AERA 11 Recap: Is Your Educational Organization Agile?

Two weeks ago, I participated in a panel at the 2011 American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in New Orleans. This was my fourth AERA event and my first as a panelist. AERA is generally a conference I’ve attended because I’ve *had to* go as a doctoral student at New York University. I enjoyed it more this year than I have in the past, but AERA is still not where my personal and professional tribes hang out. I’m okay with that understanding, but it’s still good to step outside your comfort zone to expand your learning opportunities when possible.

My panel discussed research on the direction of teacher preparation. As a panelist, I discussed my role as a gatekeeper and a consumer of teacher applicants based on my work as the Director of Teacher Recruitment at the New York City Department of Education. Basically, my perspective is that different types of certification programs can fight among themselves over theories on how to prepare teachers. All that matters is that new teachers can demonstrate they are ready for the classroom when they meet a recruiter or principal and then deliver on that promise. With a decreasing need for teachers right now, it’s important that colleges don’t lose sight of this.

Here is information on my fellow panelists’ work and my presentation on SlideShare.

Pathways Toward the Future: The Promise of Innovative Teacher Education and Preservice Preparation Programs.

Division K – Teaching and Teacher Education

Chair: Angus Shiva Mungal, New York University – Steinhardt

Presentations

-“Pathways Toward the Future: The Promise of Innovative Teacher Education and Preservice Preparation Programs.” Angus Shiva Mungal, New York University – Steinhardt

-“Reimagining Teacher Preparation: Apprenticing Effective Math and Science Teachers in an Urban Teacher Residency”-  Emily J. Klein, Montclair State University; Monica Taylor, Montclair State University; Cynthia S. Onore, Montclair State University

-“School Districts and Empirical Evidence: The Reflection on and Improvement of Teacher Recruitment, Selection, and Hiring Practices.” Tracy L. Brisson, New York University

-“Establishing a Unique University and School Support Organization Collaborative Urban Teacher Residency Program.” Ron Woo, Hunter College- CUNY

Discussants: James W. Fraser, New York University

While my colleagues were presenting, I took some notes on themes that I found interesting.

– In creating and implementing their teacher residency programs, Ron and Emily have been able to accomplish a tremendous amount through collaboration, but recruitment is still a problem. This interests me as a recruitment professional. Is there something special that must be sold about the benefits of residency programs compared to traditional and alternative certification tracks?

– As part of his dissertation, Angus is interviewing faculty at traditional education schools about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with alternative certification programs. He is finding some seriously good stuff (didn’t you know that seriously good stuff is an official academic term?). One thing that surprised me is the level of unresolved conflict that these professors feel. They generally think that alternative certification programs have great qualities… and they think alternative certification candidates make great teachers… but they still don’t want these programs around. It makes sense on some levels.

– As the discussant, Dr. Fraser asked me for my thoughts on how we could work better together- employers and preparers. My answer was that it’s about agility. The world is rapidly changing everywhere and schools are no exception. As public schools’ needs change quickly, we need institutions to change just as fast and give us the high quality teachers we need. If the largest percentage of students your college accepted after 2009 are studying to be certified as elementary teachers, you have a problem with your business model. In fact, your programs may be the first casualties once the higher education bubble bursts.

Outside of education implications, there are some career lessons from AERA, too. One, I learned that the panel was conceived when Angus and Emily randomly sat next to each other on a plane in 2010 and discussed how they were both doing research on teacher education. When was the last time you networked with someone when you were traveling, standing in line or something else mundane? Do it next time because things happen!

TweetupSecond, because I knew that I would have trouble meeting people at a large event where I felt like a fish out of water, I engaged on Twitter for the two weeks leading up the conference using the official hashtag #AERA2011. About three of us organized a Tweetup of about ten people at the Sheraton (see pic). On one side, it’s a little bothersome that less than 1% of the conference would be using Twitter. However, it made it intimate and we had real discussions. But here is the real kicker. I have stalked a certain professor at AERA for four years. He wrote a paper that I have marked up, highlighted, and annotated to death because I think it is genius. I’ve never been able to get close enough to talk to him because he’s always surrounded by people. Wouldn’t you know that he was one of the ten people who came to the Tweetup?!? I was able to speak to him for 20 interrupted minutes about my new dissertation concept and get amazing feedback! You’ve heard it from me before and you’ll hear it again. Never. Underestimate. The. Power. Of. Social. Media.

 

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