AERA’s Centennial and Moving Forward With Histories
AERA’s Centennial and Moving Forward With Histories
AERA’s Centennial and Moving Forward With Histories
November 2012

In 2016 AERA will commemorate one hundred years of service to advancing knowledge and scholarly inquiry related to education and promoting the use of research to improve education. As the first step in a larger Centennial project yet to be planned, AERA Vice President for History and Historiography Marybeth Gasman, Executive Director Felice J. Levine, and Interim Deputy Executive Director Arnita Jones convened a planning meeting on October 1–2 of a small group of scholars with expertise in institutional and intellectual history, the development of disciplines, and the sociology of knowledge. They outlined the foundational work needed to write a history of AERA, with the aim of illuminating the organization’s development in the context of a century of change in education, education research, and related disciplines. The group also considered the preparation of an intellectual history of the field.

Invitees—some of them long-time members and others from outside the discipline—were asked to consider issues such as AERA’s relationship to the field of education research and other social science and humanities disciplines, and how AERA and education research have changed over time in terms of scholarly development; the changing social, political, economic, and cultural context; and the needs of teachers, administrators, policy makers, and others. This broad group of scholars was also asked to consider who the stakeholders might be in such an effort and how one or more historical accounts might best serve their need, as well as those of the Association.

After extensive and lively discussion, participants recommended a multifaceted approach emphasizing that no single historical work can alone speak to the multiple audiences to be addressed or convey what can be learned from the past. Likely possibilities include (a) a documentary history with basic factual information about the organization’s development; (b) one or more institutional histories placing the development of the organization in the context of a century of change—change in education at all levels and change in the nature and scope of knowledge in education research and the disciplines related to education research; and (c) an intellectual history of the field realized through an edited volume or special issues with open calls.

On one point there was unanimity: All historical research, writing, and other efforts associated with the centennial must be rigorously critical and analytical rather than merely celebratory. The occasion should be a spur to better documentation of AERA’s history and careful preservation of existing historical materials and artifacts, such as audio and video interviews, digital and other records, and a professional oral history program going forward.

On October 27, 2012, AERA Council considered the report from the Centennial History(ies) Planning Meeting and signaled its support to proceed with the implementation of this part of the Centennial Project.
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