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Creating Stronger AECT Convention Proposals
Suggestions from the
Program Planning Committee
Many organizations’ annual conventions are highly competitive and one needs to submit a strong proposal in order to get onto the program. AECT sets a high expectation for the quality of our convention program. Acceptance rates vary from year to year but clearly the proposal process has become much more competitive in recent years across all categories: posters, roundtables, workshops, and concurrent sessions.
But what makes a strong proposal? That is, what appeals to reviewers and program planners? What do they look for and how can you develop the strongest proposal possible?
Here, we offer 15 principles (in no particular order) and each principle is followed by specific tips to strengthen your proposal. We include tips about both style and substance, including how to make your proposal more visually appealing. While some of these tips will require a little bit of technical know-how (like how to insert HTML codes in the online proposal submission form), you can implement most of these principles with little additional effort.
Principle 1: A strong proposal is one that matches the Call for Proposals and is well matched to program initiatives and themes.
Principle 2: : Proposals that comply with the stated submission requirements are much more likely to be accepted.
Principle 3: Reviewers tend to infer that the properties of the proposal will be the properties of the presenter or presentation.
Principle 4: A strong proposal has few errors and looks polished and professional.
Principle 5: Strong proposals have the potential to interest more people.
Principle 6: A strong proposal is well organized and logical.
Principle 7: Strong proposals use proper English expression and grammar.
Principle 8: Proposals that make a real contribution are more appealing than ones that do not.
Principle 9: A strong proposal is well-informed.
Principle 10: Strong proposals make clear what their objectives are.
Principle 11: A proposal submitted to the proper division is more likely to be accepted.
Here’s another principle that seems obvious, but a quick review of submissions each year shows that not all submitters understand and abide by it. Each division has a focus. AECT members choose to join that division because of that focus. The focus reflects those members’ interests and the divisional program planner works hard to make the final divisional convention program match that interest. As the program planner builds a panel of divisional reviewers, those reviewers are almost always the members with the highest interest in the focus area of the division.
So, if your proposal does not match the division’s focus, the reviewers are likely to dismiss it as being of little interest to the divisional membership. The divisional program planner may even decide on first read-through that your proposal is not submitted to the proper division and will not send it out for review. Instead, your proposal gets “referred” to another division. While the referral process does not mean your proposal will not be accepted, it does slow the process down and it invites problems. If your proposal goes to the right division, the planner recognizes it as belonging, sends it out to the reviewers, and—if it is a strong proposal—it likely gets a favorable review and makes the program. In contrast, if you submit to the wrong division, the program planner may or may not send it out for review. If it does go out for review, it will likely be rejected with a recommendation that it go to another division. Either way, it is slowed down. Now consider that it may arrive at the division to which it should have been submitted in the first place after most or all of the concurrent slots are gone. If it is a good proposal, it now finds itself likely to get a less desirable time slot, or perhaps can only be accommodated in some delivery format other than what you originally requested.
So, how about the idea of just submitting to *all* divisions (or perhaps multiple divisions as a way of covering your bets)? Well, the national planner also reviews submissions. According to AECT’s submission rules, an identical or largely similar proposal should not be submitted to more than one division. That is, if more than one proposal is submitted, those proposals should differ in easily detectable ways and should represent different presentations. If the national program planner discovers multiple submitted versions of the same proposal, he or she may decide this violates the submission rule and your proposal might not make it to *any* division.
Program planners and reviewers are volunteers. It is important that AECT use their time well. Asking multiple sets of reviewers to review the same (or largely the same) proposal is not a good use of their time.
If you are unsure of the suitability of your proposal to a particular group, we encourage you to contact the Convention Planner for that group or organization.The following list describes particular topics suggested by each group and identifies the planner for each group.
Descriptions of the AECT Divisions can be found at: www.aect.org/
The idea, however, is to make sure you understand what a division is interested in and then to combine this with the first principle about matching the annual convention’s themes and sub-themes. For Jacksonville, for example, the first sub-theme is strengthening connections between theory and practice. Suppose you wanted to submit a proposal to the Distance Learning Division that addressed this sub-theme. That proposal might talk about how theories of online learning might be applied to enhance teaching and learning for some group. Suppose instead you were submitting a proposal to the Training and Performance Division that addressed sub-theme 2, strengthening connections between new technologies and educational goals. That proposal might talk about how newer online collaborative tools might enhance the on-the-job performance of professionals. If you wanted to address sub-theme 3, strengthening connections among researchers around the globe and were submitting to the International Division, perhaps you might talk about how technology allows greater worldwide collaboration or how it permits researchers to have their work evaluated in real-time by a global community of researchers. One final example: Imagine you wanted to submit a proposal to the Teacher Education Division that focused on the fourth sub-theme, strengthening connections between new professionals and more experienced colleagues. That proposal might talk about how teacher-preparation institutions can collaborate with school districts to create more effective mentoring and induction programs for new teachers.
These examples above are simply a few of an almost infinite number. For example, one might even combine sub-themes in a single proposal. What we hope these example illustrate, however, is that one tailors the proposal to the theme *and* the division. In order to do such tailoring, you must first know what a division focuses on and you must know what the convention themes and sub-themes are. Accepted proposals do a good job of reflecting both division focus and convention theme.
Principle 12: A strong proposal describes what will occur during the presentation.
Principle 13:: Research studies in progress are less likely to be accepted
Principle 14: A proposal that chooses the right delivery format and requests the appropriate amount of time is more likely to be accepted than one that does not.
Principle 15:: Deadlines matter.
Clearly we do not wish to impair your creativity, nor restrict your freedom. Our goal is to build a strong convention program. A strong convention program supports and enhances the strength of the organization. But we recognize that a strong program begins with strong proposals. We hope this guide helps you produce the strongest proposal you can and that you make it onto the convention program. Please respect the volunteer reviewers’ and planners’ time. The more closely you follow these guidelines and clearly aid the reviewers in understanding your proposal, the better your chances for acceptance.