Category Archives: Literacy Ed

C&I graduate student, Kay Rosheim, wins Robert Schreiner Reading Dissertation Fellowship

Kay Rosheim, a Ph.D. candidate in Literacy Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, received the 2016-17 Robert Schreiner Reading Dissertation Fellowship. The $2,500 fellowship is designed to support the candidate’s dissertation research in reading education.   Awardees are selected based of the importance of the research, the clarity with which it is described, the potential the work has for making a significant contribution to the field, and the probability that the research will be completed in a timely manner.

Rosheim is pursuing her Ph.D. while working as a K-6 Literacy Specialist at Forest Hills Elementary in Eden Prairie, uniquely positioning her dissertation research.  Rosheim’s dissertation explores the continuum of quiet in the K-6 classroom, recognizing that the role of silence is a complex process. Through an inquiry of designing and implementing curriculum and pedagogies for an extremely quiet student, Kay aims to acquire new knowledge and practices of instruction that promotes self-efficacy in quiet learners.

Rosheim’s advisor is Associate Professor, Lori Helman.

Learn more about the Ph.D. in Literacy Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Excellence in Student Research: Meet C&I’s Doctoral Dissertation Fellows

The University of Minnesota created the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (DDF) program to allow the “the University’s most accomplished PhD candidates an opportunity to devote full-time effort to an outstanding research project by providing time to finalize and write a dissertation during the fellowship year.”  This academic year, the Department of Curriculum & Instruction was honored to receive the award for four of its outstanding PhD candidates.

What constitutes an outanding research project? We find out more about the four DDF recipients and their dissertation projects, career interests, and how they are planning to create change and promote knowledge for learners of all ages:

Melissa Engman

Revitalizing language, reframing expertise:  An ecological study of language in one teacher-learner’s Ojibwe classroom

Melissa Engman conducts research in an Ojibwe classroom.

When Melissa Engman was a graduate student in applied linguistics, she worked with associate professor Mary Hermes transcribing Ojibwe videos. The work led her to take a class in language revitalization—the process of reviving declining, often indigenous languages—and there she found resonance in the inherent social justice issues that arose with cultures who have seen their native language use dwindle. “I became aware that I’m a white person living here on land that was once Ojibwe and Dakota land. I began to think about assumptions and power that come with speaking a dominant language,” Engman says.

Engman’s work focuses on a classroom in the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in Northwest Wisconsin where Ojibwe language is part of the curriculum. Due to the fact that Ojibwe language instruction materials are very few and many of the teachers have varying experiences with formal language training, Engman is trying to understand how to model the language revitalization program to be effective.

Engman attributes her research success partially to an atmosphere of collaborative support in her with her peers in Second Language Education. “Our cohort has very different research areas, but critical thinking is what unites our work,” Engman says. “We’re not afraid to challenge and push each other. That’s created a real sense of camaraderie and support. The faculty have done a really good job of fostering those relationships.”

Jenna Cushing-Leubner

Recuperating heritage languages, becoming transformative educators: Multilingual teachers and students of color transforming schools

Jenna Cushing-Leubner is developing and implementing a "heritage language" curriculum with the help of participating teachers. (Photo by Erin Hinrichs)
Jenna Cushing-Leubner is developing and implementing a “heritage language” curriculum with the help of participating teachers. (Photo by Erin Hinrichs)

After completing a Fulbright Scholarship teaching German to Turkish students in Austria, Cushing-Leubner realized that the non-native language learners in the schools were being left behind. She found a similar situation for Spanish-speaking students in the United States, which led her to focus her dissertation on developing a “heritage language” curriculum for students who speak Spanish at home. These students can use their home language as a springboard to learning more about their history, heritage and be included more effectively in a classroom setting.

“Multilingual kids are not represented in the current curriculum at all. They don’t see school as a space that’s designed for them,” Cushing-Leubner explains the problem with current foreign language classrooms. “Heritage language classes can reverse the trend of excluding home-language speakers.”

Cushing-Leubner is working with new teachers in high schools and middle schools across the Twin Cities metro.  They have already successfully implemented heritage language classes in Spanish that use Latino-American history as a way for students to practice reading and writing the language they already speak proficiently. For these students, “keeping ties to their heritage languages is a point of strength and hope, and helps create community with one another,” says Cushing-Leubner.

