News and Events
PhD students Chelsea Andrews and Yara Shaban
reflect on AERA 2016
The 2016 annual meeting of the American Educational Research
Association (AERA) was recently held in Washington, D.C. In
celebration of AERA's centennial year, the theme of the meeting was
"Public Scholarship to Educate Diverse Democracies" and the meeting
featured interesting retrospective work as scholars reflected on how
far the field has come in the last 100 years.
The Tufts Education department was well represented at the meeting;
many current and former faculty members and graduate students
presented their work. Below, Tufts STEM Education PhD students
Chelsea Andrews and Yara Shaban, who each presented posters, reflect
on their experiences at the conference.
One of the main benefits of attending a broad conference like AERA
is the opportunity to meet and learn from scholars outside of your
immediate research area. The most moving session I attended was
entitled, "Teaching for Change: Teacher Education in the Age of the
Black Lives Matter Movement." It was an invited speaker session
featuring Duchess Harris, an African American academic, author, and
legal scholar who recently wrote a book intended for grades 8-12
called "Black Lives Matter." She discussed how race relations are
rarely mentioned in high school and how much of the population is
historically illiterate in terms of race relations, which will
continue to be a problem until more recent racial history is taught
in schools. Dr. Harris's new book came from a recognition that
teachers feel ill-equipped to address this history and context and
lack age-appropriate resources. Dr. Harris argued that students see
racially-based protests, police brutality, and public trials on the
news and social media, and when they come to school they need a safe
place to process what they are seeing and hearing. Following Dr.
Harris's presentation was a whole group discussion centered around
the question of how to teach as if black lives matter, with a focus
on pre-service teacher education. One theme of this discussion that
stuck with me was a recommendation—particularly relevant if
pre-service teachers are resistant to teaching black history or race
relations because they are not planning on teaching black
students—to frame it as American history, an essential part of what
makes America what it is, and thus essential for all students to
This was my first time attending AERA and what an experience it was!
As a phd student, you get to meet your intellectual heroes whose
work you follow, get inspired by, and inform your own research with.
However, within the intense academic conversations that take place,
you are also reminded of the personal stories and struggles
educators face. One particular story that touched me was Michelene
Chi's account of her personal journey that she recounted during her
award acceptance speech. Professor Chi was one of the recipients of
AERA 2016 award for excellence in education research. Her work was
acknowledged for its outstanding effect and success in the field.
Professor Chi's work impacted the way we think about students'
knowledge and motivated further research into questions of
conceptual change. Her journey, as she narrated, started on a boat
many years ago when her mother decided with great courage that the
United States of America is the best place to secure a good
education for her kids. The family traveled for many dangerous hours
till they reached land, and little Michelene got the education her
mother wished for her. Professor Chi thanked her mother for that
decision and her perseverance to make it happen. As an international
student at Tufts, I am aware of how lucky I am to be able to be part
of a bigger community of passionate researchers in education.
Professor's Chi's story is a reminder of what our work is supposed
to be all about; it's about giving opportunities to students to
engage in learning. The kind of learning that appeals to students'
curiosities and leaves them feeling accomplished.