Determining the Impact of Grant Writing Workshops on Faculty Learning

By SRAI JRA posted 09-29-2020 22:33


Volume LI, Number 2

Determining the Impact of Grant Writing Workshops on Faculty Learning

Samantha Glowacki
Student Staff Member, Faculty Development Center, Eastern Michigan University

Julia K. Nims, MA, MLS
Scholarly Communications Librarian, Eastern Michigan University

Peggy Liggit, PhD
Director of the Faculty Development Center, Eastern Michigan University


This paper describes an eight-year study evaluating the effectiveness and impact of grant writing workshops on the ability of faculty attendees to apply learning to secure internal research grants. Longitudinal tracking of all grant awardees (N=485) was conducted four years prior to the creation of the workshops and four years after the workshops were implemented. Direct and indirect measures of assessment for faculty grant success, feedback on workshops, and a faculty survey were collected. Names of grant recipients and demographic data about awardees were collected and verified through archived documents and data warehousing. As a result of attending the grant writing workshops, on average 80% of the workshop attendees (N=173) were awarded internal grants, and the quality of the workshops received feedback ratings of 3.52 or higher on Likert-style questions with a 1 - 4 rating scale (4 being highest). After the workshops became available, the awardee pool shifted, showing greater diversity of successful grant writers in regard to faculty rank, race, gender, and discipline. Additionally, a subpopulation of faculty received a grant award only after attending a writing workshop where in the previous four years this population received no grant awards. Applications of how key findings from this study could be implemented at other institutions are discussed.


Grant Writing; Professional Development; Evaluation; Assessment; Faculty


Academic writing is different from grant writing. The two genres are so dissimilar that authors who normally succeed in publishing scholarly works may fail miserably as novice grant writers. Porter (2007/2017, p. 37) helps us “look at the difference” by offering contrasting perspectives between these two writing styles. Authors need to learn and apply a new set of writing skills if obtaining grants is a necessary component for completing work that feeds their scholarship. Current literature provides a variety of examples of professional development workshops to support faculty writing, yet these studies lack direct evidence of faculty learning and application of new writing skills. The published studies have limitations in three areas: in the number of participants, in the type of data collected about faculty performance after professional development training, and in the length of time the study was conducted.

To identify recent literature about the evaluation of writing workshops for faculty, three databases were searched—Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), ProQuest’s Education Database, and EBSCO’s Education Source. Searches included the keyword terms “faculty,” with both “writing,” and “workshops,” and either “evaluation” or “assessment” or “effectiveness,” and were limited to peer-reviewed articles from 2011 or later. The searches identified 136 articles of interest. Once duplicate results were eliminated, 113 articles remained. One hundred of these publications were deemed irrelevant to this study because they focused on topics other than writing or professional development, were review articles, or focused on graduate students or K-12 teachers. Thirteen articles matched our search constraints. Twelve articles described evaluating professional development experiences using data collected through satisfaction surveys (Dankoski et al., 2012; Farrell et al., 2019; Kapp et al., 2011; Kulage & Larson, 2016; Macleod et al., 2012; Murray & Cunningham, 2011; Noone & Young, 2019; Singh, 2012; Turner et al., 2014; Wheaton & Moore, 2019; Wiebe & Maticka-Tyndale, 2017), or through focus groups and structured interviews (Roberts & Weston, 2014). The participant number was small in most of these studies, ranging from 10 to 32 people, although Kapp et al. (2011) had 73 and 121 respondents in two follow-up surveys, Baker et al. (2014) surveyed 135 participants, and Dankoski et al. (2012) collected survey results from 155 respondents. Kempenaar and Murray (2019) evaluated a faculty writing retreat using a series of two skills quizzes and a count of the number of words written during the event. Five of the studies asked faculty to self-report their success in receiving grants or published research (Dankoski, 2012; Kulage & Larson, 2016; Murray & Cunningham, 2011; Wheaton & Moore, 2019; Wiebe & Maticka-Tyndale, 2017). Wiebe and Maticka-Tyndale (2017) conducted the only study verifying information that faculty self-reported by using university data on grant submissions by the participants, which showed the number of submissions as well as success rates resulting from participating in professional development.

