AERA Holds Higher Education Leadership Conference

Steven Barnett, Rutgers University
Speaks to Attendees 
April 2016

AERA held a Higher Education Leadership Conference on Advancing Public Scholarship in Education on April 7 with about 90 attendees. The conference was directed primarily to deans of schools of education. With an emphasis on the active engagement of attendees, the meeting included a combination of panels, presentations, and small-group discussions on a broad range of public scholarship activities, challenges, and opportunities.

In recent years, AERA and its Consortium of University and Research Institutions (AERA-CURI) has focused its attention on what constitutes scholarly productivity and scholarship. This conference reflected that interest and the 2016 Annual Meeting special emphasis on public scholarship as an aspect of the broader topic.    

Following a welcome by AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine, AERA-CURI Chair Hardin Coleman and 2016 AERA President Jeannie Oakes grounded the day with a broad and inclusive framework for the definition of public scholarship. The first panel provided examples of effective public scholarship in a variety of arenas, including state and federal policy, legal spheres, R&D, and communication, including broadcast and social media. Several panels provided a combination of reflections, discussions, and examples of public scholarship in education.

The afternoon brought an opportunity to hear from federal agency and private foundation leaders—an important perspective for deans balancing an interest in supporting public scholarship and a responsibility to bring in funding. The final two panels addressed capacity building, evaluating and valuing public scholarship activities of faculty members—critical considerations for deans interested in public scholarship.

The conference was an excellent opportunity to put important issues on the table and engage in discussions with respect to what constitutes public scholarship of quality. Attendees noted that higher education and other fields of science and scholarship are also engaged in similar considerations and that the larger conversation was important for the field of education research. AERA-CURI will be returning to the topic as part of its agenda for at the AERA-CURI Fall Policy Meeting in Washington, D.C. on September 18–19.

The AERA Higher Education Leadership Conference benefitted from a grant from the W.T. Grant Foundation.

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