AERA Brings Scholars and Thought Leaders to February Knowledge Forum

February 2016

AERA town hall panelistsThirty-one accomplished scholars and a complementary group of national thought and policy leaders met at the AERA Knowledge Forum, February 18-19, in Washington, D.C. A first-of-its kind event in education research, the Forum aimed to connect the science and scholarship of education research to policy and practice emphasizing the value of diverse expertise.
The February 18 event was a “retreat-type” opportunity to examine the knowledge base and potential modes of knowledge utilization. The February 19 event enlarged the conversation to include education policy leaders from the executive branch of government in a roundtable hosted by the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC).

The convening on February 18 featured 13 rapid-fire TED-like talks (“Ed Talks”) on significant research clustered around three themes—how people learn, how we can optimize learning, and how we can foster equitable outcomes. Each cluster was followed by in-depth small group discussions, led by 6 other scholars, partnered with thought leaders, to consider the position and potential of research from the vantage of thought leaders’ roles and need. The Ed Talks served to catalyze these compelling conversations.

The Ed Talk topics and presenters included:
Cluster 1: How do people learn in today’s information and technology-rich world?

  • Learning with an Emotional Brain — Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, University of Southern California
  • Re-Educating the Mind — Patricia Alexander, University of Maryland, College Park
  • Games, Learners, and Innovation — Sasha Barab, Arizona State University
  • Designing Learning for Equity — Na’ilah Suad Nasir, University of California, Berkeley

Cluster 2: How can increasingly diverse schools and classrooms optimize the learning needed to navigate the world?

  • Supporting the Development of Children’s Mathematics — Megan Franke, University of California, Los Angeles
  • The Promise of Advanced High School Mathematics Coursework — Chandra Muller, University of Texas, Austin
  • Identifying and Reducing Racial Threat in Face-to-Face Encounters — Howard Stevenson, University of Pennsylvania
  • Social-Emotional Learning Approaches: Prevent Bullying and Promote Positive School Climate — Dorothy Espelage, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Cluster 3: How can policy and practice foster equitable outcomes for all students?

  • Inequality and Academic Achievement — Sean Reardon, Stanford University
  • High Quality Pre-K: Taking the Road Less Traveled — Steven Barnett, Rutgers University
  • Achieving True Integration in Education — Prudence Carter, Stanford University
  • Understanding the Racial College Completion Gap: Demography, Data, and Stakeholders— Stella Flores, New York University
  • School Accountability: Time for a New Approach — Helen (Sunny) Ladd, Duke University

Building on the talks and breakout groups, a town hall meeting co-facilitated by thought leaders and scholars called on participants to consider new models and institutional strategies to make research more useful and accessible and the strengthen the connection between high-quality research and policy. The town hall discussion, moderated by Jeffrey Henig (Teachers College, Columbia University), included panelists Shirley Malcom (American Association for the Advancement of Science), Laura Perna (University of Pennsylvania), Russell Rumberger (University of California, Santa Barbara), and Thomas Saenz (MALDEF).

The February 19 event featured education research scholars and high-ranking Obama administration officials meeting to engage together in “Bridging Education Policy and Research.” The DPC roundtable, held in the Old Executive Office Building, was hosted by Roberto Rodríguez, deputy assistant to the president for education. Building on the insights and conclusions from the first day of the Forum the roundtable featured scholar presentations and moderated discussions around three topics—New Designs for Learning and Innovation, Promoting Diversity and Conditions for Inclusive Learning, and Addressing Gaps in College Access and Success.

“Spark presentations” were given in each of the topic areas, respectively, by Sasha Baraba (Arizona State University), Prudence Carter (Stanford University), and Stella Flores (New York University). Moderators included Linda Darling-Hammond (Stanford University), AERA President Jeannie Oakes (UCLA), and Laura Perna (University of Pennsylvania).

Roundtable participants from the Obama administration included Ted Mitchell, under secretary of the Department of Education; James Kvaal, deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council; Tom Kalil, deputy, director for technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and several other officials representing the civil rights, P-12, and higher education areas of the Education Department and Domestic Policy Council.

Read full article here.

School for the Future of Innovation in Society

What does the future hold? David Guston, Founding Director of SFIS, encourages scientists and citizens alike to shape a desirable tomorrow. How? Through the development of innovative ideas that address both existing and foreseeable real-world problems.

Featured_Image_SFIS

As Founding Director, what motivated you to establish the School for the Future of Innovation in Society (SFIS) at Arizona State University (ASU), USA?

My ASU colleagues and I have been working on the societal aspects of science, technology and innovation since the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO) moved here in 2004. CSPO was initially created by Michael Crow, when he was Executive Vice Provost for Research at Columbia University, to be Columbia’s science policy think tank in Washington, DC. After Michael became President of ASU in 2002, he made CSPO Director Dan Sarewitz an offer he couldn’t refuse to recreate the centre at ASU – and then Dan made me an offer I couldn’t refuse to join him.

