Because we don’t. And by we I mean teachers.

As a former college professor who has attended meetings of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), I know what magic stands behind that curtain.

The vast, vast majority of teachers have no idea about AERA or, if they do, don’t care about it. The goal of AERA and anyone who graces the countless panel discussions and sessions should be to make teachers care.

First and foremost is access. Teachers as subjects and consumers of education research don’t have subscriptions to the large databases. Most faculty members won’t publish their work as open access because they’re still caught in a vice by the major journal publishers. Titles in major journals is still currency that earns most faculty tenure.

Second we have time. Medical research has done a decent job in recent years to acknowledge that its practitioners don’t have the time or energy to read articles that are dozens of pages long. A lot of articles in medicine are written in digest form that summarize key findings. Education research, on the other hand, is for the most part poorly written, redundant, and excessively wordy.

And third, we have the countless think tanks and policy centers whose white papers and briefs force better access. Their reports have quicker turnaround and get media coverage. They are written in a more accessible style and are often directly cited by District leadership and administration. The biggest thing is they’re in PDF format and can be shared on social media or emailed to anyone directly.

If I had a nickel for every article that was sent to me as a link, and that I actually had access to read, I’d be broke.

I realize that the problem is very big; that is, we’d have to reform the entire tenure and promotion process in higher education to validate less traditional forms of scholarship. This would minimize the stranglehold that big publishers have on faculty members. Given the prominence of blogs and open access opportunities, perhaps this is only a matter of time.

Yet, could we not call on some of the big names in education research, the Ladson-Billings and Darling-Hammonds of the world, to forego accolades and make some of their scholarship available for free online? They certainly don’t need to build their portfolios or pad their resumes at this point, not like junior scholars who need to scrape for every citation they can get.

As a classroom teacher, I’d be able to send my colleagues real alternatives to the latest NCTQ or Gates-funded report.

 

This is mainly to my academic friends out there.

Around this time, faculty and graduate students are notified as to whether or not their super-awesome proposals to the American Educational Research Association (AERA) have been accepted. Posts to social media regarding the status of these proposals come in three distinct varieties:

  1. “Aw shucks, only four of my five proposals were accepted!?!” (why should a person get so many slots anyway? There should be a rule against that).
  2. “My proposal(s) was/were not accepted. Oh well, it’s too expensive anyway.” (It is).
  3. “I was neither accepted nor rejected because I didn’t even apply. Suckers!”

I’ve “presented” at AERA before. As an academic, it was important to go. It looked good on a CV, and maybe you got to reconnect with people you don’t see very often. I’m also told that the conference sex is amazing (gross).

AERA never really did anything for me. As a teacher now, it does even less.

Here’s the thing humblebraggers: no one really cares outside your bubble. As long as this “research” is hidden behind expensive paywalls, it will do little to nothing to actually impact the real work of educators.

Enjoy your moment. And for many research proposals presented at AERA, this may be the only time your ideas will see the light of day, especially if you publish it in a mainstream journal.

Seriously, open source it people if you want to do some good.