Recently members of our team and our fellow colleagues attended the American Educational Research Association (AERA) 2023 conference in Chicago, Illinois April 13-15. The Learning Partnership participated in a total of six presentations throughout the conference. Our presenters wrote diary entries describing their experiences and reflecting on their favorite papers.
As our team aims to design effective GIS learning experiences for students in the Chicago Public Schools, one paper I found especially informative was “Toward a Middle School Debugging Pedagogy with Physical Computing Systems” presented by Jessie Nixon and colleagues. This research is part of the SchoolWide Labs Program in Colorado, from teams at Utah State University, Drexel University, San Jose State University, and University of Colorado-Boulder. The paper examined teachers’ approaches to guiding students through moments of debugging code. The team developed continuums to describe teacher-student conversations about debugging. The continuums described whether the conversations focused more on teacher understanding or student understanding, as well as whether the conversations focused on supporting the process of coding or achieving the desired product of coding. The team noted that there is value in teachers acknowledging that they don’t know how to address every coding issue, instead working together with students to discover solutions and solve problems. In our work to bring GIS curriculum into Chicago Public Schools, some teachers have very limited experience with GIS and wonder whether they can adequately support their students as they learn GIS skills and develop projects using GIS. Based on this paper’s findings, I feel we can reassure teachers that they do not have to be GIS experts to help their students learn about GIS—rather, it may be beneficial for teachers to relinquish some control and engage in STEM-related problem-solving processes alongside their students.
My favorite paper at AERA was Complex Cultural Identities and Stereotype Threat: An Integrative Mixed-Methods Study by Dr. Krystal Lira (@lirakrys), San Diego State University. This paper really resonated to me on different aspects. First, the mixed methods approach used to answer the research question was well explained. Second, the theoretical framework used to guide the work provided me new insights into these topics. I really liked the description of the three profiles generated through the quantitative approach and then how the interviews conducted with a sample of 15 black women helped in describing each profile.
Presented: Fore-fronting Relationship: Relationships key to building positive marginalized student’s computer science identities
Pathways, Pipelines, and The Growing Pains of Creating Computer Science Road Maps for a Majority-Minority District
One of the most impressive parts of AERA is the conference’s ability to mix and match different research topics into interesting panels. I found our placement and inclusion in certain round tables and panels compelling and in line with the conference’s overall theme, “Consequential educational research, in pursuit of truth.” Throughout our sessions, we were able to make connections, challenge our thinking, and begin to reflect on how our educational landscape is being shaped by not only a new generation of scholars but radical scholars looking to push the boundaries of what we have traditionally seen as “schooling and learning.” For example, during two of my sessions, I met scholars ranging from people looking to create K-12 college pathways to others creating innovative ways to bring minoritized students and women into the STEM field. Additionally, as a demonstration of the magic of AERA session placement and creation, while presenting in my home division (Division A), I realized Computer Science (CS) for Cailifiona was presenting work on how teachers and practitioners describe equitable computer science pathways. I was presenting on some of my equity research done with DEI offices unrelated to computer science. We were all placed in the same session as a testament to AERA’s interesting session planning and placement. During this session, I met the CS for Cailifiona staff, whose website and resources I have been using for years as an example of what high-quality CS research could be. I also connected with Jean Ryoo (from CSforCA), whom I had never met in person but had corresponded with via email about her research. These types of magical moments at AERA are why I love the conference so much. It is big and covers a lot, but it also provides moments to meet people in the field doing important and inspiring work. I am already looking forward to Philadelphia.
I attended many interesting sessions, but one to highlight was actually the roundtable session where Bo was presenting on Thursday 4/13 at 8:00am. The session was called “Supporting Diverse Learners in Computing and Engineering Education” and, after Bo kicked it off, Santiago Ojeda-Ramírez (@santiagojedar) described his work Investigating Students’ Identity in Their Open-Ended “About Me” Programming Projects, which had some similarities with the goals of Exploring Connections. The paper that followed, presented by Esteban Cantu (@LibrarianCantu) and Sylvia Celedon- Pattichis (@sceledon1), talked about the possibilities of using translanguaging as a pedagogical approach and it illuminated the opportunities that a translanguaging approach can bring to a CS classroom to remove barriers that multilingual learners may experience. Due to their similarities with the work that I do with the Exploring Connections project, I enjoyed this session and the opportunity to learn from and engage in conversation with scholars who work to advance equity in computer science.
One of the most interesting presentations I saw this year at AERA was Meghan Comstock’s (University of Pennsylvania, @meghan_com) paper presentation: “Latent Theory of Action: A Critical Analysis of Equity Conceptions in District Instructional Improvement.” This paper was a qualitative comparative case study of how leaders in nine district-level instructional improvement initiatives across the country define equity and how those conceptions shape the design and implementation of instructional policies. Using the literature on equity and critical sensemaking theory, Comstock identified four leading conceptions of equity among leaders: equity as a) equality/sameness; b) meritocratic; c) compensatory; and, d) anti-oppression. Differences in these conceptions influenced differences in approaches to improving instruction, ranging from “formulaic” approaches to “reflective” (i.e., learning together) approaches.
Just as teachers in Puerto Rico were starting to implement the Data Jam project in their classrooms in fall 2022, Hurricane Fiona struck Puerto Rico and disrupted instruction for several weeks. In some cases, principals did not allow teachers to resume Data Jam as they wanted teachers to get back to the “normal” science curriculum. We are hoping to launch a study of science leadership in Puerto Rico this summer. At AERA, I went to round table on Leading through Crisis to see what others have learned. Much to me surprise there was a paper from the University of Toronto about school responses to hurricanes and other crises in Puerto Rico. Ruben Gaztambide’s (@rubengaztambide) paper “Leading Under Duress: School Leadership Practices in the Context of Systemic Crises” uses complex systems theory to understand how leaders in Puerto Rico adapt to multiple overlapping crises.