The purpose of this article is to contribute to the literature on professional development workshops by describing how to create an effective writing workshop structure and implement a robust assessment plan that uses verifiable data and direct measures of successful grant writing as evidence of faculty learning. The workshop structure, as well as key findings and recommendations, can serve as a model for other institutions. Compared to other cited works, this study stands out in four distinct ways: 1) the workshop analyses included both direct measures (evidence-based and verifiable performance data) and indirect measures (satisfaction feedback and self-reported data) for assessing faculty learning and application; 2) the time period for evaluation spanned eight years, four years before and four years after writing workshops were implemented, which allowed for contrastive analysis; 3) the study included a large subject population (N=485 for all grant awardees); and 4) participants were individually and longitudinally tracked over an eight-year period by faculty rank, race, gender, and college affiliation to determine impacts on underrepresented populations of faculty.


Internal Awards Program

Eastern Michigan University is a mid-western public university of 18,000 students studying arts, sciences and professions with 650 tenure-track and tenured faculty. The university has an Internal Awards program providing approximately $1,750,000 annually toward faculty research support in the forms of released time from teaching and service, or of summer salary. This is a competitive grant program inviting tenure-track and tenured faculty to submit written proposals outlining their research agenda in order to receive an award. Eligible faculty can apply for three award types: the Summer Research Award (SRA), which provides a $12,000 stipend in lieu of summer teaching; the Faculty Research Fellowship (FRF), which provides up to 100% release from teaching for one semester; and the sabbatical, which provides 100% pay and 100% release from teaching and service for one semester or 100% release for two semesters with half pay.

There are several university policies concerning eligibility, restrictions, and awarding bonus points to these internal awards. All tenure-track and tenured faculty are eligible to apply for the SRA, and eight bonus points are awarded to new faculty (first three years at the university), zero-four bonus points for longer-termed faculty proposing new areas of scholarly/creative activity, and four bonus points if longer-termed faculty did not receive the SRA in the previous year. For the FRF, all tenure-track and tenured faculty are eligible with four bonus points awarded to applicants who did not receive the FRF or sabbatical award in the previous eight semesters. Only faculty who have served the equivalent of twelve or more semesters of full-time employment as faculty at the university are eligible for the sabbatical award, and no bonus points are awarded.

A faculty committee comprised of ten college representatives, the University Research and Sabbatical Leave Committee, evaluates and ranks the proposals. The Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research oversees the administration of the Internal Awards program and uses the University Research and Sabbatical Leave Committee ranking list to make the final decision regarding which applicants receive a research grant. As a contractual agreement between the university’s administration and the faculty union, Eastern Michigan University-American Association of University Professors (EMU-AAUP), at least forty SRA awards and fifty-five Faculty Research Fellowships are given each year. There is not a set number for one-semester and two-semester sabbatical awards mentioned in the most current AAUP contract; however, historical records show that an average of approximately thirteen one-semester awards and nine two-semester awards are granted each year. The SRA, FRF, and sabbaticals are approved by the university’s Board of Regents, and a list of grant awardee names are publicized through board meeting minutes.

Internal Research Award Writing Workshops Structure

In 2013, the university’s Faculty Development Center created a series of workshops, called the Internal Research Award Writing Workshops (from here on the term “writing workshops” will be used), to address concerns expressed by University Research and Sabbatical Leave Committee members. The chief complaint was that many proposals were so difficult to read and understand that the quality and clarity of the research plan could not be determined. Another concern was the lack of diversity among the awardee pool; skilled grant writers continued receiving these awards year after year while less skilled grant writers missed out even if their research plan was worthy of support. Committee reviewers believed that poor grant writing hindered the evaluation of research quality. Therefore, the writing workshops were designed to address these issues.

The objectives of the writing workshops were 1) to compare and contrast academic writing with grant writing; 2) to provide tips for writing successful proposals from the perspective of a reviewer; 3) to answer questions about the grant awards, guidelines, and the evaluation process; 4) to provide examples of award-winning proposals from a variety of disciplines; and 5) to facilitate peer-review sessions where applicants could give and receive feedback on proposal drafts.

The co-facilitators of the workshops were the same two people throughout the entire study period—a member of the University Research and Sabbatical Leave Committee and the Director of the Faculty Development Center. The committee member was a full professor with nine years of experience on the committee. The Director of the Faculty Development Center was an administrator/full professor with eleven years of experience as a faculty member, three years of experience as Director of Academic Assessment, and eight years as Director of the Faculty Development Center.

