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AERA 2011 | something’s got to give

June 2, 2010

AERA 2010 in Denver went down as we all expected. Lots of sitting. Lots of listening. Lots of networking. Presentations, poster sessions, and key notes. Socializing with colleagues who came together from far and near.

Why did you attend?

I attended because I’ve been away from my home campus, the University of Connecticut, and from face-to-face scholarly dialogue for almost a year. I attended, even though I didn’t present this year, because I wanted to connect with other scholars who possess similar research interests. I wanted to learn about their work. I also hoped to be motivated, inspired, and provoked to extend my own work. After five days of conferencing (and I conferenced every day), I felt disappointed and exhausted. My simple needs were not met. With the exception of a small handful of sessions and even fewer thought-provoking discussions with colleagues, I left Denver wondering if I would ever attend AERA again.

“But I have to attend.” I am an educational researcher. More specifically, I’m a dissertating doctoral student who is voluntarily participating in an institution that equates scholarly rigor with writing a paper that few will read, traveling across the country, spending resources, and presenting said paper to a crowd of attendees who possesses varying degrees of interest in my ideas. My institution expects me to attend whether my personal learning needs and goals are met.


AERA, like many professional organizations, has not kept up with the changing needs and goals of professional development and scholarly inquiry of its membership.  My question, one raised during a tweetup at AERA during a conversation with my colleague @jonbecker and others present, is

What can we do to transform OUR experience at AERA so that it more closely resembles our vision of face-to-face professional development?

Jon pointed me to a recent blog post by Mark Sample (@samplereality), “Forget Unconferences, Let’s Think about Underconferences.” In the post, Mark presents his vision for the “underconference.” At its core the underconference affords participants power to transform their OWN learning experiences within a hosted conference setting in ways that enliven dialog, encourage collaboration, and challenge standing practices in our field.


  • How could this work at AERA? What are the professional risks associated with this type of endeavor?
  • What would be the value of investing in the creation of an AERA underconference?
  • How could we engage a critical mass of similarly-minded folks to help plan an underconference?
  • If we planned an underconference, how could we rally folks to participate? How would we measure the value of their participation in order to inform future similar endeavors?

I look forward to your comments as I work to clarify my own vision of an AERA underconference.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Halona Y. Agouda permalink
    June 2, 2010 12:34 am

    I’ve never attended an AERA conference — and to be honest, I’m not sure that I’m all that interested. At times I feel bad because I am learning to be an educational researcher. But even the SIGs are just too overwhelming! Furthermore, my interest is community colleges and I’m not sure AERA even takes them seriously . And the cost to attend — forget it. I have a full time job and go to school part-time and I still can’t afford it. And it’s difficult to prioritize taking valuable paid vacation time to go to AERA over some place warm and relaxing. But an underconference — I’m intrigued…

  2. June 2, 2010 1:40 am

    I have been to AERA (but was hoping to write an abstract for 2011) however I know from experience that the physical education and sport pedagogy group hold an ‘invisible college’ the day before the BERA conference. This is free to attend and many come for the college and not the conference proper. We have a scholarly lecture, some round tables and plenty of chance for networking which includes a social event in the evening. This is great way to meet people from your sig and gets you together with like-minded people who you then meet around the conference. The sig hold two other free one day conferences for it’s members during the year. This might not be the underconference that you are talking about but it makes the main conference start with a bang and helps new and like-minded colleagues to get together. Just an idea that might work here.

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