for reappointment, tenure, and promotion at your university. University-level awards contribute meaningfully to your CV as well; winning a university-level award may strengthen your nomination for a national award. Of course, no one is just going to give you an award, so take action to award yourself.
Some researchers may think, “If I do great work, someone will notice and award that work.” While a few researchers may be spontaneously bestowed an award, the best course of action is to take ownership over award nominations. Much like the intentionality and ingenuity you invest into your award-deserving program of research, what is likely to result in an award is taking the initiative to self-nominate, that is, 1) identify awards for which you are eligible and align with your research, and 2) actively identify and invite nomination/support letter writers.
Do not undervalue the self-nomination! No one knows your research better than you do, so why would you not make an excellent nominator of your work? You know why your work is valuable. You know who your work impacts. This is your career, so self-nominate away!
Now that you have decided to apply for an award, you must identify awards for which you and your work are eligible. Universities, professional organizations (e.g., SRCD, AERA), community agencies and foundations often provide a range of awards for researchers and educators. Their websites will provide detailed application Awards applications can be intensive with multiple components to complete, so it is important to ensure you meet the eligibility. The term “early career” varies widely and may include doctoral students, junior faculty, or those who have had a PhD for certain number of years. At times, it can include individuals who have worked at a particular institution for fewer than a given number of years no matter their rank. Check eligibility criteria carefully. Find awards that fits your content, methodology, approaches to working with communities or participants, etc. Your research is impressive; do not change it to align with an award! In the nomination letter, nominees must clarify how the work is in excellent alignment with the award. Just as you would in a grant proposal, don’t make them guess.
Now that you have selected the award for which you will apply, you will need a nomination letter.
Criteria for nominators may exist. For example, nominations may need to be from a board member of a particular professional organization or a previous winner of the award. Again, it is important to confirm this eligibility. Senior, recognized, researchers in your field, or researchers with a history of serving a specific professional organization or publishing in the awarding journal are excellent choices, particularly if they know your work well. Select letter writers who know you and your work. Provide letter writers with your CV and a brief synopsis of the specific parts of your work you would like them to include in their letter. Be sure to thank them to recognize the time they invested in your letter. A handwritten thank you card is often unexpected but a nice touch!
Use the resources available at your university or institution to support your award nomination packages. As awards become a more visible metric of superior scholarship, some departments or universities have invested resources in establishing awards committees or offices. Connecting with these folks can provide access to awards, eligibility criteria, letter writers, strategies for inviting letter writers, and more.
Persistence is the key to nearly all success in the academic career, including awards, so keep revising and resubmitting until you win or are no longer eligible. Apply to as many awards as possible but balance the time commitment; awards packages can be intensive and extensive to prepare. Invite a colleague to review your awards package prior to submission to enhance the quality.
We wish everyone well as they apply for awards and nominate their peers or mentees.
It's grant season! Are you writing a grant proposal for a federal agency?
If so, GRANTS.GOV has a terrific resource called the Community Blog. You will find a broad range of topics including grant writing basics, funding opportunities, tips for writing grant applications, and grant policy. There are also plenty of embedded links to a variety of resources.
Member Jessica Logan has provided a brief powerpoint presentation that goes through an overview of the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), and an introduction to the standards handbook for evidence in experimental and quasi-experimental designs. The WWC standards handbook is now used to review all ingoing efficacy or effectiveness grants to the Institute of Education Sciences (ies.ed.gov), and proposed projects must meet strict criteria to be eligible for funding. This presentation reviews why the WWC exists, why it reviews studies, and what design elements constitute the three different tiers of evidence standards: Meets standards without reservation, meets standards with reservation, or does not meet standards.
This presentation includes excerpts from a (then pending, now successful!) grant application to IES. This should give readers an idea of how to include the necessary information related to the WWC in their grant applications.
Find the presentation on figshare HERE.
Part of the POWER mission is to connect our members such that we can support and advocate for one another. Your desire to connect and share was a primary outcome from our recent membership survey!
There are multiple ways that you can currently connect and share as POWER members (and we are working on more!). You can reach out to members to ask questions, solicit advice, and share resources through the listserv, via Twitter, and at our networking events.
● To send a message to our listserv of POWER members, email email@example.com. You can celebrate an accomplishment, share a link to a promising resource, start a conversation on a particular topic, see who is attending an upcoming conference, highlight a service opportunity, etc. Also, make sure that this listserv email address is added to your contacts/address book so messages do not end up in spam!
● We have a POWER Twitter account – follow us at @PoWOMENer. We encourage you to use our hashtag #WomenEdResearch to engage with our POWER Twitter community. Let everyone know what you’re doing to support the POWER mission! And keep an eye out for our Women’s Wednesday Twitter chats (2pm EST on the first Wednesdays of the month).
● We will continue to organize networking events throughout the year. Our SRCD event in March was a great success! Look for opportunities to meet other POWER members at the SSSR conference this summer and additional conferences this fall and winter; information will be shared via the listserv.
As always, feel free to connect directly with a Steering Committee member if you have other ideas about engaging our growing community.
Thanks to everyone who responded to our member survey!
The results of our survey provide us information about members’ perceptions of the resources/opportunities provided by POWER. We had 54 members respond to our survey, and a report of our findings is posted online HERE. We are using the information to guide our plans for the upcoming year.
Some key points:
The POWER Steering Committee is grateful for the opportunity to get to know many of you better and welcome your ongoing feedback about how best to serve you as we continue to move forward.
