Larson Appointed to Endowed Professorship Honoring Michael W. Scandling

A renowned scholar on literacy, Joanne Larson, has been named the Michael W. Scandling Professor of Education at the University of Rochester’s Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development. A member of the Warner School since 1995, Larson, professor, chair of the teaching and curriculum program, is well known for her research and publications in language and literacy.

“I am delighted to present this honor to such a committed and distinguished educator,” said Raffaella Borasi, dean of the Warner School. “Joanne’s leadership and vision have helped strengthen our programs, and she is an inspiration for our junior faculty. Her work truly bridges research and practice and is very central to the Warner School’s mission.” 

Her ethnographic research examines how language and literacy practices mediate social and power relations in literacy events in schools and communities as a way to empower all students to achieve the level of literacy needed to be successful. Her commitment to supporting literacy education reform in the community has presented funding for the Rochester City School District through several state grants.

Larson’s research is distinguished by the extraordinary partnerships she has developed with practicing teachers and school-based educators. Most recently, a grant from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Research Foundation has enabled Larson to support teachers at Henry Hudson School 28 in conducting research on their own practice to better understand how to cope with external standardizing mandates and to investigate how these demands impact the teaching and learning of literacy in their classrooms.

Larson also is involved in an ethnography of a collaborative community reform called the “Rochester Children’s Zone” (RCZ) that will ultimately identify how urban schools and communities can better meet the needs of children. As part of this ethnography, Larson and other Warner colleagues are working with an elementary school in the “RCZ” to understand the processes and outcomes of the school’s programs and how they build on various social networks influencing students’ lives.

Larson’s collaborations with practicing teachers and educators have produced both single and co-authored articles in highly respected journals. Larson is also the editor of Literacy as Snake Oil: Beyond the Quick Fix (2001), currently in production of a second edition due in spring 2007. She is the co-editor of the Handbook of Early Childhood Literacy (2003), which provides an overview of contemporary research into early childhood literacy. Her most recent book, Making Literacy Real: Theories and Practices in Learning and Teaching (2005), 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.

Most recently, Larson has branched out from traditional publication venues to collaboratively produce a documentary film, A Life Outside, which explores the teaching life of Lynn Astarita Gatto, 2004 New York State Teacher of the Year.

As a literacy expert on Mayor Robert J. Duffy’s panel, Larson participated in the Mayor’s Leadership Summit on Literacy in November 2006. The Summit’s objectives were to formulate a community-wide action plan to promote the awareness of and involvement in advancing literacy and to identify and develop partnerships that will enhance local literacy programs. 

Larson earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a doctoral in curriculum from the University of California in Los Angeles. She currently teaches elementary teacher preparation and literacy classes, as well as doctoral level classes in curriculum, teaching and change, and qualitative research at the Warner School.

The professorship she assumes was established by the late William F. Scandling in honor of his son, Michael W. Scandling, vice-president of marketing at Datastick, who serves on the Warner School's Dean's Advisory Committee.

Tags: Joanne Larson, literacy, literacy education, Michael W. Scandling professorship, professorship, Rochester City School District