Emily Midkiff

Enabling Space Cadets: Quality Science Fiction for Children under 12 Years Old

Emily Midkiff got sidetracked while working on a class project to analyze a library’s circulation data.  She noticed how little children’s science fiction existed compared to children’s fantasy literature, though the check-out rates were the same. This led Midkiff to create her dissertation to examine science fiction for children under 12, an area that is largely neglected but important to the development of interest in the STEM education fields.

Emily Midkiff is conducting a case study of children's science fiction.
Emily Midkiff is conducting a case study of children’s science fiction.

“There are all these interview on how engineers, scientists and people at NASA read sci-fi when they were little. It shaped how they view science; Not a lot of people make that connection,” Midkiff says. She plans to look for strong girl characters and diverse heroines in children’s science fiction to better understand the lack of women and minorities in the STEM fields as part of her research.

Jenifer Vanek

Migrant Adult Learners and Digital Literacy: Collaborative Study for Sustainable Change

Jen Vanek has been working in the field of adult literacy and second-language learning for 20 years, the last 10 of which she has focused on digital literacy. Her dissertation is aimed at helping adult ESL teachers integrate online learning into teaching. She is working closely with four community-based organizations to to design digital homerooms stocked with learning resources for adult English-language learners to use in their computer learning labs.

Jenifer Vanek is working in the to advance digital literacy for adult second-language learners.
Jenifer Vanek is workingto advance digital literacy for adult second-language learners.

“I hope that what emerges at the end are not only instructional resources that solve local problems, but also observations on how learning happens that can be applied to other learning environments,” says Vanek.

Learn more about the Ph.D. programs in Second Language Education and Literacy or other doctoral programs in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.

Nominations are open for next year’s DDF fellowship.



Lori Helman named Outstanding Teacher Educator in Reading

[left to right]: Diane Barone, Outgoing ILA President Jerry Johns, Distinguished Professor Emeritus and award donor, Lori Helman, William Teale, Incoming ILA President
[left to right]: Diane Barone, Outgoing ILA President; Jerry Johns, Distinguished Professor Emeritus and award donor; Lori Helman; William Teale, Incoming ILA President
Lori Helman, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, was named the Jerry Johns Outstanding Teacher Educator in Reading at the International Literacy Association’s annual conference in July.

The award honors an exceptional college or university professor in the field of reading education and is given annually to a member of ILA who is currently teaching preparation in reading to prospective educators at the undergraduate or graduate level. “An ideal recipient is considered to be a knowledgeable professional, an innovative teacher, a leader in the field of reading, a role model, and a disseminator,” according to the association.

Helman’s work in literacy in reading includes several endeavors. Most recently, she launched PRESS, a website featuring videos and tutorials that supports educators in implementing a framework for schoolwide literacy improvement. Helman also completed a a six-year longitudinal study of immigrant, bilingual students’ language and literacy journeys and co-wrote Inclusive Literacy Teaching on her findings and the implications for education. She is currently working with bilingual and dual immersion schools to implement Spanish word study curriculum and serves as a member of the International Literacy Association’s Standards 2017 Committee revising national standards for reading teachers and literacy professionals.

Helman’s research and teaching at the University centers on topics such as literacy development in the elementary grades, effective instructional practices with multilingual learners, teacher development and leadership, and assessment and instruction to support aspiring readers K-6.

Learn more about the graduate programs and professional development opportunities offered in literacy education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.





Professor Lori Helman Publishes Book on “Inclusive Literacy Teaching”

Lori Helman, associate professor of Literacy Education

Responding to the need to prepare elementary teachers for the increasing linguistic diversity in schools, associate professor in Literacy Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and the director of the Minnesota Center for Reading Research, Lori Helman, co-authored Inclusive Literacy Teaching: Differentiating Approaches in Multilingual Elementary Classrooms, just out from the Teachers College Press. The book presents key foundational principles in language and literacy development for linguistically diverse students, providing access to a broad range of research-based approaches in teacher-friendly language.

Readers see these ideas enacted through the journeys of real students as they progress from 1st through 6th grade. What emerges is both a “big picture” and an “up-close and personal” look at the successes, obstacles, and developmental nuances for students learning to read and write in a new language in inclusive classrooms. Throughout, the authors provide crucial guidance to educators that will support them in taking conscious steps toward creating educational equity for linguistically diverse students.

To read the book visit Find out more about the Department of Curriculum & Instruction’s programs in Literacy Education.

Literacy Ph.D. Student Wins Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Circle award

Anne Crampton, Ph.D. candidate in Curriculum & Instruction wins WPLC award.

