Skip to main content
Joanne Larson headshot

Joanne Larson

Michael W. Scandling Professor of Education & Associate Director of Research, Center for Urban Education Success

Teaching & Curriculum

PhD, University of California, Los Angeles (curriculum)
BA, University of California, Los Angeles (fine arts)


Joanne Larson joined the Warner School faculty in 1995 and teaches master’s level literacy courses, as well as doctoral level courses on curriculum, teaching and change, and introductory and advanced qualitative research methods.

Larson serves as the director of the Genesee Valley Writing Project where she leads the Annual Summer Institute, a Young Writers Summer Camp, and all follow-up school year programs focused on improving the quality of student writing and learning in urban, suburban, and rural PK-16 schools across Monroe County and surrounding counties. She serves on the editorial board of several peer-review journals, including Research in the Teaching of English, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, and Reading Research Quarterly. She was appointed by Kris Gutierrez to serve as AERA program chair for the 2011 conference in New Orleans.
 She is chair of the UR/East High School Collaboration’s Family and Community Partnership Committee, which is part of the University’s effort to help transform East High School.

Larson’s ethnographic research examines how language and literacy practices mediate social and power relations in literacy events in schools and communities. Since 2014, she has been conducting a long-term participatory ethnography with teachers, administrators, and students at East High School as part of the historic UR East Educational Partnership Organization. She collaborated with Rochester community residents on participatory action research that examined changes associated with transforming a local corner store into a cornerstone of the community. Community literacies as shared resources for transformation (Routledge, 2018) narrates how this transformation occurred for the research team and the community in the dialogic spaces of on the ground collaboration. Her book, Radical Equality in Education: Starting Over in U.S. Schooling (Routledge, 2014), chronicles how the United States has reached a crisis point in public education and offers suggestions for a complete reboot of the current K-12 educational system. She is the editor of Literacy as Snake Oil: Beyond the Quick Fix, Second Edition (Lang, 2007) and co-editor of Handbook of Early Childhood Literacy, Second Edition (Sage, 2014). Her book, Making Literacy Real: Theories and Practices in Learning and Teaching, Second Edition (2015), co-authored with Jackie Marsh, explores the breadth of the complex and important field of literacy studies, orientating literacy as a social practice grounded in social, cultural, historical, and political contexts. Larson's journal publications include research articles in Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, Harvard Educational Review, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Pedagogies: An International Journal, Research in the Teaching of EnglishWritten Communication, Linguistics and EducationJournal of Early Childhood Literacy, and Discourse and Society.

Larson has branched out from traditional publication venues to collaboratively produce documentary films with filmmaker David Smith. The first was a professional development film that focused on teaching literacy in the current reductionist pedagogical context. The second, entitled A Life Outside, was a film documenting the teaching life of Lynn Astarita Gatto, 2004 New York State Teacher of the Year. They are currently documenting the corner store transformation project.

Learn more about the Center for Urban Education Success