So, in one sense, the founding of SFIS is the culmination of activities that we’ve been engaged in for more than a decade at ASU – just formalised in an organisation that is more recognisable as an academic unit than CSPO was. Over the years, we’ve hired new faculty, instigated the creation of new graduate programmes – namely, a doctoral programme in Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology and the Master of Science and Technology Policy – and generated a lot of new research, especially in the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU, which the US National Science Foundation funded with an initial $6.2 million, five-year award in 2005 and renewed for $6.7 million in 2010.

But in another sense, SFIS is a brand new beginning because, first, as an academic unit reporting to the Provost, we are in greater control of our own destiny and, second, as a school embracing ASU’s particular mission of access, excellence and impact, we are taking on new challenges like creating an undergraduate major and minor. Like ASU’s School of Sustainability, SFIS is a school created from a problem in the world, rather than from a centuries-old tradition of scholarship or the coalescing of a professional community. For us, that problem is the complex and sometimes ambiguous role of innovation in society, and the role that we all have in making our own futures.

How is SFIS preparing students to build upon the incredible accomplishments of science and technology in years to come?Incidental_SFIS2

Our students pay a lot of attention to the so-called emerging technologies – like nanotechnology, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence and so forth – that are characterised by high stakes, high uncertainty and what I like to call a ‘politics of novelty’, in which it is essentially impossible to say whether synthetic biology, for example, is not novel because it merely extends a millennia-old practice of husbandry and agriculture, or that it is novel because it introduces species that not only have not been, but could not have been, crafted by evolution.

With emerging technologies, we’re operating without much data and with multiple kinds of uncertainty, so the risk paradigm really falls apart. We’re teaching our students to pursue a vision of what we call ‘anticipatory governance’, in which they work toward three capacities. The first is understanding or generating anticipatory knowledge of plausible futures with an eye toward what can be done today to help better establish the path toward more desirable futures. We’re teaching them about upstream public engagement, in which substantive, two-way dialogues can be created between lay and expert communities at a point in time at which the differences between the two are minimised due to those great uncertainties. And we’re teaching them how to integrate knowledge across the traditional two-cultures divide, and not just work in, but lead, cross-disciplinary teams aimed at real-world problem solving.

But our students are also interested in legacy technologies – think in particular about large-scale systems like energy, water and food – in which contemporary innovation certainly plays a role, but the key factor is the interaction of numerous social and technical subsystems that have evolved over decades in complex ways. At SFIS, we challenge our students to think about how social change (like behaviour with respect to energy use) and technological change (such as smart metering of affordable roof-top solar panels) interact such that it makes little sense to speak of one without the other. In other words, we teach them to analyse socio-technical systems. We also focus on knowledge systems; that is, the connections among the various ways in which knowledge is produced, validated, disseminated and consumed across society. And we teach them in both national and international contexts, such as through our Master of Science in Global Technology and Development.

Read full interview here.

CGI awarded ETS grant for game-based assessment project

Transformational Play

Games can be designed to enable players to step into different roles, confront a problem, fail safely, make meaningful choices, and explore the consequences.

The Arizona State University (ASU) Center for Games & Impact (CGI) has been awarded a grant with Educational Testing Service (ETS) to explore the affordances of game-based assessments, with a focus on informing future design and development of interactive computer tasks for National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments.

“In our project, we will build a new game-based assessment item using Unity3D technology to engage learners within in a 3D role-playing game scenario that they are invested. Here, they will be demonstrating what they are able to do by working through a game scenario in which they are making decisions, receiving scenario-based feedback, and having opportunity to optimize their decision.” said Sasha Barab, Professor and Pinnacle West Presidential Chair in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, and Director of the ASU Center for Games & Impact.

3D World Image for ETS Blurb

Student learner navigating 3D environment.

The game-based assessment system proposed would reveal more than an individual’s ability to identify a right answer; instead, it would provide data on the individual’s ability to use what they know to solve a problem in which they are invested, as well as their ability to leverage and optimize their performance using consequential feedback from the scenario. This will allow learners to reveal a greater range of ability, at the same time making the test-tasking situation a positive experience for all.

“The Center’s hope is that this is the first stage of an initial set of game-based strategies focused on enhancing the quality, meaning, and enjoyment of large-scale assessments,” added Barab.

Project development will begin in late spring and will continue through 2015.


The Center for Games & Impact (CGI) mission is to investigate, innovate, and cultivate game-infused solutions to society’s biggest challenges with the goal of unleashing the unique power of videogames to create sustainable solutions for society’s biggest social, cultural, scientific, economic and educational challenges.

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