Last week I had the honor of attending the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA)’s David L. Clark Seminar. I was nominated by my professor to represent San Diego State University, and I was one of 42 participants selected from across the country. The Clark Seminar was a two-day long event in which graduate students were able to work in small groups with professors, sharing our research and receiving feedback. It was fascinating to hear about the research being proposed and conducted by other doctoral candidates around the country. We also had the opportunity to listen to panel discussions on topics such as publishing our research and working towards the tenure track as an academic (university faculty).
One element of the seminar that I was surprised by was the fact that about 95% of the participants were full-time graduate students who had little to no experience in schools (as teachers and/or leaders). I was one of the few practitioners, connecting my research interests directly to the work I do in the field. Most of my fellow seminar participants have goals to become full-time university faculty and/or researchers in policy departments. While I admire their ambitions, which are not the same as mine, I was a little dismayed. Future policies that may come out of the work of these researchers could directly impact the work I do in schools and districts. However, that research may be conducted by people far removed from the day-to-day work of schools and leaders. This makes me wonder how we close this gap to better serve both research and practitioner interests.
After my seminar, I was able to attend sessions at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). It was incredible to meet some famous educational researchers, such as Andy Hargreaves, face-to-face, and to hear about his recent book, Uplifting Leadership, which I am anxiously awaiting in the mail! I was also able to meet a few scholars I cited in my dissertation, which is the geeky version of meeting a celebrity in person! A side note about the AERA conference: I was pleased to see Twitter heavily promoted, with the use of #AERA15 as the conference hashtag.
Another surprising element of this part of my experience was how different a research conference is compared to the typical educational conferences I have been attending for the last 20 years. I attended poster sessions, roundtable discussions, paper sessions, and symposium. In each of these sessions, researchers had 10-15 minutes to share their recent research with the crowd. While I heard some interesting things (especially about Dual Language Immersion and Social Justice Leadership), I was disappointed at the amount of people who read directly off of long, wordy PowerPoint slides and who had to be cut off by timekeepers for not finishing in their allotted time. I felt like I attended a wide variety of lectures.
With the advent of Edcamps and flipped professional development, I know that us educator-practitioners are discussing the ways in which we can improve professional learning opportunities for adult learners. I wonder if that discussion has begun amongst university faculty and researchers.
This recent experience has me reflecting on research, professional learning, and education as a Pre K- College experience. I am so grateful for the professors I have worked with who are able to connect theory to practice, and to acknowledge research within the realities of daily school life. I see the value in using research to make informed decisions in schools. I appreciate how complex true research is, and I am glad I had the experience of conducting my own research.