The American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting bills itself as the world’s largest annual gathering of educational researchers, and while the participants benefit from a wide variety of professional development and collaboration opportunities, the impact is also felt outside the research community.
Education Northwest’s Brandi Holten, one of eight researchers from the organization presenting at this year’s event, says that one of the benefits of attending is the chance to share ideas on how to effectively engage stakeholders in applying research to their specific needs at the classroom, school, district, and/or state levels.
“Our ultimate goal as researchers is to engage practitioners on relevant findings that will be informative and actionable in their specific contexts,” Holten says. “The product of research findings can be used to ask additional questions that lead to informed decision making about ways to positively impact student success in school and life.”
Researcher Ashley Pierson sees the value of researchers coming together at events such as the AERA annual meeting as a way to make connections that lead to collaboration and strengthen future work. “Researchers gain exposure to hundreds, if not thousands, of new research findings and ideas, which helps connect disparate ideas and innovations in the field,” she says.
In a Tuesday morning poster session on regional educational laboratories partnerships aimed at improving the use of data in education, Pierson and her Education Northwest colleagues Havala Hanson and Vicki Nishioka are presenting on how REL Northwest research alliances help alliance members use data to shape policies that promote educational equity. Pierson hopes that participants take away from this and her other sessions not only the value of connecting research to practice and policy but also the importance of involving education stakeholders in the work.
Researcher Jason Greenberg Motamedi, whose work concentrates on support for English learners, is participating in a symposium on ways to examine English learner progress beyond that of a single, homogenous group. His presentation focuses on how student characteristics ― gender and home language ― as well as background knowledge are related to how quickly students learn English. “It’s important for researchers to examine differences as they investigate English learner outcomes,” he says. “It is important to teachers that they understand that their English learners are not all the same and need differentiated support, and it is vital that students receive the support that they need.”
A researcher who specializes in statistical methods and serves as the discussant in one of the conference’s distinguished paper sessions, Malkeet Singh sees the benefits of the AERA annual meeting as the sharing of ideas that lead to developing better research questions and the gleaning of knowledge that applies to multiple research areas. “Statistical methods are like the telescope and a microscope that enable us to explore education data that provide more meaningful understanding of educational issues, and also to utilize data-based evidence to improve school and student outcomes,” he says.
The annual AERA conference takes place April 8–12 in Washington, DC. You can see the full listing of Education Northwest sessions, including dates and times. Follow us on Twitter at @educationnw and at the hashtag #AERA16.