I am EHE Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Learning in the School of Teaching and Learning of The Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology. I am the director of the Center for Video Ethnography and Discourse Analysis of the School of Teaching and Learning and co-director of the Columbus Area Writing Project.
Before becoming a professor, I was a classroom teacher of reading, writing, and the language arts, at the middle school and high school levels. My research and teaching focus on how people use spoken and written language for learning in classroom and non-classroom settings, and how people use language to create and maintain social relationships, to construct knowledge, and to create communities, social institutions, and shared histories and futures.
My current scholarship focuses on six areas related to writing and reading education: (1) the social construction of intertextuality as part of the reading, writing, and learning processes, (2) discourse analysis as a means for understanding reading, writing, and literacy events in and outside of classrooms, (3) narrative development among young children as a foundation for learning and literacy development in schools, (4) students as researchers and ethnographers of their own communities, (5) literacy as a set of social relationships connecting people to each other in urban environments, and (6) the teaching and learning of argumentative writing.
My early research and theory-building work in the 1970s and 1980s focused on reading as a social process. Like a few others at that time, I extended theorizing in the ethnography of communication to written language with my focus more specifically on reading in classrooms. At the same time, I focused attention on the theory-method linkage in the ethnographic study of reading and literacy. I argued then, as now, that principles and practices from cultural anthropology in the U.S. and social anthropology in the U.K. and Europe provide new ways of understanding reading and literacy and new epistemologies for building theories of reading and writing. The constructs above led to a series of studies on learning to read and write in classrooms and communities. My approach involved close collaboration with classroom teachers and led to a body of work labeled, “Students as Ethnographers.” Some of this work was published in a volume I co-edited titled Students as Researchers of Culture and Language in Their Own Communities. The studies on students as researchers led to a series of studies on the social construction of intertextuality in classroom reading and writing events. In collaboration with Ann Egan-Robertson, we redefined intertextuality from the perspective of social constructionism. We then redefined reading itself a set of intertextual practices. This redefinition of reading as intertextual practice was the basis of a collaborative research project and related publications with Susan Goldman of the University of Illinois, Chicago. Lately I have been involved with a team of scholars at Ohio State University in studying the teaching and learning of argumentative writing.