Anne Crampton, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Literacy Education received the Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Circle (WPLC) award for graduate students. The award is for women graduate students to recognize their achievements and successes in their field of interest. The criteria for the award includes academic achievements, community involvement, leadership, and passion for the academic and professional career of choice. 

Crampton’s research focus is in secondary critical literacy where she is currently looking at the student experience in both a large, urban high school and a small, urban charter school. “I think it is significant that we have such different experiences in schools, within and certainly across districts. I’m not comparing them, just trying to notice some of the plurality of schooling. Also, there can be negative stereotypes assigned to large, urban schools because people often don’t see the strengths of the students,” Crampton says.

After 15 years as a classroom teacher, Crampton pursued her Ph.D. in Literacy Education to have a better understanding of what shapes the education system and the root of inequity in the classroom. “Certain things kept me awake at night about what I didn’t think was fair or right. I wanted to understand it and be a part of the conversation in order to change it,” she noted.

Crampton’s Ph.D. studies have helped her make more sense of some of the arguments in public education and the urgency around them. She feels there are very positive and effective education techniques that offer the chance for a transformative learning experience. “I’d like other people to know that effective education does happen and it’s possible. People want to hear about successful education techniques in three words, but it’s complicated. Implementing new techniques takes support, an excellent teacher, flexibility, and the support of the school district.“

Crampton is particularly focused on the value of “aesthetic experiences” in the classroom, referring to big projects that students have a creative stake in that allow an aspect of performance, be it a podcast or a play. Citing the need for opportunities to engage emotionally and critically with ideas: “I think you can do all those things in many different disciplines,” Crampton believes these types of experiences in the classroom support the growth of the students as humans and honors their abilities.

Crampton plans to use her award to disseminate ideas and learn from her peers through conference travel and potentially support the purchase of additional Garage Band apps for classrooms in her research.

Lybeck publishes in premiere journal on sociocultural theory

Rick Lybeck, Ph.D. Candidate in the Critical Literacy and English Education strand in Literacy Education, published a major research article in Mind, Culture, and Activity, the premiere international journal on sociocultural theory.  The article is of particular importance for its exploration of white settler ideology in the Midwest.

Educators examine policy to support literacy

Alfred Tatum
Alfred Tatum

Literacy is a powerful “tool of protection,” especially for underprivileged or at-risk students, Chicago educator and researcher Alfred Tatum said at the CEHD Policy Breakfast at the University of Minnesota. More than 100 educators, researchers, and local professionals gathered January 20 to discuss literacy development and educational policy with their metro area colleagues.

Tatum, dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois–Chicago, has spent the last 18 years researching the literacy development of African-American male students in Chicago public schools. In his presentation, he gave moving examples of student responses to rigorous classroom assignments and methods.

Tatum applied his findings to the policy environment and literacy improvement efforts in Minnesota. He quoted the recent State of the State address and, as an example, cited Minneapolis Public Schools’ current goal to increase reading proficiency annually by five percent overall and eight percent for students of color.

Tatum questioned the effectiveness of gradual-growth plans, calling attention to the number of students that a slower rate of improvement leaves behind each year.

“Is it a literacy plan,” he asked, “or a poverty-illiteracy-dropout-unemployment plan?”

He urged educators to take a more dramatic approach to literacy development in their classrooms. He explored why many students hold severed relationships with reading and writing, both academically and creatively. He also spoke about “textual lineages,” illustrated with photos of male writers of Africa descent that he uses in his classrooms, reminding the audience that literacy in Africa dates to ancient times.

Building literacy skills builds long-term confidence and capacity, Tatum explained. “It’s not just about students’ literacies. It’s about their lives.”

Tatum’s keynote was followed by remarks from four panelists. Gevonee Ford, founder and director of the Network for the Development of Children of African Descent, a family education center in St. Paul, asked the audience to consider ways to expand ownership of policy. “The question is ‘Who gets to be the educational authority for my children?’” he said. “Literacy has always been a political act for African people.” Ford asked the audience to look for places where African Americans are educating themselves and learn from them.

Literacy panel at Policy Breakfast January 2015
Left to right: Jonathan Hamilton, Tina Willette, Michael Rodriguez, Alfred Tatum, Lori Helman, Gevonee Ford

Jonathan Hamilton, research director for the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership (MMEP), stressed the importance of school leadership and agreement on common language, such as the concept of equity. Hamilton joined the panel when Rep. Carlos Mariani, MMEP’s director, was not able to attend due to responsibilities at the Legislature.