The training room used for the workshops connects to the Faculty Development Center and accommodates up to twenty people. The room was equipped with presentation technology and doors that could be closed to provide for privacy and confidential conversations away from other center activities.

The writing workshops were offered throughout the fall semester in two-day increments for a time period of one and a half hours each day. There were between eight and ten workshop pairs offered each year (Day One and Day Two), which were scheduled on various days of the week and at various times in order to accommodate the variety of faculty teaching and meeting schedules.

Two weeks prior to attending a workshop, faculty were emailed two articles to read: “Why academics have a hard time writing good grant proposals” (Porter, 2007, reprinted 2017) and “Crafting a sales pitch for your grant proposal” (Porter, 2011) along with website links to the proposal guidelines and proposal evaluation forms found on the university’s research support website. This two-week lead time was provided to accommodate for the different learning needs and preferences of workshop attendees. The Day One session began with an activity to review and discuss the contrasting perspectives between academic writing and skilled grant writing using the first Porter article (2007, Table 1, p. 38). Next, information about any recent changes to proposal guidelines was presented, along with opportunities for questions to be answered regarding the submission and review process. Attendees were then given an award-winning proposal to analyze as an example of how the author followed the proposal guidelines and applied skilled grant writing techniques outlined in Porter’s article. The last activity included attendees’ constructing their own sales pitch following Porter’s three paragraph strategy from his second article (2011, Table 1, p. 80). At the conclusion of the Day One session, workshop attendees were encouraged to take a copy of any of the twenty-three example proposals provided from faculty peers. Many past grant awardees gave permission to use their successful proposals as models to hand out to workshop attendees. For example, of the 102 faculty who received a grant award in 2018, 53 (or 52%) willingly allowed the use of their proposal. Faculty take pride in having their proposals exhibited as a model in these workshops and agree to keep their name visible.

On Day Two, the Director of the Faculty Development Center hosted a peer-review session. Attendees were instructed to bring at least two copies of their proposal. The Director placed faculty into groups and provided directions for exchange and peer-review according to the proposal evaluation form. The ideal group consisted of three people from different departments and colleges so that each person could review two proposals and receive feedback from two people outside of their academic discipline all within the one-and-a-half-hour time period. The door to the training room was kept closed during peer-review, and faculty were encouraged to keep review conversations confidential.

Research Question

It was important to determine how well the workshop structure addressed the stated concerns. This need for verification led to the following research question: To what extent are Internal Research Award Writing Workshops effective as evidenced by direct and indirect measures of faculty application of successful learning?

Methodology: Evaluation of the Writing Workshops

The effectiveness of the writing workshops was assessed in three ways: 1) through direct measures of faculty learning including longitudinal tracking of workshop attendees who received grant awards; 2) by analyzing workshop feedback forms completed by workshop attendees; and 3) by surveying university faculty regarding their participation with the writing workshops and the Internal Awards program between the years of 2010 and 2018.

Maki’s direct method of assessment (2010, p. 158) was used to determine the level to which faculty were able to demonstrate “successful learning” as a result of attending a writing workshop. We determined “successful learning” by tracking which faculty submitted a proposal that was ranked high enough by the University Research and Sabbatical Leave Committee to be awarded an SRA, FRF, or sabbatical. Data on faculty performance was longitudinally tracked using lists of internal research grant awardees announced from the published Board of Regents meeting minutes, faculty demographic data (hire date, college, rank, race, and gender) between the years 2010 and 2018 obtained by the office of Institutional Research and Information Management (IRIM), and workshop attendee data collected by the Faculty Development Center within the same time frame. White, Black, and Asian are descriptors of race used in this study, and the terms come directly from IRIM reports. Longitudinal tracking involved comparing all internal research awardees to both the general faculty population and faculty who attended at least one writing workshop between 2014 and 2018. Further, all grant awardees who were employed and eligible for research awards between 2010 and 2018 were identified and their performance on receiving an internal grant award before and after the workshops were established was compared.

In addition to creating the faculty performance and demographic dataset, an analysis of workshop feedback forms was conducted (see Appendix A for feedback questions). Writing workshop attendees completed Likert-style survey questions (with 1-4 ratings; 4 being highest) to give feedback about the workshop materials and the presenters. Open-ended questions were also included on the feedback forms asking participants to explain which aspects of the workshop provided the greatest impact on their learning and to describe improvements that could be made for future workshops.

