Can the Teaching of Literary Interpretation be Scaled Up?
Sarah Levine

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Stanford University

Primary Discipline

Literacy and/or English/Language Education
This quasi-experimental study builds on two previous instructional interventions designed to help high school students in high-poverty schools leverage everyday, affect-driven interpretive strategies to develop interpretations of literary texts. Students who used those strategies made significant gains in interpretive reading.The previous research involved one experimental and one “comparison” classroom studied over a four-week period, with one-on-one training for teachers. In contrast, the proposed study will involve fifty high school English teachers from mid- to high-poverty schools across the U.S., studied over 12 – 24 months. During a two-week summer workshop, teachers will practice developing authentic, judgment-based questions about literary texts; affect-based approaches to literary interpretation; and short affect-based interpretive units of instruction. They will then teach those approaches or at the beginning of the following school year. The study will use a time-series design and pre/post within-subjects design to examine sets of written interpretive tasks administered before and after the summer workshop, as well as video of classroom discussions, classroom artifacts, and teacher interviews.The study asks: To what extent can instruction in interpretive heuristics—at once broadly applicable and highly personal—be reliably scaled up? Also, do teachers and students continue to use such heuristics months after initial instruction? To what degree do these heuristics lead to richer discussions and interpretive readings? Such questions can contribute to our field’s understanding of long-term effects of strategy instruction and issues of research replicability.
About Sarah Levine
Sarah Levine is an assistant professor of education at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses on the teaching and learning of literary interpretation and writing in under-resourced urban high schools, with an emphasis on the links between in- and out-of-school interpretive practices. Her primary goal as an academic is to help shape the teaching and learning of secondary English Language Arts teachers and contribute to research that will help students — especially those in urban and under-resourced schools — become independent readers and writers. Before pursuing an academic career, Sarah taught secondary English at a Chicago public school. She also founded and ran a youth radio program that used digital audio production as a tool to help make writing and analysis relevant and real-world for students, and to help students build bridges between in- and out-of-school worlds.

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