Tina Willette, principal at Salem Hills Elementary School and Athanaeum in Inver Grove Heights, described her school’s efforts to help all—instead of most—students meet literacy goals. “That word ‘all’ makes all the difference,” she said, and it requires adaptive rather than technical changes.

Lori Helman, professor and director of the Minnesota Center for Reading Research in CEHD, cautioned against the “magic bullet” approach and urged educators and U researchers to push each other. “The ‘solution’ involves all of us,” she said.

Educators in the audience sought advice from the speaker and panelists on ways to bring Tatum’s research into their own classrooms and their students’ daily routines. Campbell Leadership Chair Michael Rodriguez, professor of educational psychology, facilitated the conversation.

Tuesday’s Policy Breakfast was the fourth installment in an ongoing series sponsored by CEHD, which is dedicated to discussion and analysis of research and policy regarding Minnesota’s achievement gap and efforts to close it. This semester’s topic, framing responsive literacy instruction in the national policy context, was planned in partnership with the Minnesota Center for Reading Research.

Materials from the presentation will be available on the Policy Breakfast website.

– Ellen Fee and Gayla Marty; photos by Seth Dahlsheid

Former C&I student publishes on posthumanist education

Dr. Nathan Snaza is director of the Bridge to Success Program at the University of Richmond, and a former C&I student (M.Ed. in Secondary English and Language Arts Education). Snaza is lead author of the article, “Toward a Posthumanist Education,” published in the current issue of the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

CEHD alum Rademacher wins Minnesota Teacher of the Year


Thomas Rademacher
Thomas Rademacher, photo courtesy of Education Minnesota

Curriculum and Instruction graduate Thomas Rademacher (M.Ed. ’07) has been named 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. Rademacher teaches English at the Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Resources (FAIR) School in Minneapolis and Crystal. Education Minnesota, the 70,000 member teachers’ union, underwrites the award, which is open to all prekindergarten through 12th-grade teachers in Minnesota’s public, private, and parochial schools.

According to coverage by the Star Tribune, “[Rademacher] said his message as a teacher ambassador in the coming year will be cooperating with anyone interested in education to make it better. He said he learned from a staff shake-up in his West Metro program a few years ago. It created a division within fellow teachers that he tried to heal by inviting 10 teachers with differing opinions to his home for enchiladas.”

“Rademacher is known at FAIR for his unwavering commitment to students,” according to Education Minnesota. This year, 128 candidates were nominated by peers and students, among others. Winners receive a $6,000 prize, and go on to the national competition. Minnesota has produced four National Teachers of the Year, more than any other state, except California. The Minnesota Teacher of the Year program is the longest running recognition program in Minnesota to honor excellence in education.

“Mr. Rademacher will do anything in his power to help his students succeed,” said student Asyana Eddy in the Star Tribune story. “He gives us the freedom to approach his subjects in the most creative ways possible, he teaches us that our thoughts matter, and that we are capable of anything we want to do with our lives.”

Rademacher is the second teacher from one of CEHD’s teacher education programs to win Teacher of the Year in the last 5 years. In 2009, alumna Amber Damm won the honor for her work at the Clara Barton Open School in Minneapolis.

Visit the CEHD People section to read Amber Damm’s profile. Visit the Star Tribune’s website to read the full article on Rademacher’s award, “Minneapolis English teacher named Minnesota Teacher of the Year.” And, please visit to learn more about earning your teaching license at the University of Minnesota.

Israelson awarded Robert Schreiner Reading Fellowship

Madeleine IsraelsonC&I Ph.D. candidate Madeleine Israelson (Literacy Education) has had a busy spring. Earlier this year, she was awarded a Robert Schreiner Reading Fellowship to support her dissertation research in reading education. Awardees are selected based on the importance of the research, the clarity with which it is described, and the potential the work has for making a significant contribution to the field. Madeleine’s dissertation research has already been cited in an Education Week article examining the effects of e-books on building reading comprehension skills. In addition to this work, Madeleine is working on a blog to help teachers select appropriate apps for the classroom.
We recently interviewed Madeleine to learn a little bit more about her experiences and what she’s enjoying about her research.

What is most exciting about your work/research/studies?
My dissertation research explores how kindergarten-3rd grade teachers are using tablets and apps in early literacy instruction. I’m really excited about this work! Since these tools for learning are so new, there is so much potential to use tablets and apps in innovative and transformative ways. More and more, we are seeing tablets in early elementary classrooms. However, there are an overwhelming number of apps that purport to teach literacy, and the process of finding quality apps can be challenging and time consuming for teachers. My hope is that my research will help early elementary teachers who are seeking to do innovative and exciting things with learning technologies in their literacy instruction.