In September 2018, the Faculty Development Center distributed an electronic questionnaire to all tenure-track and tenured faculty via email regarding the SRAs, FRFs, and sabbatical awards (see Appendix B for survey questions). In this survey, respondents were asked a series of questions about the Internal Award program process between 2010 and 2018 and whether or not they received an award during that time. Faculty were also asked if they participated in any writing workshops, and to what extent they found them effective. Open-ended questions were included to prompt suggestions on how the Faculty Development Center could further support faculty in their research and scholarly endeavors.


Evaluation of the Workshops by Longitudinal Tracking of Grant Awardees

Of the 485 faculty grant awardees, 173 faculty (27%) had participated in at least one writing workshop since their implementation in 2014 (see Table 1). Of the 173 individual attendees, 139 have received at least one award through the Internal Award program (this subpopulation is termed “workshop awardees”), resulting in an 80% on average success rate for workshop attendees. In comparison, faculty who also received awards but did not attend a workshop (termed “non-workshop awardees”) had only a 71.3% success rate overall. Analyzing the different demographic populations of workshop awardees compared to non-workshop awardees showed positive trends for underrepresented populations of faculty by race, rank, gender, and college affiliation. Faculty workshop awardees from the College of Business and College of Technology had the largest difference in success rates (+30.4 and +26.1, respectively) compared to their non-workshop awardee peers, while Library faculty and faculty from the College of Education had the poorest success rate (-35.7 and -21.7 respectively). Library faculty and faculty in the College of Education were also the smallest number of workshop attendees (4.1% and 5.2% respectively), the smallest number of all awardees (0.6% and 3.9% respectively) and made up the smallest populations of college faculty overall (3.2% and 10.5% respectively). Female workshop awardees had a success rate 14 percentage points higher than female non-workshop awardees; Asian faculty workshop awardees had a success rate 17.5 higher and Black faculty 5.4 higher than their non-workshop awardee counterparts.

Longitudinal tracking by rank, race, and gender: Since the implementation of the writing workshops, the majority of workshop attendees and workshop awardees have been assistant professors even though they made up the smallest proportion of faculty overall. Figure 1a shows that assistant professors proportionately outperformed associate and full professors in receiving these awards. Furthermore, assistant professors who attended at least one workshop and secured an award (termed “workshop awardee”) outperformed their non-attendee counterparts by +24.8 percentage points (difference between the proportions of workshop awardees to all awardees).

The proportion of Black and Asian faculty who attended writing workshops and received grant awards was greater than the proportion of Black and Asian faculty overall (see Figure 1b). For Black faculty, the difference between the proportion of Black faculty workshop awardees (5.8%) and the proportion of all Black awardees (4.2%) was +1.6 percentage points. For Asian faculty, the difference between the proportion of Asian workshop awardees (17.3%) and all Asian faculty awardees (13.5%) was +3.8 percentage points.

A third group that performed better after attending a writing workshop were female faculty (see Figure 1c). Since the start of the writing workshops, female faculty have surpassed their male counterparts as workshop attendees and workshop awardees. Additionally, the proportion of female workshop awardees was larger than the total female faculty population by +14.5 percentage points. Similarly, the proportion of female workshop awardees was 9.7 percentage points higher than the proportion of female non-workshop awardees.

Longitudinal tracking of the ““I finally got an award!” group”: The “I finally got an award!” group consisted of 36 individuals, or 20.8% of the workshop attendee population, who were eligible for internal awards four years prior to the implementation of the workshops, but did not receive any awards during those years. After the workshops began in 2014, each individual in this group attended at least one workshop and secured at least one award (see Figure 2). The faculty within the “I finally got an award!” group have particularly benefited from these workshops and are fairly evenly distributed across colleges, rank, and gender. It was not possible to analyze by race because the population was too small in this category to distinguish an effect.

Evaluation of the Workshops using Feedback Forms

At the end of each workshop, participants completed a feedback form to communicate their perceptions of the Day One and Day Two sessions. Participants were asked Likert-style questions where 1= “not at all” and 4 = “a great deal.” For both the Day One and Day Two sessions occurring from 2014 and 2018, each question scored an average of 3.52 or higher (see Figure 3).

