2011 Annual Meeting Theme
2011 Annual Meeting Theme

2011 Annual Meeting
Theme:  “Inciting the Social Imagination: Education Research for the Public Good

Kris D. Gutiérrez, President
Joanne Larson, Chair, 2011 Program Committee

We are in the midst of a vibrant and troubling education paradox. On the one hand, it is a time of remarkable interest in education, with increased attention to reform policies, unprecedented educational legislation, and money from all sectors devoted to these efforts. In public discourse, education remains foundational to opening up a range of opportunities: to achieve social and economic mobility, to gain and secure employment, and to develop future life skills. Politicians refer to the knowledge society, economists write about the new economy, and the proliferation of innovative technologies demands new forms of learning in an unparalleled knowledge economy. Yet the path or shape that these efforts take is toward technocratic and market-driven solutions to the everyday issues schools, teachers, and students experience. These trends often benefit parents with means who can move their children out of the public education system into private learning settings that they hope are more likely to offer a value-added education for ”new times.” At the same time, schools are becoming increasingly segregated, with high teacher attrition rates in many districts.

In his recent book Why School? (2009), education researcher Mike Rose argues for the persistent relevance of school and explores how in narrowing their purposes of education, schools have neglected the wider goals of democratic education. In this period of significant social and technological change, there is a place for education research that is oriented not only toward its traditionally valued and enduring purposes but significantly toward public policy and the public good; research that helps us avoid a kind of reductionism, quick fixes, and narrow conceptions of teaching/learning, assessment, curriculum, teacher preparation, and education reform. In a time of extraordinary opportunity, research can enable us to see through the political and polemical tangles and can move us past the current policy impasse toward a new democratic vision of schooling. This will require nothing less than a renewed, creative social imagination.

The theme of AERA’s 2011 Annual Meeting—“Inciting the Social Imagination: Education Research for the Public Good”— is intended to encourage submissions that address the conceptual, methodological, policy, and pragmatic challenges and opportunities in re-imagining the promise and potential of education research. We encourage submissions that emphasize innovative approaches to education research, particularly work that contributes to robust public policy and the public good. This focus encourages education researchers to draw on transdisciplinary theories and constructs, integrated methods, and research approaches that aim to answer a breadth of questions from causal to interpretive/descriptive. We further encourage submissions that employ situated perspectives and dynamic conceptions of institutions and communities, as well as their members and practices. We also invite submissions that consider questions such as the following: 

• What new tools, social arrangements, forms of assistance, and identities promote expansive and sustainable learning?
• How can we use research to shape and influence public policies that pursue educational equity and quality while supporting and promoting local and regional innovation?
• How can research enable us to develop innovative forms of teaching and learning, curriculum and assessment that begin to address the possibilities and problems of economies and communities in economic transition, new technologies and media of communication, and attendant issues of exclusion, marginalization, and access?
• In light of current knowledge, how can we advance educational and public policy on teacher preparation and retention, particularly in schools in nondominant communities?
• How can education research and policy articulate more closely with public policy issues in health, urban development, employment, social welfare, migration, immigration, and other affiliated areas?

Our intent is that the 2011 Annual Meeting will stimulate a new dialogue about the contributions that education research can make to the public sphere. As we continue to think about issues of rigor, validity, and elegance of design, we hope that conference submissions will consider the connection to and integration of questions of the public good as a central notion in conceptions of the work we do.


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