How did your path lead to the University of Minnesota and to C&I in particular?
I earned my initial elementary teaching license through C&I. While I was working as a teacher I enrolled in the reading specialist program at UMN. Those 5 courses were really life-changing for me. I was able to learn from eminent scholars and take research-based instructional practices back to my classroom. This course of study let me be a much more effective teacher for my students; they learned and enjoyed reading and writing much more because I was improving my instruction. As I saw first hand the exciting potential to improve educational experiences for students through scholarly research, I was inspired to pursue my doctorate.

What has surprised you along the way?
Probably how fast graduate school went… I remember watching a colleague defend her dissertation the week I started my program. I thought, “Well, that won’t be me for a long time,” and here I am, getting ready for my dissertation defense!

What have you most enjoyed about your experience in your program?
I’ve been really fortunate to be part of several research and instructional teams during my time in the program. These opportunities to collaborate with faculty members and graduate students on both research projects and curriculum development have been invaluable to me. I learn so much from everyone I’ve had the privilege to work with over the past four years.

What’s most challenging?
For me, it was overcoming self-doubt. There have been times over the last four years when I thought, “Oh, I probably can’t get a paper accepted to that conference,” or “Oh, I don’t know if I can present on that topic.” But luckily I’ve had incredible mentors and amazing friends. Their encouragement and support has helped me do things I thought I couldn’t do. So I’d encourage prospective or new graduate students to go for it and try things that are new, scary or daunting. I’ve found graduate school is a great time to take risks, experience failures, grow and learn, then take some more risks and celebrate successes!

Any memorable forks in the road, or surprising turns?
My daughter was born when I was writing my preliminary exams! My committee was incredibly understanding and supportive. I was able to take time to stay home with my little girl after she was born and still stay on track to finish my program as planned.

Do you have hobbies or activities that you do outside of work?
I spend as much time with my husband and our daughter as I possibly can! We take swim classes, draw and paint, and read lots of books together. We also like to travel and go to parks, playgrounds and zoos.

Do you have a motto or a set of words to live by?
I’ve been really inspired by this quote from John Dewey since I first read it in one of my classes:

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”
– John Dewey

In fact, this quote prompted me to think and ask questions that led to the conception of my dissertation study.

To read “Researchers Voice Concern Over E-Books’ Effect on Reading Comprehension,” the article that cites Madeleine’s research, please visit Education Week’s website. Visit the Literacy Program Area webpage to learn more about our academic programs in Literacy. 

Rogers awarded Norine Odland Fellowship in Children’s Literature

Aimee RogersC&I Ph.D. candidate, Aimee Rogers (Literacy Education) has been awarded the Norine Odland Fellowship in Children’s Literature. This fellowship is available to Ph.D. and M.A. candidates in children’s and adolescent literature who have completed all preliminary course work and examinations, and have had a dissertation or thesis proposal for research in children’s literature approved. Awardees are selected based on the importance of the purpose for which they plan to use the award, the strength of their teaching or library experience, their expertise in selecting books for children, and the strength of their graduate work, particularly that in children’s literature. We recently interviewed Aimee to learn a little bit more about her research and experiences.

What is most exciting about your research?
My dissertation work focuses on how intermediate grade readers (6th to 8th graders) make meaning with graphic novel texts. I became interested in graphic novels as a special education teacher. A common refrain I used to hear (and still hear to this day) was, “Give graphic novels to struggling readers because they are easier to read.” Although I was an avid reader of children’s and young adult literature prior to this, I began consciously selecting graphic novels to read and searching for ones that might be appropriate to include in my class or curriculum.

I became hooked on graphic novels, and when I entered the University of Minnesota doctoral program, I already knew that texts in this format would likely be the focus of my dissertation research. I have learned over the years that graphic novel texts are not “easier” to read, although, they often have less written content. There are so many meaning-making units that contribute to the meaning of the text overall, including panels, gutters, font, color, etc. I get really excited when I talk about all of these elements, and the really amazing thing is that a well-done graphic novel will seamlessly integrate all of these units of meaning!

