By Andrew Myers
As the American Educational Research Association (AERA) gears up for its high-profile annual meeting, April 21-26, 2022, in San Diego, Calif., a key contingent of Johns Hopkins School of Education doctoral students figures prominently among the conference’s anticipated speakers and presenters.
The meeting is the largest gathering of education researchers in the world—and a hotbed of new studies running the gamut of key and timely topics in education. This year’s theme is “Cultivating Equitable Education Systems for the 21st Century.”
Among the expected doctoral student presenters from Johns Hopkins is Mary Pei, who is a panelist in roundtable looking at the latest research on creativity, talent development, and giftedness. She will be discussing her latest study, “Gifted Education on Reddit: A Social Media Sentiment Analysis.” In an age of social media ubiquity, Reddit has become a social behemoth with over 430 million unique visitors every month. Pei’s latest research explores how she uses text mining and sentiment analysis to explore how gifted education is discussed on the popular channel. In the context of this year’s conference theme, Pei and co-authors, found that sentiment on the idea of giftedness is neutral, suggesting that, at least on Reddit, users may have some concerns about equity in gifted programs.
On a different tangent, Nan Mu will appear at a poster session promoting her study “Does Speaking Two Languages Facilitate Perspective-Taking?” Mu’s research builds on the established notion that perspective-taking is tied to executive function. That is, in order to empathize with another, people must suppress their own egos, a skill that bilinguals employ when activating certain language centers and inhibiting others. Mu asks, do bilinguals then have an advantage in perspective-taking? In fact, Mu’s research finds little evidence for any such advantage. The panel will explore possible explanations for this intriguing result, the opportunities it presents for future studies, and its implications for shaping more equitable classrooms, where encouraging perspective-taking will be critical.
In a paper session on “Perceptions of Victimization: Implications for Diverse Populations,” Jodi Miller will discuss her paper “Peer Victimization and Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors: Buffering Effects of Adult and Peer Support.” She says that, from 2016 to 2019, hospital visits by teens with suicidal thoughts or self-harm behaviors rose dramatically—by 44 percent. The spotlight of blame has come to rest on peer victimization—bullying—as the cause. In her research, Miller shows both that students experiencing bullying are prone to these behaviors and that, encouragingly, intervention by other peers or adults can lessen the connection between self-harm and victimization. The work has implications for educators looking for a ray of hope in the fight against bullying as well as efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in schools.
In light of lingering pandemic concerns, this year the AERA conference will be run in hybrid fashion. Those who wish to attend in person will travel to San Diego for the six-day event. Those who cannot travel, or who prefer to attend virtually for health or other reasons, can tune in via a digital livestream to the conference’s full slate of events, from plenaries to panel discussions. Regardless of how one attends, the AERA organizers promise “six rewarding days of ideas, engagement, networking, and professional advancement.”