Published In

Educational Researcher

Document Type


Publication Date



Middle school teaching -- United States, Middle school teachers, Educational research, Educational sociology -- United States


A recent moratorium has temporarily halted the creation of new Special Interest Groups (SIGs) in the American Educational Research Association (AERA). The AERA SIG Executive Committee, the official governance body that oversees approximately 160 SIGs, requested this moratorium, which was subsequently approved by AERA Council. The purpose of the moratorium is to allow the SIG Executive Committee to gather data to facilitate a more critical examination of issues related to SIGs, including low membership numbers, leadership challenges, and specific membership needs addressed by SIGs. This article offers the Middle Level Education Research (MLER) SIG as an example of a SIG that grappled with low membership from the mid-1990s to early 2000; suffered from a lack of leaders willing to invest the time and energy to revitalize, sustain, and expand the organization; and included members who were facing important issues related to the nature and scope of research in their field (e.g., the lack of a national database and the need for large-scale studies to potentially influence policy and practice). In 2003, the officers of the MLER surveyed its membership to ascertain research interests, potential activities, and future directions. Based on the results of that survey, the SIG's officers and council members developed and implemented a five-year strategic plan. The five components of the strategic plan were to (1) Become more active in advocacy work at local, state, and national levels; (2) Disseminate information on middle grades education to policy makers and others; (3) Gather information from SIG members about their expectations and participation in the SIG; (4) Sponsor a symposium or summit to address a current and/or critical issue of middle grades education research; and (5) Sponsor and develop a "national" research project designed and implemented by the SIG membership. This article briefly describes and discusses the fifth component of the MLER strategic plan, the SIG's National Research Project on Common Planning Time. With this initiative the MLER offered its members an opportunity to participate in a national research project, combined with opportunities to present their research findings at national conferences and publish their results in a book series. Other AERA SIGs and divisions may benefit from the lessons learned as the MLER effectively revitalized its membership and leadership and contributed significantly to the quality of research in middle grades education.


This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed article that has been accepted for publication in Educational Researcher but has not been copy-edited. The publisher-authenticated version is available at

Persistent Identifier