The most exciting things about my research are working with young participants and working with texts in this format. I love observing how kids read and make meaning with a graphic novel. They seem to naturally integrate all of the elements and are comfortable reading a text that uses so many modalities. I loved the moments where I would ask my participants about a particular part of a graphic novel, and they were able to construct a meaning and would look at me with a look that said, “Duh!” Then, they’d go on to explain what they did as if it was no big deal. They are so smart!

The other exciting part of my research is that graphic novels are gaining in popularity in readers of all types and ages. Graphic novels are finding traction in educational circles as well. It is thrilling to be working with a format that is increasingly recognized as valid and interesting.

What does this award mean for you?
Being selected for the Norine Odland Fellowship means a lot to me as it serves to validate the work I have done in my area of focus, which is children’s and adolescent literature. The greatest part of the award is the $2,500 that is dedicated to selecting and buying books for Amplatz Children’s Hospital in honor of Norine Odland. I am so grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community in this way, especially through the donation of books for children, young adults and their families.

How did your path lead to the University of Minnesota and to C&I in particular?
I moved from Colorado to Evansville, Indiana to attend the University of Evansville to study special education. I was one of those weird students who left college with the same major that I started with and didn’t change it along the way.

After graduation I had a handful of teaching experiences in traditional and nontraditional settings. While working with middle and high school students in a day treatment program in Denver, I quickly discovered that I didn’t have any idea how to teach a 17-year-old how to read. This inspired me to look for Master’s programs in reading. I moved, again, this time from Colorado to Tucson, Arizona to attend the University of Arizona where I studied Language, Reading and Culture with a focus on adolescent literacy. I had always been an avid reader, and as a teacher of young adults, I read a great deal of young adult literature. I loved the literature courses that I took at the University of Arizona and tucked away the thought that I could actually study in this field.

I happily taught special education English at a public high school in Tucson for five years. When I was ready for a change I started looking for programs in children’s and adolescent literature. The University of Minnesota has a well-respected program, and Dr. Lee Galda, my advisor, is a rock star in the field. I applied, and I truly feel it was dumb luck that Dr. Galda agreed to take me as her last student before her retirement. I have been blessed to study with Dr. Galda. I have loved teaching courses on children’s literature and graphic novels. I will finish this summer and am looking forward to continuing to work in the field of children’s and adolescent literature.

Visit the C&I website to learn more about the Literacy Education program area or the Ph.D. track in Literacy Education.

Kolb awarded Robert Schreiner Reading Fellowship

kolb photoPh.D. candidate, Chris Kolb (Literacy Education) has been awarded the Robert Schreiner Reading Fellowship. The fellowship is designed to support a Ph.D. candidate’s dissertation research in reading education. Awardees are selected based on the importance of the research, the clarity with which it is described, and the potential the work has for making a significant contribution to the field. We recently interviewed Chris to learn a little bit more about his experiences and what he’s enjoying about his research.

What is most exciting about your work/research/studies?
For my current study, I spent about three months observing teaching and learning activities in a suburban high school English classroom. One of my main goals was to examine how classroom participants adopted or challenged dominant social and institutional beliefs about what it means to read and to be a reader, particularly in the context of a curriculum based on Common Core State Standards. This kind of research is exciting because it helps us understand not only how top-down standards initiatives and other institutional policies can constrain curricula and pedagogical practices, but also how these policies might ultimately influence how students perceive themselves as learners. Ultimately, I hope that my work contributes to efforts to develop literacy standards and curricula that encourage many kinds of literate identities among youth.

What really motivates you?
I have always approached my teaching and research as forms of social justice work. I am motivated by possibilities for improving literacy education for all youth, regardless of background or social identity. When I was a K-12 student, literacy and English education opened many doors for me. My goal is to help make the same possible for all students.

What have you most enjoyed about your experience in your program?
I’ve most enjoyed the opportunity to work with kind and insightful colleagues through every stage of my program — not only in different subfields of literacy education, but also in other fields across C&I. My teaching and scholarship have benefited (and changed) so much because of collaborations with graduate students and faculty in literacy education, social studies education, language education, and culture and teaching (to name just a few). I’d encourage all new students to reach across disciplinary boundaries in our department; they’re less solid than they sometimes seem.

Do you have hobbies or activities that you do outside of work?
It can be difficult to maintain space, both physical and intellectual, outside of academic work. Academic books tend to outnumber the leisurely ones, and it’s easy to spend each day thinking about writing and research questions. However, I do enjoy reading fiction, cooking and baking, enjoying Minnesota’s many lakes, and spending time with friends and family.

Do you have a book you would recommend to anyone?
One of my favorite books is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I’d especially recommend it to anyone who enjoys mystery novels (this was one of the first).