The feedback form also included three open-ended questions. The responses regarding the most impactful portions of the workshops were categorized by grouping repeated comments into themes (e.g., Helpful, Informative, Supportive). The most useful and impactful aspects of the workshops, according to faculty, were the handouts, the insights from the University Research and Sabbatical Leave Committee member, the question/answer session, and the opportunity for peer-review led by the Faculty Development Center Director. In response to ways to improve the workshops, faculty provided several ideas, and suggestions have been implemented over the last four years, including creating a more comprehensive “tips handout” to address formatting and writing style issues; presenting more examples of winning proposals from the various colleges; and offering more workshops in locations where faculty have their offices (see Figure 3).

Evaluation of the Faculty Survey

To gain further insights into faculty perceptions of the Internal Awards Program and the Internal Awards Writing Workshops, the Faculty Development Center emailed an electronic survey composed of thirteen questions to all faculty in the Fall 2018 semester. Ninety-one faculty responded to the survey (a 14.5% response rate). Sixty-seven percent of respondents applied for at least one type of award, and 80% of that group received the award. Of the respondents who received an award, 75% had attended a workshop, and 97% of this group said the workshops were helpful. Thirty-three percent of survey respondents did not apply for any awards, and 93% of this group said they did not attend a workshop. Questions 6, 10, and 12 were developed to understand why faculty do not apply for awards, do not go to workshops to support award writing, and what more the Faculty Development Center (FDC) can do to support faculty in receiving awards. Responses to these questions are summarized in Figure 4.

Comments after an Acceptance Result:

“I have the pleasure to let you know that I have got the 1 semester sabbatical for the fall of 2018. Your seminar on this topic helped a lot. After attending it I had to rewrite the proposal in layman terms before I succeeded. Keep on organizing these seminars!”

“Getting help writing the internal grants and using them to generate preliminary data was absolutely instrumental in getting a National Science Foundation grant for $359,776! So a big thanks to the FDC!”

“Thank you for the Sabbatical Workshop during winter semester (2019). I have submitted sabbatical proposals before, but I found this workshop especially helpful in understanding what requirements had changed since the last time. There were some format issues as well as some content requirements that had changed that were critical to a successful submission. It was very helpful, as well, to ask specific questions, especially because I was submitting more than one [type of] proposal.”

“Without this workshop, I don’t know if I would have been successful or not. But with the support of this workshop, I am certain that it increased the odds for success. I am very pleased to have been awarded a one year sabbatical. I look forward to a rich year of research ahead! Many thanks and with appreciation.”

Comments after a Denial Result:

“I hope that this finds you well. I had attended the workshops and received quite positive peer feedback and was more than a bit surprised at the denial of my [sabbatical] application.”

"I didn’t get my sabbatical. I’m shocked and dismayed. I’d gotten such great feedback at the FDC workshop! Three glowing reviews! I’m trying to find out what was so wrong with it. The [URSLC chair's] comments shared seemed arbitrary, contradictory, and some were factually inaccurate. Like, did they actually read it? Did they look at the appendices at all? I’m super disappointed in the process. I wish we’d go back to vetting proposals in departments then sending them forth with [department chair letters of] support — it would at least give the reviewers some additional context."

“I received feedback on my sabbatical proposal and wanted to let you know that it was not funded. Thanks again for all your help and support.”

“I wanted to thank you again for leading the FDC's workshop on writing internal awards. I learned a lot at the workshops I attended last fall—or at least I thought I did. Although I wrote my SRA application in accordance with the FDC guidance, peer review, and the provided rubric, I did not receive a summer award. However, a colleague of mine who did not attend the workshops did.”

Changes to the workshops have been made as a result of these comments, such as: 1) informing senior faculty that the SRA has eight bonus points for new faculty who are within their first three years of employment, making the award more competitive for longer-termed faculty; 2) reviewers are not obligated to read appendices, so make sure the narrative provides important details; and 3) giving better directions in the peer-review session to avoid “glowing reviews” and focus on comments that will improve clarity, organization, and detail as per the proposal evaluation form.


Provisions for sabbatical leaves (one- and two-semester) and research fellowships appear in Eastern Michigan University-American Association of University Professors (EMU-AAUP) contracts dating back to December 1974. The contracts also state that other awards may become available as well, such as the Summer Research Award (Agreement by and between EMU and the EMU-AAUP, 1974). For years, the predominant winners of the Internal Research Awards were faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences has the largest number of faculty (50.9% of total) and the largest number of departments (18 out of 34; or 53% of total). Within this college, the majority of previous awardees were from science and math departments and likely had more grant writing experience. A higher percentage of faculty in these departments were securing awards compared to other faculty in the college. The Faculty Development Center recognized a need to better support faculty with less grant writing experience.

