AERA Day 1

I was lucky enough to be invited by the Division I program through Dr. Angela Valenzuela, and I wanted to put some thoughts on the meeting here.  This is my first AERA, although I've been to a handful of other education-focused conferences and meetings, and even took part in planning a statewide TESOL Conference last year.   I'll start with some pictures.

It should be noted that I'm from San Antonio, and don't go back as often as maybe I should or I'd like.  This, as I'm sure you'll see, will likely be reflected in the pictures.  Finally, there will be little extra curricular hanky panky, as I'm commuting daily to spend the evenings with my daughter, Truett.  Don't expect much in the way of tourism.

I started with a session on Integrating Philosophy Into Educational Practice.  I was excited to hear about John Dewey's philosophy as relates to power and his conceptualization of growth. Dr. Hansen, from Teachers' College Columbia, spoke about the concept of bearing witness, which described his work observing teachers in public schools.  Other researchers on the panel spoke about centralizing the teaching and the teacher in our understanding of the educational process, using Ricoeur's work and ideas of self-recognition to help teachers and others see the value (for better or for worse) in what they do.

The second session I attended was specifically about adult education, and was part of the adult education Special Interest Group.  It was interesting, although not because it was particularly germane to the work that I do or my personal or professional interests.  There was some work on measuring literacy in adults, work that explored workforce and workplace partnerships, and work that explored problem solving skills in technology-rich environments (PSTRE).  There was also an exploration of adults with disabilities and their attainment of STEM degrees.  All in all, it was a good insight into some of the interests in adult education research, none of which were super-related to my work.

Finally, I had a choice between a roundtable discussing Paulo Freire's work in various manifestations and a paper session about Classroom Engagement, specifically looking at grades in various contexts.  I chose the latter, given my current look at assessment.  Again, I'm not sure it hit the mark exactly, although it did inspire some interesting thinking. 

The main takeaway for me was the idea that, when teachers grade, they are consistently grading academic performance and something else.  There was a sense from the presenters that if we could only discover what that something was - perhaps racial bias, gender or sex bias, or teacher purpose - perhaps we'd figure this thing out.  This - to me - reeks of scientism and ignores the fact that it's impossible to dehumanize that which comes out of the relationship between two human actors, in the midst of many more.  

All in all, it was a really good day, and I will do my best to attend a full day tomorrow as well.  There are some interesting looking things that I'd love to jump into tomorrow.  More to come.

Cameron