Visit the C&I website to learn more about the Literacy Education program area or the Ph.D. track in Literacy Education

Guest speakers, Moje and Enciso visit C&I seminars

LewisOBrienThis past fall, Dr. Elizabeth Moje, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Education at the University of Michigan, and Dr. Patricia Enciso, Professor of Teaching and Learning at The Ohio State University discussed their work with PhD students in two Curriculum and Instruction seminars on Sociocultural Theory, Education, and Literacy (taught by Cynthia Lewis) and Research in Reading (taught by David O’Brien).
Enciso and Moje discussed their partnerships with schools in Columbus and Detroit to enhance the literacy learning of immigrant and racially minoritized youth through storytelling and other arts-based pedagogies as well as through supporting the complex navigations youth accomplish as they move across home, community, and school spaces. Enciso, Moje, and Lewis are collaborating on a second book focused on critical sociocultural theory and literacy research.
Their visits were arranged by Cynthia Lewis, Professor of Literacy Education. and sponsored by the Emma Birkmaier Speaker Series in Critical Literacy and Urban Education. To learn more about the Speaker Series, please see the description on the C&I News and Events page.

Lewis discusses grading rubrics

LewisGradingRubricOn November 22, Cynthia Lewis, Emma Birkmaier Professor in Educational Leadership, participated in a teaching with writing panel, “Grading Rubrics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” as part of the Engaging Controversies Series sponsored by the Center for Writing.
Lewis drew on her research to caution against the use of grading rubrics, arguing that they make false assumptions about learning. Grading rubrics position learning as outcome driven rather than problem driven, thus reducing the richness and learning potential of the problem space and deterring students from taking the kind of risks that deepen learning for fear of receiving a lower score.
Visit Cynthia Lewis’ profile to learn more about her research.

C&I at LRA Annual Conference

Last week, the Department of Curriculum and Instruction faculty and graduate students visited Dallas, TX to attend and participate in the Literacy Research Association’s (LRA) 2013 Annual Conference. The theme of the 2013 Conference, “Transformative Literacy: Theory Research, and Reform” considered how researchers are examining and critiquing the ways in which culture, knowledge, language, and power intersect literacy access, equity, and social justice in an age of reform.
Richard Beach, C&I professor emeritus, serves as the current president of the LRA, and Professor Cynthia Lewis is on the LRA Board of Directors. Associate Professor Mark Vagle and Professor Lori Helman are Area Chairs for the research conference paper selection process.
C&I faculty and graduate students gave a combined 23 presentations and served as proposal reviewers and discussants for many other presentations and round table sessions.
Presentations covered a range of topics including:

  • Are Two Heads Better Than One? A Case Study of First Grade Team’s Collaborative Planning for English Learners in Literacy Instruction
  • Preparing Preservice Teachers in the Use of Technology to Support the Teaching of Literacy
  • Transformation in the Literacy Transaction: Relationships between “Trauma Texts and Traumatic Histories”
  • Animating Critical Literacy with the Body: Creating Countertexts through Scene-Making and Dramatic Play
  • Reading the World through Story: An Argument for the Inclusion of Culturally Diverse Literature in Critical Literacy Curricula

For a full list of presentations, please see the Literacy Program page on the C&I website.

C&I Ph.D. Student Kathryn Allen receives grant for new research

AllenK2013Curriculum and Instruction Ph.D. student Kathryn Allen received a grant for research presented at The International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (ISSOTL) conference in October. ISSOTL serves faculty members, staff, and students who care about teaching and learning as serious intellectual work. The goal of the Society is to foster inquiry and disseminate findings about what improves and articulates post-secondary learning and teaching. ISSOTL is unique in its efforts to form a global community in the interest of post-secondary teaching and learning.
In the poster presentation on Cultural-Historical Activity Theory, Allen explored professional development from a perspective that supports educators beyond traditional modes. During her master’s program at UT, Allen, along with 2 other students and a faculty member were each involved in independent projects beyond the scope of the program and decided to support each other through bi-weekly meetings. This model of professional development is the subject of the study. She hopes to continue using this theory to explore professional development for teachers in the specific area of technology integration. Effective use of technology for teaching and learning is a common professional development theme crossing national borders and demands an international forum.
Of the conference, Allen said, “This year’s conference title, ‘Critical Transitions in Teaching and Learning’ particularly resonated with me during my work with pre-service teachers. In what ways does teacher preparation need to transform in order to fit them for the classrooms they will enter? What transitions can I make in my teaching that will serve my students? How does my research support the preparation of teachers in a world that is transforming with mind-boggling speed? This year’s ISSOTL conference explored all of these questions through scholarly work and conversation.”
To learn more about the Department of Curriculum and Instruction’s Literacy Education track, please visit the Literacy Education Ph.D. page on our website.

