April 4, 2011
At the end of the week I travel to New Orleans for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), a huge gathering (probably 14,000!) of mostly PhDs and graduate students involved in studying teaching and learning. Over five days, there will be many hundreds of presentations and, sadly, only a fraction of them will report on the learning lives of school-aged children outisde of school. This is in spite of the fact that school hours take up only about 25% of kids’ lives. Speaking as a researcher, that’s some oversight! Also, the American obsession with researching schooling (not to mention schooling, period) is, I think, terribly misguided because outside of school learning environments are exactly those that foster the very skills and abilities that educational reformers say are essential for a productive life: creativity, critical thinking, building positive relationships, confidence, risk-taking, etc. There’s plenty of research showing this, but it’s fragmented and marginalized and, consequently, not within the common knowledge base of most scholars and teacher educators.
In New Orleans I’ll be presenting at some of the sessions and attending others that address non-school settings. I hope to learn some things and, more important, find among the thousands attending those who want to be educated and educate their colleagues to look outside of school for some answers to America’s “educational crisis.” Beyond the AERA conference, I have hopes of organizing a much smaller gathering, sometime this year or next, of educational researchers and practitioners to discuss efforts to bring developmental learning to the learning lives of those whom the current schools are failing.