Toronto is playing host to the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting, the largest gathering of scholars in the field of education research.
The five-day conference, which begins Friday, showcases groundbreaking education research and innovative studies in a variety of areas, from elementary through to post-secondary education.
More than 14,000 participants are expected to be in attendance, including researchers, policy-makers, practitioners and students. More than 200 scholars from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) will be among them, exploring ideas that will shape tomorrow’s education practices and policies. This will be the largest contingent that OISE has ever brought to the conference.
That it will be held in Toronto makes this year’s event especially meaningful for OISE.
“Having AERA here in Toronto is a wonderful opportunity for scholars around the world to visit our city and learn something about our unique community,” says OISE Dean Glen Jones. “I’m looking forward to seeing our extraordinary faculty and students share their research and represent OISE as the top education institute in Canada.”
The conference provides an important opportunity for scholars to showcase their work and network with colleagues in their field. For many OISE faculty, AERA also offers an unparalleled professional development opportunity for their students. The fact that it is in Toronto this year means that many OISE students will be able to attend.
Since finding out nearly two years ago that the 2019 conference would be held in Toronto, Associate Professor Ann Lopez has been working with her student Desiree Sylvestre to prepare.
“AERA is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn from and engage with world-renowned researchers in a professional capacity that they do not normally get to experience in the classroom,” says Lopez. “Presenting research, attending presentations, and meeting with other scholars allows them to build skills that are crucial to their development as doctoral students.”
Sylvestre, a PhD student in OISE’s department of leadership, higher and adult education, will be presenting her paper on Black parental involvement in Toronto’s urban schools. She’ll also be participating in a panel on anti-oppressive education in Canada as the only student among a group of professors.
“Dr. Lopez has been tremendous in supporting and preparing me for this conference,” Sylvestre says. “It’s a very privileged position to be on a panel with experts in this field and to feel that I am ready enough to take up that space and represent OISE doctoral students at the AERA."
Over the week, OISE is expected to become a hub for international visitors. When they’re not attending AERA sessions, many faculty members will be hosting special meetings, receptions and events in and around OISE.
“This is an opportunity for us to showcase the institute and the world-class research happening within OISE every day,” says Jones.
Associate Professor Carol Campbell will be hosting a meeting for board members of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI), an organization that brings together researchers, policy-makers and practitioners to share new knowledge and best practices for improving schools and education systems.
“On our board, we have international leaders in educational research, policy and practice – many of whom have connections to OISE,” she says. “Quite a few of our members will be attending AERA, so this is a great opportunity to bring together those who are familiar with OISE, as well as those who have not had a chance to visit our world-renowned institution.”
On the first day of the conference, attendees will have the opportunity to tour the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute for Child Study (EJICS) housed at OISE. Visitors will learn about the missions and activities of the Institute and its unique laboratory school that functions as both an elementary school and teacher education and research centre.
“We want to share the possibilities of combining a teacher education program with a laboratory school and a research centre,” says EJICS Director Rhonda Martinussen. “We hope guests will learn about our history, our approach to education that places the child at the centre, and how research enhances and informs the components of the institute.”
The theme for this year’s conference, “Leveraging Education Research in a ‘Post-Truth’ Era: Multimodal Narratives to Democratize Evidence,” highlights the importance of evidence-based policy-making and practice in education.
In an era where many policy decisions are being driven by personal beliefs and preference, it is essential to continue placing research at the forefront of education decision making, says Jones.
“I think reinforcing the importance of evidence and good scholarship and how they can actually contribute to public policy to better educational practices is a really important conversation to have,” he says. “It’s vital to reiterate that using research and evidence is the best way to inform policy conversations about education reform and change.”