More than 13,000 Education Researchers Gather for 2021 AERA Virtual Annual Meeting
More than 13,000 Education Researchers Gather for 2021 AERA Virtual Annual Meeting

April 2021

The 2021 AERA Virtual Annual Meeting brought together nearly 13,300 scholars, graduate students, policy leaders, and practitioners from 68 countries for the largest education research conference in the world. The conference, originally planned for Orlando, FL, was held online April 8–12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organized around the theme “Accepting Educational Responsibility,” presidential sessions, lectures, symposia, poster sessions, and more spotlighted high-quality education research and its connection to important issues in education practice and policy, on subjects including the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism, educational equity, and more.

While the content developed for the meeting by participant scholars was of the highest quality, the platform, developed by an outside company for the Annual Meeting, had many technical difficulties in execution affecting the meeting and the experience of attendees. AERA will offer registrants the option to request a refund, and will be reaching out to all paid registrants the week of May 3.

“We deeply appreciate the time and energy that participants put into preparing scholarship and planning meeting sessions over many months during a time of stress, and we regret that the platform fell far short,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “We are also proud of and inspired by the way we saw attendees work together to overcome the technical challenges so that they could still share their work as best as possible and engage in scholarly exchange.”

“We are committed to ensuring that the association meets the needs of its members and to advancing the entire field of education research,” said Levine. “We are moving forward stronger as an association from the lessons learned not just from this past conference but from the unprecedented challenges faced in the last year.”

Highlights from the 2021 Annual Meeting included AERA 2020 President Shaun Harper’s presidential address, major lectures from distinguished speakers and award winners, the installation of Edmund W. Gordon as AERA Honorary President, presidential program sessions, and the Research and Science Policy Forum series. For details, see the related stories in this issue of Highlights.

Also, a high point were the paper sessions, roundtable sessions, poster sessions, and symposia that reflected researchers’ open submissions to Divisions, SIGs, and Committees. Quality was reported to be particularly strong this year, especially noteworthy given that the submission deadline in July 2020 was at a time of heightened stress due to COVID-19. 

AERA communications strategies and social media were also evident this year. On the morning of April 8 (EDT), shortly before the official start of the Annual Meeting that day, AERA held a virtual news conference with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Yidan Prize Foundation for the release of the new OECD report “Sky’s the limit: Growth mindset, students, and schools in PISA.”

The event featured presentations from Edward Ma (Yidan Prize Foundation), Carol Dweck (Stanford University), and Andreas Schleicher (OECD), followed by Q&A with reporters moderated by AERA Director of Communications Tony Pals. The press conference, which was attended by several leading education reporters, was also broadcasted on AERA’s YouTube channel, where it has been watched more than 1,150 times.

Immediately following the conference, AERA offered four virtual professional development courses on April 13–16, drawing more than 1,100 registrants. The four-hour courses, which focused on skill development in qualitative research methods, meta-analysis, multilevel modeling, and data analysis and visualization, were led by an expert faculty of researchers and scholars. The courses, offered for $35 each for annual meeting attendees and $55 for non-annual meeting attendees, will be made available for on-demand viewing in the AERA Virtual Research Learning Center.

The 2022 Annual Meeting will be held in San Diego, CA, April 22–25.

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