Communities practising generous scholarship: cultures of collegiality in academic writing retreats

Document Type

Book Chapter




School of Education




Knowles, S. S. (2017). Communities practising generous scholarship: Cultures of collegiality in academic writing retreats. In J. McDonald & A. Cater-Steel (Eds.), Implementing Communities of Practice in Higher Education (pp. 53-80). Singapore: Springer. Available here


In universities, constant pressure to meet publishing imperatives is producing a demoralised, isolated and fatigued workforce. While supporting research writing is recognised as critical for a vibrant research environment, often silence surrounds practices and processes leading to publication. The academic writing retreat model has proven efficacious in providing dedicated time to boost writing productivity and a collegial ethos that fosters cooperative models of intellectual generosity. Participants consistently endorse the model for being able to build on this community/culture that is largely absent from routine academic life. In this chapter, I explore the benefits for doctoral students and academics of ongoing writing retreat communities that meet in residential and on-campus settings. I report on a follow-up study of a community practising generous scholarship created as part of an Australian university’s strategy to strengthen its research environment. Longitudinal data (from 20 writing retreats I facilitated over 3 years) and evaluations collected as a normal part of retreat practice provide evidence of publications, sharing of writing practices and publishing knowledge/experience, often leading to participant-led initiatives to establish new groups. I propose that retreat processes are pivotal in engendering a supportive and collegial network across disciplines and seniority levels, and a vigorous writing culture. They strengthen individual and collective writing identities, thereby subverting neo-liberal values that privilege performativity, erode collegiality and fracture communities. I conclude by suggesting that despite the demonstrated ‘ecosocial’ value of this sustained community of practice, retreats dwell precariously as ‘fringe’ communities, since funding concerns and time scarcity constantly destabilise the model.



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