Updated: Jun 2, 2019
Our team's experience this year at AERA.
The annual AERA conference took place this year April 5-9th in Toronto, Canada. Three undergraduate students, including the author, had an opportunity to participate in this event. AERA stands for American Educational Research Association. It is one of the largest educational research conferences in the world. Every year, education researchers and scholars from around the world travel to present or listen to a variety of different topics at the conference. Many exciting and inspirational conversations happen during the conference.
This year, the conference had very high attendance. More than 13,000 scholars came to Toronto. Schools of Education at US universities were almost empty during the conference. One of our BC students, Yi Zhao, left on Friday afternoon and reported that almost everyone on her flight to Toronto was going to the AERA conference. The author had a similar experience on the Saturday morning flight. In short: this is a huge event.
Our proposal, Middle School Bilingual Learners’ Self-Expression and Reflective Learning Through Digital Stories was accepted as a round table in the session on Voice Bi/Multilingual Identities. A round table, as the name suggests, is a presentation where each presenter sits around a table. It took place in a big hall with 20+ tables. The listeners would just grab a chair and sit at the table with the presenter they were interested in. The atmosphere is much lighter and more relaxing than the more formal paper sessions. Our table session included a discussion of each paper, then a collective discussion after everyone finishing presenting.
I really had a great experience at the AERA conference. It is mind-opening to see what everyone else in the field is doing, and it's a great opportunity to hear about th latest research. I am interested in educational technologies, so I looked up sessions on that topic using the mobile app, found the time and location and planned my day accordingly. My favorite was a poster session featuring game-based assessment. It is amazing how data mining can facilitate complicated, well-rounded assessment of students of all ages just by examining their behaviors while gaming. Every little move in the designed game was recorded, and researchers analyzed them through complex models to produce the results. I really see a promising future for this field, and this experience strengthened my determination to study game-based learning. Furthermore, we also had a lot of fun during the trip. Many established education schools host receptions during the conference for socializing. It is a great place to meet and talk to scholars and professors from your dream school.
Yi got an Undergraduate Research Fellow Award from AERA this year, and here are her thoughts about the conference:
“I attended the undergraduate research training workshop held by AERA, and I met so many students and senior researchers during these days. It is rewarding to learn how the other students plan their undergraduate years as well as their future plans for graduate school. There were students who were interested in early childhood education, as I am, and also students who are passionate about international education and comparative study. Researchers and faculty from various universities provided their insights into quantitative and qualitative research, education policy, and also graduate school planning. Besides the workshop, I also went to several sessions that I was interested in and I really enjoyed hearing about the latest research in the field. The presentation we gave was a round table discussion. It was fun and engaging as we displayed videos and voiceover to the audience.”
Here are Yinru’s takeaways:
“This year in Toronto, it was an amazing experience to be able to actually present at this huge AERA conference. Last year I was able to join the conference as an undergraduate workshop attendee, and it was a fascinating experience to learn from so many awesome scholars in the field, to hear about their experiences and get their suggestions for future scholars. This year I planned out the sessions that I wanted to go to before the conference, in order to learn about a range of scholarly work. Since I have always been interested in prevention science, I went to some sessions about after-school programs and really came out of my comfort zone to talk to the presenters and asked for their contact information. It was awesome to be able to talk to those internationally known scholars who have done important work in the field of education. The whole experience was so inspiring that it has further strengthened my determination to enter academia. Later in our round table presentation, everyone at the table was an excellent scholar in the field, and it was a huge honor to be able to present in front of them. I am so humble and grateful for the opportunity to go to this conference.”