English education students thrive on new partnership with Laura Jeffrey Academy

LJAThe Department of Curriculum and Instruction’s English Education Initial Licensure Program is partnering with Laura Jeffrey Academy (LJA), a year round, girl-focused middle school emphasizing interdisciplinary learning, problem solving, critical thinking, and community involvement. This fall, students in the English Education Post-Baccalaureate Program are meeting weekly with teachers and students at the school to teach an interdisciplinary English/Social Studies class. Literacy Education doctoral students Erin Stutelberg and Tracey Pyscher, along with Professor Cynthia Lewis, met with partnership administrators and teachers over the summer to develop curricular goals and activities to meet the needs of the LJA teachers and students as well as the pre-service teachers.
As part of the partnership, teacher candidates just completed a week of teaching LJA students during the school’s intersession with the goal of creating engaging learning experiences focused on reading, writing, and language arts. Course topics, which were developed in candidate’s Literature Methods class, included “Twitterature” focused on twitter as literature, “Tearing it up,” which asked students to consider why society values some texts over others. and “Painting Poetry,” which gave students opportunities to make art inspired by poems, write poems inspired by artwork, and create their own connected paintings and poems for a class gallery. All English education instructors visited the school to observe and provide feedback to teacher candidates.
Throughout the semester, teacher candidates experience the culture of teaching and learning at the school site through apprenticeship, practice and reflection, with many opportunities to interact with students outside of class time and field seminars held on site.
To learn more about our English Education Initial Licensure Program, please visit the program webpage.

C&I faculty and graduate students are a big success at the 2013 Bergamo Conference

Three Curriculum and Instruction graduate students, Justin Grinage (Culture and Teaching Track), Christopher Kolb (Literacy Education Track), and Sadaf Rauf (Second Languages and Cultures Track), along with C&I department chair, Nina Asher, gave two presentations at the 2013 Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice, held at the Bergamo Conference Center in Dayton, OH.

  • Asher and Kolb presented a co-authored paper titled, “Toward Educational Re-vision in a Time of Globalization and Standardization: Looking Deeply as a Means of Breaking the Confines of Capitalism.”
  • Grinage, Kolb and Rauf each presented a paper in a panel discussion called, “Race, Language, Nation, and Curriculum in a Global Context,” while Asher served as session chair. These presentations emerged out of the work the students did in Asher’s graduate seminar, Postcolonialism, Globalization, and Education last Spring and were very well received.

GinageJustin Grinage (pictured) was selected as the winner of the 2013 Bergamo Graduate Student Paper Award. His paper, “Reterritorializing Locations of Home,” will be published in the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing. This was Justin’s first presentation at a national conference.
For more information about Asher’s research, please see her faculty profile. If you would like to know more about the Ph.D. program tracks mentioned, please visit our Future Student – Ph.D. webpages.

Lewis named co-editor of Expanding Literacies in Education Series

LewisC-2013Cynthia Lewis, Emma Birkmaier Professor in Educational Leadership, has been named a co-editor for the Expanding Literacies in Education Series, published by the Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.
From the Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group: The Expanding Literacies in Education Series features books that highlight the changing landscape and explore new directions and theoretical tools in literacy studies as it is transforming education–including material, embodied, affective, and global emphases; digital and virtual worlds; and transcultural and cosmopolitan spaces. Some books in the series locate emerging literacies in practices that extend or trouble their historical uses and functions. Others cross disciplinary borders, bringing new epistemologies to bear on evolving practices that question the very foundations of literacy scholarship. Polemical and forward-looking, encompassing public and vernacular pedagogies as well as formal education, these books engage researchers, graduate students, and teacher educators with new and emerging theoretical approaches to literacy practices in all of their complexities, challenges, and possibilities.
Lewis has also recently been appointed to the editorial board of Research in the Teaching of English, the research journal for the National Council of Teachers of English. Research in the Teaching of English (RTE) is a multidisciplinary journal composed of original research and scholarly essays on the relationships between language teaching and learning at all levels, preschool through adult.
To follow the Expanding Literacies in Education Series, bookmark the series’ webpage.