Since the internal award writing workshops were implemented in 2014, a shift has been observed in the subpopulations of faculty awardees (assistant professors, females, Blacks, Asians, faculty in the College of Business and College of Technology). Overall, the results of this study indicate that the writing workshops were successful in addressing the problems of poorly written proposals and the lack of awardee diversity.

One limitation to this study was tracking who submitted or did not submit a proposal for the SRA, FRF, and sabbatical awards, as this information was not publicly available. Without these data, it could not be determined why any unsuccessful workshop attendees did not secure an award. Possible reasons are either the unsuccessful workshop attendee did not submit a proposal at all, or the proposal was submitted but it received a poor rating from the review committee. Another limitation to not having the number of proposals submitted each year, was determining the mathematical odds for an individual to secure an award (number of proposals submitted / number of proposals funded). However, members of the University Research and Sabbatical Leave Committee have shared, anecdotally, that the odds of securing an award ranges between 40-70% depending on the year because each year there is a different number of applications submitted for each type of award.

Despite making up only 22.4% of all university faculty, over 65% of the workshop attendees and over 69% of workshop awardees were assistant professors. While one type of award, the SRA, gave preference to assistant professors through an automatic awarding of bonus points, this preference cannot fully explain the performance by assistant professors. The FRF awards, which have no extra points for a particular faculty group, are still awarded more often to assistant professors than associate or full professors. In this study, faculty were not asked specifically what motivated them to participate in the workshops. However, assistant professors at the university face expectations for scholarly output that require them to pursue a research agenda early in their careers (Lucas & Murry, 2011; Sorcinelli, 2007). The explicit purpose of both awards for which untenured professors are eligible—the SRA and the FRF—is to advance the recipients’ scholarly endeavors. It is likely that assistant professors, motivated to earn tenure and promotion, took advantage of the writing workshops to jumpstart their scholarly agenda and position themselves for success on the tenure track. The Faculty Development Center is considering adding a feedback question about participants’ rationale for attending.

Although the percentage of Black faculty who received an award after attending a workshop (5.8%) was higher than the percentage of all Black faculty awardees (4.2%), that percentage was still lower than the percentage of all Black faculty at the university (6.6%). Additionally, the Black faculty workshop attendee success rate (61.5%) lagged far behind the workshop attendee success rates of Asian faculty (80.0%) and White faculty (82.5%). A study of Black faculty produced a list of thirteen concerns regarding their success at predominately white institutions, including a lack of mentors, a sense of being left out of campus politics, a lack of guidance in promotion and tenure applications, and a belief that their research is trivialized (Ross & Edwards, 2016).

The writing workshops, which provide information, guidance, and feedback to participants, do serve as a type of mentorship, which has been identified as an important form of support for minority faculty (Espino & Zambrana, 2019; Charleston et al., 2014). However, there needs to be additional institutional structures in place to support underrepresented populations and their scholarship. Edwards & Ross (2017) state, “After getting minority faculty on campus, universities have to create a favorable climate to encourage the faculty to stay. Retaining faculty of color has to be a priority. An environment has to exist that will facilitate their longevity on campus, and an avenue must be created for professional advancement for all of those who seek it” (p. 18). These workshops are one example of programming that can support minority faculty in the achievement of their scholarship goals, but it should be part of a larger institutional plan to bolster the efforts of marginalized populations.

Women make up 50.5 % of the university’s faculty population; this group of faculty have secured the majority of internal research awards (54.3%) distributed between 2010 and 2018. Additionally, they have participated in the writing workshops at a rate that doubled that of their male colleagues. Several researchers have noted that female faculty face several barriers in higher education, including discrimination, family obligations, excessive service involvement, and structural practices that place them at a disadvantage (Monroe et al., 2008; Mason et al., 2006; Misra et al., 2011; Aiston & Jung, 2015). Grant writing workshops, such as the Faculty Development Center writing workshops, have been recognized as a strategy to assist female faculty in becoming more successful at securing grants (Easterly & Pemberton, 2008; Leberman et al., 2016).

