AERA Leadership Convenes for Fall Meeting
AERA Leadership Convenes for Fall Meeting

October 2018

AERA President Amy Stuart Wells 
and AERA Executive Director 
Felice J. Levine offer opening remarks 

AERA leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., October 26–27, for the 2018 Coordinated Committee Meeting (CCM). This annual event provides the opportunity for most of AERA’s committees to meet individually and also to come together collectively in general sessions to discuss significant issues related to the field of education research.

Attendees convened to address this year’s AERA Common Task, which was undertaken in four general sessions designed to contribute to the ongoing work of the association, including the 2019 Annual Meeting, which has the theme “Leveraging Education Research in a ‘Post-Truth’ Era: Multimodal Narratives to Democratize Evidence.” AERA President Amy Stuart Wells presided over CCM and coordinated the discussion of the AERA Common Task.

2019 Annual Meeting Co-chairs Jennifer
Jellison Holme (University of Texas
at Austin) and Janelle T. Scott
(University of California-Berkeley)
lead the first AERA Common Task. 

The first session was titled “Exploring Constructions of ‘Truth’ in the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Report: Implications for Education Research.” 2019 Annual Meeting Co-chairs Jennifer Jellison Holme (University of Texas at Austin) and Janelle T. Scott (University of California-Berkeley) led attendees in a discussion of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission of 2015 on the history of government-mandated efforts to remove Indigenous children from their homes and, through the education system, erase their tribal and familial culture. The discussion, which asked attendees to consider how “truth” gets constructed and reconstructed, how evidence is used, and what a similar commission report could mean in the U.S. context, will help inform the opening plenary session at the 2019 Annual Meeting in Toronto.

Second AERA Common Task Participants 
(left to right): Christopher Edley Jr.
(Opportunity Institute; University of
California, Berkeley School of Law), AERA 
President Amy Stuart Wells and Maria
Echaveste (Opportunity Institute; University
of California, Berkeley School of Law)

The second session, “Truth and Reconciliation U.S. Style: Memories of the 1997 Clinton Initiative on Race,” featured Christopher Edley Jr. (Opportunity Institute; University of California, Berkeley School of Law) and Maria Echaveste (Opportunity Institute; University of California, Berkeley School of Law), who were senior staff members of President Bill Clinton’s team deeply engaged in Clinton’s “One America Race Initiative.” In a conversation moderated by Wells, each shared their perspective on the initiative more than 20 years later and engaged in a conversation with CCM attendees on the successes and stumbling blocks of the initiative. Among the issues addressed was the role of research in crafting and implementing the initiative, as well as how research and data are valued (or not) today and in previous policy eras.

Edley discussed the significance of emerging research in the 1990s on the state’s compelling interest in promoting diverse student populations as a factor in subsequent Supreme Court decisions that upheld the use of race as a factor in university admissions. He noted two significant takeaways from that experience: (1) that there can and needs to be a bridging between research and policy, and (2) that more rigorous investigation of how values develop and change—and which interventions can effect change—is necessary. 

The third Common Task session took place at the National Museum of the American Indian. Attendees heard from guest curator Suzan Shown Harjo, who discussed the exhibition on “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.” The exhibition documents the history of treaty making between American Indians and the United States, from the days of the early republic, when treaties were considered by both sides to be serious, diplomatic agreements based on the recognition of each nation’s sovereignty, to the U.S. government’s use in the 19th century of coercive treaties to dispossess Native Americans of their lands, to the 20th century, when Indian Nations successfully fought court and legislative battles for federal recognition of their treaty rights.

Jennifer Nichols (Frameworks 
Institute) leads the final AERA
Common Task of the meeting

In the final general session, Jennifer Nichols of the Frameworks Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based communications research firm, led a hands-on, interactive workshop on “Facts Don’t Speak for Themselves: Evidence-Based Strategies for More Effective Knowledge Translation.” The session spoke to an important element of the Common Task—framing evidence for greater impact in a “post-truth” era. Nichols presented on evidence-based communications practices that scholars can apply to their own efforts to share research findings with the general public and policy makers.

Nichols urged researchers who want to communicate their findings to emphasize the rigor of their work to gain audience trust, and to focus on what their findings show to be true, rather than what “myths” it corrects. She noted that researchers should avoid overemphasizing urgency or crisis, since many people tune out “crisis messaging”; similarly, researchers should avoid emphasizing individual examples that demonstrate an issue, which can distract people from the need for systematic change. Finally, Nichols encouraged researchers to be careful not to provide too much data without contextualizing it, since people tend to explain numbers by relying on their previously held default positions.

“In addition to important committee work, CCM gave leaders in the field the opportunity to come together for cross-cutting talk on critical research issues related to equal educational and social opportunity,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “These conversations reflect and will further advance AERA’s and the field’s commitment to using research to improve equity and schooling and to create pathways to educational change.”

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