In February 2019, members of the POWER Steering Committee met with Sharon Vaugh, Ph.D. We had a thoughtful conversation about research, writing, and how to say “no” sometimes.
What is your advice for developing as a writer?
What are your tips for successful grant writing?
How do you envision a focused program of research?
How do you recommend young researchers find a more senior mentor?
Can you talk about work-life balance and how you’ve thought about that across your career?
How do you assess what opportunities to “yes” versus “no” to?
Many thanks to Sharon for sharing her advice and time with us; we are especially grateful for her honesty about managing anxieties and decision-making.
In February 2019, members of the POWER Steering Committee spoke with Stephanie Al Otaiba
Ph.D. We had an insightful conversation about making an impact as education researcher and
advice for women.
POWER: What is the best advice you have received during your career?
POWER: How do you make decisions about how to spend your time?
POWER: What do you think is particularly important for early- and mid-career women to know?
POWER: What advice do you have for faculty who are developing mentoring relationships as either the mentor or the mentee?
POWER: Is there anything that you wish you had done differently in your career? What would you do differently?
We are grateful that Stephanie spent her time and energy helping us think strategically about how to make an impact that fits our values.
In January 2019, the POWER Steering Committee met with Barbara Wasik, Ph.D. during a
meeting in Washington D.C. We had a lively conversation about mentoring, advice for education
research, and work-life balance.
POWER: Can you describe the mentoring you received during your career and how your mentors
● Early in my career, I was mentored and really protected by two senior women, who I
worked with. They supported me and provided me with advice about work load, salary
and taught me how to navigate our organization. These two women were key. They
always said “Make yourself marketable to the larger professional field not just your
immediate university community.” For example, they said your standards for your
academic performance should be based more on what the larger market dictates rather
than your particular institution at the time.
● They helped me understand when I should advocate for myself as a junior researcher.
These were issues ranged from having difficult conversation with senior researchers
about authorship decisions to asking for an office that was more than a tiny closet. It took
me weeks to work up the courage to have one of these conversations, but it was the right
thing to do. On the other hand, there were some tasks that they helped me understand
would make me a better researcher—like spending time in schools collecting data and
observing in classrooms. This was valuable advice that I still follow today.
POWER: What advice to you have on how to be a good mentor to female education researchers?
● First, you have to know the criteria on which they are being evaluated. Then, get to know
how they allocate their time. Find out what they enjoy and what makes them anxious.
You might find that more junior people spend more time doing things that don’t make
them anxious but these activities may not are not the best use of their time or in their best
interest as they work towards tenure and promotion. Also, I would suggest that they
examine the types of service that they are involved in and determine the cost/benefits of
the service. If it is very time consuming or not the best use of their time, I would suggest
that they look for other opportunities.
● An important area for helping mentees is with networking, such as helping them learn to
network at conferences and contacting people who do similar research as they do in order
to make professional connections. Sometimes this includes peer mentoring or writing
● As a mentor, also know you can only do so much. This profession requires a lot of self-
motivation and self-regulation, so the mentees have to do their part.
POWER: What advice do you have for negotiating through research career ladders?
● Regarding promotion and tenure, I would recommend that you get advice from not only
your department/college but also the university level on matters of tenure.
● I think my approach has been to speak openly about issues that arise in the professional
setting. If there are policies that you may object to or decisions that you may not agree
with, seek out more senior people for advice and try always to be fair and try and see the
other side’s perspective. My instinct has always been to talk about things when
something uncomfortable happened.
POWER: What advice do you have for someone considering promotion or tenure?
● As you approach promotion and tenure, there can be a lot of noise and uncertainty around
what criteria your institution values. I would suggest you pay attention to the college and
university-based guidelines and seek advice from colleagues who have recently gone
through the tenure and promotion process at your university. Another key aspect is to
demonstrate that you have developed an independent research trajectory.
● If your institution requires letter writers you do not collaborate with, start by searching
for researchers who have cited your work. Your letter writers need to be familiar with
your work in order to write a strong letter of support.
What advice do you have on grant writing?
● I think the most important thing is to find colleagues with similar interests with whom
you can write grants. One person writing a grant is a lot to do independently. It is helpful
to have a small group of colleagues (inside or outside your organization) who you can
effectively collaborate and who you trust.
● I try to always put in two grants a year because most of the time, they don’t get funded on
the first submission. It is a balancing act of making sure you don’t put in so many grants
that you don’t do anything well. Another important thing is to remember you don’t have
to be a Principal Investigator (PI) on everything; being a co-investigator also covers
allows you to play an important role in a grant funded project while you are PI on other
● It’s also important to consider funding for graduate students when writing your budget.
● There are some funding mechanisms I would not do again, such as grants that require
matching funds. It was a lot of work to find additional foundation funding for those sorts
How did you approach the balancing act of being a researcher and having a family or other
● In the beginning, I was really focused on doing a good job with my research, but I also
had two young kids. I was able to create a schedule during those years as a research
scientist where I could put my children first (attend my children’s events at school, be
home after school, etc.) and that was the right choice for my family and me. You know,
you are going to remember memories about your children more than that journal article.
● You have to decide how you will carve out your time for work versus your family or
other life priorities. Some institutions are better than others in supporting work-life
Many thanks to Barbara for sharing her time with this group and for her commitment to
mentoring many women in education research.
Welcome to POWER! Here are a few updates on our recent activities:
That’s it for now, but we’ll be in touch again soon about our plans for the future. As a preview of things to come, we have identified some outstanding senior women scholars in the field who will be serving as informal mentors of members of POWER. We are also developing some new resources and are planning our next in-person event.