Faculty from the College of Education and the Library received internal awards at a much lower rate than their colleagues in the other colleges; these areas of the university had a success rate of 55.6% and 14.3%, respectively, which is well below the overall workshop attendee success rate of 80%. They also attended the workshops at a lower rate than faculty from other areas of the university. One way to address the low workshop attendance and attendee success rate is to provide a series of workshops specifically for each group to address any particular concerns. Another way would be to encourage participation in Day Two of the workshop series for participants to receive peer-feedback on their proposals. However, Library faculty make up a small percentage of the university’s pool of total faculty. It may not be feasible for the number of Library workshop attendees and their success rate to approach those of colleges with more faculty eligible for awards.

Poorly written proposals frequently result in denied funding. The longitudinal analysis of awardees compared with faculty eligible to receive an internal research award revealed the “I finally got an award!” subgroup—a pool of 36 faculty who did not receive an award between 2010 and 2013, but did write a winning proposal between 2014 and 2018 after participating in the writing workshops.

Access to the list of faculty who apply for awards is not publicly available, so it was not possible to determine if the group of 36 did not receive an award prior to 2014 because they did not submit an application, or they did submit but their proposal ranked too low to receive an award. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that at least some of these 36 faculty had applied for awards and failed to secure them. For this group of faculty, the writing workshops likely provided them with the information and guidance necessary for them to finally write a successful proposal.

The role of faculty development centers in higher education has evolved from focusing solely on faculty teaching skills to meeting faculty needs in securing grants and producing scholarship (Lockhart & Stoop, 2018; Lockhart, 2014; Gray & Shadle., 2009). Results from both the writing workshop feedback forms and the faculty survey indicated that the Faculty Development Center should continue to support faculty with grant writing. In fact, 32% of respondents to the faculty survey indicated they would like the center to offer additional scholarship support in the form of workshops focusing on research agenda development.

The writing workshop evaluations reveal that faculty found the workshops worthwhile. Overall, the scores show that faculty felt the workshops provided adequate information about the process and the qualities of good proposal writing. The statement with the lowest average score (3.52/4) was the question about Day One boosting the faculty members’ confidence in submitting a successful proposal. A likely reason for a lower score in this area is the large amount of information shared on Day One, which could make attendees feel overwhelmed and less confident in their abilities to write good proposals. The Day Two average score for the same question was 3.75/4, demonstrating that participation in the peer-review sessions buoyed feelings of confidence. The workshop facilitators need to consider restructuring future Day One workshops to deliver the information differently or to include only the most important recommendations for writing good proposals. The facilitators should also encourage faculty to engage with the peer-review portion of the workshops.

The results of the survey sent to all faculty revealed why respondents did not apply for an internal research award or sabbatical between 2010 and 2018. The most frequent response (25%) was “I do not believe I will receive an award.” This statement aligns with the sentiments of the review committee members, who voiced concerns about the awards going to the same faculty year after year. Determining the validity of this belief is beyond the scope of this article. However, the number of faculty in the “I finally got an award!” group as well as the increase in diversity among awardees in terms of rank, race, gender, and college affiliation since the start of the writing workshops provides a compelling argument that this assumption is no longer true.

Key Findings to Adapt/Adopt at Other Institutions

The following insights from the current study are applicable for implementing at other institutions:

  1. For Grant Writing Support, Emphasize the Differences between Academic Writing and Grant Writing. Our faculty demand professional development that is grounded by credible resources. On feedback forms, faculty have given favorable ratings to using the two main articles: “Why academics have a hard time writing good grant proposals” (Porter, 2017) and “Crafting a sales pitch for your grant proposal” (Porter, 2011) in workshops. Faculty new to grant writing are not aware that the two writing styles are very different, and the articles provide an external authoritative voice.
  2. Provide Examples of Model Proposals Written by Peers. Faculty want to examine successfully written grant proposals, preferably from the colleges with which they are affiliated. The Faculty Development Center was proactive in collecting a range of proposals for each of the grant types and ensuring that workshop attendees would find relevant examples regardless of their home college or discipline. Awardees were eager to share their proposals as models when we assured the authors that the proposals would only be handed out as paper copies to workshop attendees with a watermark “confidential do not copy” stamped across them.
  3. Peer-Review is Powerful. Offering the Day Two peer-review session is critical for faculty success. For example, when authors hear their peers say they are “lost” or “confused” in the proposal, they better understand that if they do not revise the narrative, it is likely the committee reviewers, which is also comprised of peers, will lower the rating of their proposal.
  4. Have Credible Workshop Presenters. For attendees to respect the advice of the presenters, they must trust that the presenters are providing accurate and insightful information. The lead presenter for the Day One workshop is a member of the University Research and Sabbatical Leave Committee, who knows the criteria with which the proposals are evaluated. This individual also understands the pitfalls that faculty encounter with grant writing, and shares reviewer perspectives on what makes a proposal that they can support versus one that is relegated to the unreadable, impenetrable, or “so what” pile. As one committee reviewer commented, “Now, I have a much larger pile of proposals that are better written and thus have to be carefully scrutinized for the merits of their good ideas" (Anonymous University Research and Sabbatical Leave Committee Member, personal communication, September 23, 2017).

