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Advancing and Benefiting from Education Research in Confrontational and Tumultuous Times

Mon, April 16, 2:15 to 3:45pm, New York Hilton Midtown, Second Floor, Sutton North

Session Type: Invited Speaker Session


Around the proverbial “water cooler” in whatever the workplace, the social group, or the community or family setting, there is uncertainty about what we hear from public officials and policy leaders and how best to ensure that truths, facts, observations, and data matter. We are living in a time when we see that some publics are increasingly valuing science to support open discourse and sound decision making. Yet, it is also a period when fields of science and scholarship are more observably being limited, denied, or under attack and where scholars who in particular raise challenging questions may experience efforts to delegitimize their work.

What does this mean for fields of science like education research? Our field in particular is dedicated to advancing knowledge that allows for building critical inquiry skills; for ensuring safe spaces to explore ideas and engage in innovative problem solving; and for enhancing the human capacity to support, help, and enable the development and dignity of others. What are the implications for education research as a field to navigate a world where our mission and purpose may be contested rather than embraced?

This conversation is not new to this century or to this decade or year. Nor is it unique to our field—although education research may have more to offer because our very area of inquiry is about education, teaching, learning, and human development. At our April 2017 AERA Annual Meeting, AERA past presidents grappled with this issue at their annual luncheon. We also started this discussion with an AERA-wide open forum. Similarly, many other scientific societies have been holding sessions on this topic at their conferences.

In April 2017, the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) convened a panel to consider the challenges to their field and SRCD’s mission. As SRCD put it, “many members have expressed strong feelings that our core values and life work are under threat. . . .We are asking the panel—as thought-leaders with broad perspectives—to consider how best to respond? The goal is to have an unscripted substantive discussion. Not to focus on politics, but rather to consider strategies that best leverage our expertise and science.”

The co-chairs of this session embrace these goals and aim to engender a complementary productive conversation at our 2018 Annual Meeting. The session will start by having each participant briefly reflect on the topic and speak to the question of what we (individually and organizationally) can do with our skills, knowledge, and expertise to ensure that our work moves forward and matters. We will follow up with cross-talk among the panelists and encourage audience questions and participation.

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