Major Annual Meeting Lecture Speakers Examine Significant Topics in Education Research

May 2023

The 2023 AERA Distinguished Lecture and 2023 Wallace Foundation Distinguished Lecture featured two prominent scholars who provided important insights on the topics of educational equity regarding advanced technology and effective principal preparation programs for Black students.

The 2023 AERA Distinguished Lecture was given by Arnetha Ball, Charles E. Ducommun Endowed Professor (Emerita) in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, during the virtual component of the Annual Meeting on Friday, May 5. Ball addressed some of the most pressing challenges with recent developments in computers and artificial intelligence (AI), which have been exacerbated by inequitable access to technology. This session was chaired by 2023–24 AERA President Tyrone Howard (University of California, Los Angeles).

Arnetha Ball

Ball began her talk by asking attendees to reflect on the mission of AERA, paying particular attention to how it serves those who have been systematically and historically underserved by the system. She then explored how AI could increase discriminatory practices.

“One current complaint about AI ethics is that we have no idea what text these chat bots were trained on,” said Ball. “Given the discriminatory effects of early algorithmic software, it’s reasonable to assume that AI software will also reinforce discriminatory attitudes.”

Ball stressed the importance of researchers determining whether AI is up to the task of adjusting for the challenges facing education, researchers, schools, families, and communities.

“Our researchers should be doing consequential research to tell the chatbot companies what we need in order to educate the types of students that we really want to produce in our schools,” said Ball. “We must consider how we might support generative change for education equity.”

Linda C. Tillman

The 2023 Wallace Foundation Distinguished Lecture, chaired by 2022–23 AERA President Rich Milner, was delivered by Linda C. Tillman, Distinguished Visiting Professor at Loyola Marymount University, at the place-based meeting in Chicago on Thursday, April 13. Tillman’s lecture focused on the positive impacts of effective principal preparation and leadership for the social, emotional, and academic lives of Black students in public schools.

Tillman began her talk with a look at the historical legacy of Black principals, moving into a breakdown of Black principals today. Research has found that the presence of Black principals has resulted in positive outcomes for students and teachers.

“Connections between Black principals, Black teachers, and Black students become more important as a rapidly diversifying student population means a growing mismatch in the race and ethnicity of principals and students,” said Tillman.

Tillman proposed four dimensions of effective Black principal leadership: resistance to ideologies and individuals opposed to the education of Black students, priority of the academic and social development of Black students, importance of cultural perspectives of Black principals, and leadership based on interpersonal caring.

“Black principals must make schools transformational spaces,” said Tillman. “Spaces that provide Black students with the nurturing, encouragement, and support they need to face obstacles inside and outside of school. Black principals must let Black students know that school is the place where they can make a way out of no way.”

Recordings of these and other major lectures are available on the 2023 Annual Meeting online platform and mobile app.