The Day Two presenter is the Director of the Faculty Development Center. The Director has specialized skills in coaching, leading groups, and creating a supportive environment. The Director's role during the Day Two workshop is to create a space where faculty feel safe critiquing others’ works and having their own critiqued, guide the peer-review process, and offer ideas on how proposals might be further strengthened. The training room door is closed during the peer-review session and faculty are asked to keep review conversations confidential when they leave.

5. Direct and Indirect Assessment Shows What Works and What Needs to be Improved. By analyzing years of verifiable data about faculty performance collected by the university as opposed to self-reported data, we were able to determine which colleges and departments were over- and under-performing in regard to receiving internal grant awards. We are now hosting specialized workshops targeting the specific needs of faculty in disciplines that do not have a strong track record for submitting award-winning proposals. Additionally, faculty comments shared on feedback forms, in surveys, and in emails (which are examples of indirect assessment) provide suggestions on how to make impactful changes to the workshop structure.

Authors’ Note

This project did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose. Data collection and analysis procedures involving human subjects was approved by the University Human Subjects Review Committee:

  • Faculty Development Center Programming Effectiveness Project - UHSRC Protocol Number: 932606, and
  • Faculty Development Center: Secondary Data Analysis Study – UHSRC Protocol Number: 934255

We would like to thank Kaitlyn Greer, Rachael Innocenzi, Kim Pavlock, Sara Memmot, and Doug Baker for their assistance and input.

Samantha Glowacki
Student Staff Member, Faculty Development Center, Eastern Michigan University
109 Halle Library
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Julia K. Nims, MA, MLS
Scholarly Communications Librarian, Eastern Michigan University
200 Halle Library
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Peggy Liggit, PhD
Director of the Faculty Development Center, Eastern Michigan University
109 Halle Library
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Julia K. Nims, Scholarly Communications Librarian, Eastern Michigan University, 200 Halle Library, Ypsilanti, MI 48197,


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Appendix A
Internal Award Writing Workshop Feedback Form


Today’s Date                                                                  Day 1     Day 2 (choose one)


Directions:  Please circle the appropriate below using the following scale:

NA = not applicable        1 = Not at all                  4 = A great deal

To what extent did this workshop…






  1. Provide adequate information about writing a quality proposal?






  1. Provide adequate information about the submission process?






  1. Provide adequate information about the scoring rubric and evaluation process?











  1. Answer all your questions and/or concerns today?






  1. Boost your confidence in submitting a successful proposal?






In the Faculty Development Center we aim to support programming that facilitates deep learning and creates a lasting impact on your teaching and/or research. Your responses to this evaluation will be anonymous. Please use the back if you have more to say. Thank you!


  1. Would you recommend this workshop be repeated next year? Why?
  2. Which part of the workshop was most impactful? 
  1. What recommendations do you have for improvement?

Any other comments, questions, or concerns about this seminar (please continue on the back of this sheet):

Appendix B

Faculty Development Center’s Fall 2018 Faculty Survey

The purpose of this questionnaire is to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of Faculty Development Center (FDC) programming and service. 

Internal and external communities, as well as the academy, will also benefit from the FDC sharing our "good" practice models for faculty professional development.

Participation in this questionnaire is your choice. You may stop your participation at any time. All information you provide is anonymous and will be kept confidential.

By completing this questionnaire you are indicating that you understand the purpose of this study and that you agree to the terms as described.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Peggy Liggit, Director of the Faculty Development Center at

Thank you in advance for your participation!