People who have the drive to get a PhD tend to be the people who try to pack 10 pounds of apples in a 5-pound bag. It can be tempting to carry that many apples, but sooner or later the bag will burst.
Grad students are super-high achievers. Taking on more research projects, saying “yes” to exciting opportunities, learning new skills, stretching in new directions. And doing everything extremely well. Meeting your own high standards and meeting the expectations of others. Each is an apple. Your bag gets more and more stretched.
Then it bursts!
If you are limited to those that fit into a 5-pound bag, how do you pick the best apples?
“How am I doing?” Too often grad students have no idea how to answer this question. Am I doing well? Am I doing what I should be doing?
Most of the time, it is hard to be sure. We go through the day without much feedback. When we do get feedback, it usually emphasizes what is wrong. We learn what we should change and do differently.
But it is equally important to get feedback about what is going well. What should NOT change. What should continue. I call this “feedback for continuation.”
Two effective forms of dissertation writing groups are those dedicated to quiet writing in the companionable presence of others and those that focus on support for the dissertation writing process. This post describes ways to make both types successful.
A third kind of group is structured to share writing and provide peer feedback. I wrote about them in Dissertation Writing Groups | Feedback and Motivation.
Dissertation writing can be an isolating experience. The magnitude of the project can overwhelm. Dissertation writing groups—comprised of fellow dissertators who provide feedback—are a lifeline.
There are three kinds of writing groups:
The dissertation feedback groups I participated in as a doctoral student were instrumental in my success. They certainly improved my work. My productivity increased. In this blog post, I reprise and update the advice I compiled shortly after I graduated. 
Development as a teacher should be part of every doctoral student’s program and every graduate student should expect to become a proficient teacher. Doctoral students are usually obliged to focus on their research at the expense of broader career preparation. As a result, it is difficult for doctoral students to learn about the science of effective college teaching.
A newly released report, from a groundbreaking seven-year longitudinal research study, provides evidence of the value of teaching development (TD) for doctoral students. It provides ammunition for those (like me) who want to put teaching-preparation front and center in doctoral studies.
My three take-aways from the report are:
- Teaching Development (TD) is happening! It is widely used and widely available.
- It matters. TD has a positive impact on students’ teaching ability and confidence.
- It’s time to integrate TD into doctoral programs.
Building your professional network requires active effort. There are 4 steps as you move from meeting people to creating enduring connections. Remember them as the Four I‘s.
Initiate & Inquire
(I know that is really five.)