AERA Centennial Lecture Series Premieres in Brooklyn and Seattle

December 2016

The AERA Centennial Lecture Series launched its first two lectures and open forums, with Patricia Gándara speaking in Brooklyn on November 30, and Bruce McCandliss speaking in Seattle on December 6. The AERA Centennial Lecture is a national, six-city series promoting public engagement and fostering new conversations between the education research community and policy and practice sectors across the country.

After their brief lectures, both Gándara and McCandliss were joined by education policy experts for an open discussion that included questions from attendees. Both events were well-attended. In addition, there were hundreds of livestreaming, online attendees.

Educating Immigrant Students and Emergent Bilinguals (In an Anti-Immigrant Era)

On November 30, the Lecture Series premiered at the Brooklyn Museum with Patricia Gándara’s talk, “Educating Immigrant Students and Emergent Bilinguals (In an Anti-Immigrant Era).” Gándara is Research Professor and Co-Director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Her lecture focused on new research that shows that bilingualism not only benefits students but also the nation in important ways. However, transitional bilingual education—using the primary language as a bridge to English—is falling short. She went on to speak about how policies and practices that support biliteracy education result in better outcomes for students and for society, and that biliteracy promises the biggest educational payoff.

“The real payoff—for both individuals and society —comes from maintaining and developing the home language to create truly biliterate individuals and from welcoming and fostering the considerable assets that the children of immigrants bring to us,” said Gándara. “I cannot imagine anything that is more of a win-win for the children of immigration and the country as a whole.” 

The lecture was followed by a “living room style” open forum, where experts on immigration and bilingual education joined Gándara on stage and offered initial comments directed to identifying issues for audience consideration and discussion. Sarah Garland (The Hechinger Report) moderated the discussion, with Steven Choi (The New York Immigration Coalition), Philip Kasinitz (CUNY Graduate Center), and Kate Menken (Queens College of CUNY) serving as commentators.

Early Education and the Brain: Making Novel Connections

On December 6, the second lecture was held at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, with Bruce McCandliss’s lecture “Early Education and the Brain: Making Novel Connections.” McCandliss is the head of the Educational Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at Stanford University where he is a professor in the Graduate School of Education and the Department of Psychology (by courtesy).

His talk centered on the transformation in cognitive skills during early childhood and their implications for teaching practices. He discussed the challenge for educational systems that struggle to serve the needs of early learners. He went on to explain that new understanding of brain circuitry from developmental cognitive neuroscience provides a unique vantage point for understanding how cognitive skills develop and the implications for how young children are taught.

McCandliss closed his lecture by exploring the deep connection between education research and neuroscience. “These two fields open up the possibility for a newly emerging field of educational neuroscience, which addresses these questions in ways that neither on its own are equipped to tackle.”

The open forum discussion was moderated by Linda Shaw (The Seattle Times), and included Hon. Brian Baird (Member of Congress [retired]), Erica Johnson (Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning), and Soojin Oh Park (University of Washington), as commentators.

The third lecture in the series will take place on Wednesday, January 11, 2017, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center in Los Angeles. Bridget Terry Long (Harvard Graduate School of Education) will deliver the lecture on “Supporting College Student Access and Success.” Registration for in-person attendance is now open. Live-stream registration is also open.