AERA Town Hall Meetings Engage Education Research Community in Envisioning the 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting​

August  2020

AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine and President Shaun R. Harper hosted two virtual Town Hall Meetings on August 25 and August 28 to talk to the education research community about early plans for the 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting and to gather feedback and answer questions from AERA members and other meeting attendees. The Town Halls were planned after the association announced  on July 30 that the next AERA Annual Meeting, scheduled for April 9–12, 2021, will shift to a completely virtual format.

Designed to generate a robust discussion about the creation and delivery of an interactive, dynamic 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting, the two town hall meetings together drew a diverse audience of 770 scholars representing varying career stages, fields of inquiry, and research interests and approaches. 

Levine kicked off the live online events by welcoming the global attendees and introducing the goals of the sessions. With an agenda provided online, she laid out AERA’s commitment to creating an inclusive community for all at the 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting and noted the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 and systemic racism pandemics. She reaffirmed that AERA is seeking to catalyze inclusivity, access, and the valuing of others across programs and activities of the association. She noted that the AERA Annual Meeting is a visible, major activity to do this well, but that it is part of a large agenda.  

“We will build upon our experience of planning a 2020 virtual Annual Meeting that did not take place and subsequent virtual convenings that we have hosted since then to provide the best 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting experience possible,” said Levine. “We are committed to keeping accessibility as a fundamental priority and to creating a meeting that is supportive of attendees.”

“We have a real opportunity with the 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting to be decidedly innovative and inclusive, with the potential to reach more people who are engaged in education research,” Harper added.

Levine spoke about the unfolding and planning of the 2021 virtual meeting,  covering topics such as  synchronous and asynchronous sessions; interactive paper presentations; professional development, networking, and mentoring opportunities; informal gatherings and receptions; and exhibitor opportunities, among others. While registration fees for the meeting are not yet set, Levine noted that  they will be substantially lower than in previous years. 

During the Town Halls, AERA members and other participants had the opportunity to use the open chat and Q&A features on Zoom to ask questions. 

Levine encouraged ideas from all, but especially from those who have attended other virtual meetings. She noted that these Town Halls are a great opportunity for AERA to hear about what members and other annual meeting attendees most seek and hope for in a virtual event. AERA will combine the questions asked by attendees and create fact sheets in the coming weeks. Additional ideas and comments can be sent to    

AERA will work closely with division and SIG leaders and members across the association as it continues to develop plans over the weeks and months ahead. Future town halls can be expected after 2021 Annual Meeting acceptances go out and as details of the meeting platform further jell.

Closed captioning and American Sign Language were provided for both Town Halls to maximize the accessibility of the events. Video recordings of the two Town Hall meetings are available on the AERA website.