President Wells on Why You Need to Attend the Annual Meeting
President Wells on Why You Need to Attend the Annual Meeting

February 2019

Dear AERA Members,

In addition to reconnecting with hundreds of friends and colleagues, there are countless other reasons for going to Toronto in April for the AERA Annual Meeting. For starters, we can learn from Canadians what happens when a government commission examines the history of the country’s Indigenous residential schools and publicly acknowledges the “cultural genocide” that several generations of Indigenous children experienced in the name of “education.”

This acknowledgment has led to curricular reforms and new, culturally relevant professional development opportunities in the public schools throughout the country. What aspects of this Canadian history can we apply to other countries where similar patterns of racial oppression have occurred in the name of education? How might we, as education researchers, document both subtle and blatant forms of cultural genocide in schools and universities in other contexts? What is our role in envisioning the emancipatory potential of education in Canada and elsewhere? The following highlighted sessions at AERA will explore these issues in depth.

The AERA Opening Plenary on Friday, April 5, “Truth and Reconciliation in Education: History, Narratives, and Pedagogy,” will highlight the work of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, juxtaposed to various efforts in the U.S. to reconcile our history of slavery, segregation, and racial oppression and the role of schools and universities in either denying or examining that history.

In addition to this Opening Plenary and its focus on reexamining truth and reconsidering whose truth is valued in the field, several of the Presidential sessions, in connecting to the theme of “Leveraging Education Research in a ‘Post-Truth’ Era: Multimodal Narratives to Democratize Evidence,” are rewriting dominant narratives and generating new AERA formats. From sessions that are live podcasts to those that examine the pros and cons of using Twitter as a format to disseminate research, to a Presidential Circle of healing and reimagining what education could be, these featured sessions will inspire AERA members to connect to each other in generative ways.

Adding to the multi-modalities present throughout the meeting, my Presidential Address on Sunday evening, “An Inconvenient Truth About the New Jim Crow of Education,” will feature a student-researched and -written play on the meaning of standardized tests in the lives of youth, and the world premiere of a new film by Stanley Nelson on the interconnectedness of testing, curriculum, discipline, and segregation.

Another new Presidential session format is being introduced this year in the form of cross-cutting theme sessions that were derived with the support of the program chairs and vice presidents from several of the divisions and SIGs.  

Cross-Cutting Theme Session #1 – The Significance of Culture, Context, and Ways of Knowing From Pre-K Through Higher Education
This session consists of four papers drawn from Divisions A, C, and J that all focus on the role of culture and context in student learning through several different disciplines and through a focus on different levels of the educational system. This cross-cutting session demonstrates that the research on the significance of sociocultural contexts to learning is not unique to one discipline or area of study within our interdisciplinary field.

Cross-Cutting Theme Session #2 – Trauma and Violence in Students’ Lives: The Role of Education in Healing and Hurting
Each of these papers, drawn from Divisions C and J, examines issues of trauma and violence in educational settings and policies, practices, and structures within schools and universities that can either heal or exacerbate the pain students experience.

Cross-Cutting Theme Session #3 – On Measuring and Evaluating Education: Why Culture, Context, and Ways of Knowing Matter
This session, through four papers from Divisions C and H, explores the complicated intersection of “objective” measures and “subjective” ways of being in the world and knowing content. What do many of the standardized measures miss in their evaluations of schools and students?

Cross-Cutting Theme Session #4 – Beyond the Schoolhouse Door: Expanding the Physical Boundaries of Education
This session includes papers from Divisions C and J that examine the educational aspects of schools that are not a part of the classroom-level curriculum. These “beyond the classroom” papers draw upon a wide range of the research, all of which examines forms of inclusion and exclusion to highlight the educational aspects of neighborhoods, programs, online learning, and artwork.

As these new cross-cutting theme sessions illustrate, the strength of your work lies in its interdisciplinary, multimethod, and comprehensive focus on the field of education. The Annual Meeting is the one and only time each year that we can connect, debate, and learn from each other across the silos of universities and institutions. Come together in Toronto to question truth as we have been taught it and the fundamental importance of the work we do in the “post-truth” era.

Together with the entire AERA staff, Council, Program Committee, and my two program co-chairs, Jennifer Jellison Holme and Janelle T. Scott, I welcome you to Toronto.

With much gratitude,

Amy Stuart Wells