As originally conceived, Crossroads is a venue for intense educational conversations. Such discussions can occur in larger research conferences although it is impossible to predict when and where those will arise. Rather than leave such interactions to chance, we decided to strip away the unnecessary aspects of big conferences. By rejecting pretense and posturing, discarding the presentations and slideshows, and emphasizing new actions over old results, what remained became Crossroads. Once the vision became clear and we began to grasp the possibilities, it just became a matter of letting others know what we were up to. If there was any genius to all of this it was simply in recognizing what was possible and deciding that somebody ought to do it – and so we did.
Every attendee must be a full participant. Those who wish to attend must prepare a document describing a challenge that you are facing along with strategies you might use to address the issue. This proposal undergoes extensive review and feedback is provided to the author. Revisions are resubmitted and printed within the conference proceedings. At your appointed time during the conference, the session is structured such that you spend more time listening than you do speaking.
For a variety of reasons, Crossroads attracts as many valued participants as we actively invite. Every dollar we collect is used for that year’s Crossroads. We do all we can to make the event affordable and worthwhile. There is no banquet and we do not issue awards. Instead, you will have a chance to hear about a dozen new projects that are just underway. In addition, you will expand your network of dedicated and inspiring professionals.
To better understand Crossroads and its format, take a look at a call for papers, a typical program, and any of the meeting’s proceedings. Our library has additional references and some of our own ventures to describe this format in other venues.
Your initial reaction to Crossroads is probably the single best measure of its potential value. Those puzzled by our endeavor and its purpose would not enjoy it. We have found that those who gain the most from Crossroads are those who find value in large conferences but also sense the need for an alternative. Crossroads is a place to begin and take responsibility for new pursuits, rather than find closure and completion to old ones. Most folks may not have previously sensed an alternate possibility. But upon learning of the purpose of Crossroads, they are certain it is right for them. What some find so special about Crossroads others will feel is too quirky and amorphous. In short, if you are uncertain about Crossroads, then that is a good indication it might not be what you’re looking for.
The history of Crossroads is brief but rich, and has helped us to develop and revise the conference philosophy. The conference received support from the National Science Foundation from 2007 – 2009, in addition to support from the University of Connecticut, Weber State University, and conference attendees.
A crossroads is the place where those on different paths can meet, not only accommodating travelers from many origins, but then redirecting them toward appropriate destinations. In terms of science education, the crossroads signifies the convergence of people moving along varied tracks: educational research, curriculum design, policymaking, classroom practices, teacher development, and so on. We believe it is unfortunate that dialogue among individuals is an incidental by-product of most professional conferences. The standard presentation format does little to encourage authentic and meaningful conversations. Rather than a crossroads where individuals gather and then move forward, the typical professional meeting is more of a parking lot. The irony of the term “conference” is not lost on us; the root “confer” is a verb defined as: to collect, compare, connect, consult, contribute, gather, or join together. Our ambition is to do nothing less than put the “confer” back into “conference” for those who might benefit from such an assembly.
The spirit of conferring necessitates that we build and maintain a community of participants who are both willing to engage in our experimental format and set aside egos in favor of supporting others. As a consequence, we only accept proposals from individuals formally invited by former Crossroads conferenciers. We deliberately target individuals representing a range of constituencies and backgrounds because that is in the best interest of creating an interactive crossroads.
John Settlage and Adam Johnston coordinate Crossroads. The two of us have long discussed our desire to attend an event where genuine and sustained exchanges of ideas could occur. However, over the years of not feeling this need being met, we came to realize we couldn’t expect others to create something to serve our selfish purposes. That has led us to the Crossroads Conference.
As the coordinators, our ambition has been to create an environment for generating the discussions we are longing for. Not only does this require bringing together individuals from a range of backgrounds and expertise, but it also necessitates establishing a climate that honors differing perspectives. The coordinators can establish the time and space for all of this to happen, but the two of us can only accomplish so much. We are dependent upon and grateful for your participation and patronage. Your aspirations, insights, creativity, and charity are essential. We welcome your involvement and invite you to help us give shape to this effort.
co-or-di-nate v. — to situate objects or events relative to each other and to the larger system of which they become essential components.