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Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar appointed Ann L. Brown Distinguished University Professor

Annemarie Palincsar
Dr. Annemarie Palincsar

Dr. Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Jean and Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. Professor of Reading and Literacy, was appointed Ann L. Brown Distinguished University Professor of Education in recognition of her exceptional scholarly achievements, teaching contributions, reputation for academic excellence, and superior record of mentoring and service.

“I was thrilled to receive this recognition! There are many fine education scholars in the School of Education and I hope that my appointment opens the door for others to be recognized as University Professors of Education,” says Palincsar.

Established in 1947, Distinguished University Professorships are the university’s most prestigious professorships. In collaboration with Dean Moje, Palincsar named the professorship in honor of her mentor, Ann L. Brown (1943–1999). “It was such a joy to be able to name this professorship for Ann. She died a little more than 22 years ago and I still miss her. I want young scholars to be aware of her—and just maybe, having this professorship named for her will make them curious to learn about her.”

Brown was an educational psychologist responsible for developing methods for teaching children to be better learners. Her realization that children's learning difficulties often stem from an inability to use metacognitive strategies such as summarizing led to advances in educational psychology theory and teaching practices.

Palincsar says of her mentor, “I came to my doctoral studies with lots of ideas, based upon my experience as a teacher, regarding how school could be more interesting, joyful, compelling, and effective, but it was Ann who helped me to understand how to use theory (theories of metacognition, self-regulation, and socioculturalism) to explain and test my thinking. Furthermore, my penchant for thinking and reading across disciplines was influenced by Ann.”

Palincsar also credits Brown with shaping her practices as a mentor: “Ann created remarkable opportunities for me. She was such a star that she received many more invitations than she could accept and she would ask me to present in her stead. Once I got accustomed to the expressions of disappointment when the audience realized they were going to have a ‘stand-in,’ I came to treasure these opportunities and I try to provide these opportunities for my own advisees.”

Palincsar’s scholarship has transformed the field of cognition, learning, and instruction by developing a preeminent program of research based on the belief that the purpose of education is to facilitate children’s ability to think, reason, problem solve, and transfer learning to novel situations.

In the 1980s, Palincsar launched one of the most successful literacy instructional interventions to date. Called Reciprocal Teaching (RT), the intervention engages students and their teachers in co-constructing the meanings of shared texts through dialogue. Her seminal work documenting the effectiveness of RT has since inspired many researchers to replicate the results across a variety of instructional contexts and has gained a wide practitioner audience of reading educators.

Cutting across disciplinary boundaries, she has conducted research at the intersection of the language literacies and science by collaborating with disciplinary experts across domains. Her work on interdisciplinary instruction has identified implications for designing communities of practice among teachers, designing and using science text to promote scientific reasoning and knowledge building, and enacting the discipline-specific nature of dialogic instruction.

Her work has significantly influenced the field’s understanding of learning theory, especially through her writing about sociocultural and social constructivist theories of learning. Specifically, her research offers pathways for restoring opportunity in today’s schools and classrooms by equipping teachers with the necessary skills to initiate and sustain high-quality dialogue in diverse classrooms.

Palincsar’s colleague and collaborator, Dr. Mary Schleppegrell, says, “Annemarie Palincsar's research has been seminal in stimulating inquiry that recognizes children as sensemakers. It has shown the value of establishing conditions in which children engage with each other and with sources of knowledge and information, explore concepts in science and other domains, and work together to develop and share new insights and perspectives. Her work has prompted teachers to listen to children with respect and invite their voices into classroom dialogue, and has inspired innovative pedagogical approaches and interventions around the world.”

The professorship also recognizes her record of service to the profession, university, and community. Within just the past 10 years, Palincsar, who currently serves as the chair of the Educational Studies program and has previously served as associate dean of graduate affairs and associate dean of academic affairs, has mentored more than 40 doctoral students as a chair, co-chair, or committee member. She also serves as a mentor for teaching apprentices in which she works with them to develop lesson plans, convey efficacious teaching practices, and provide continuous feedback on their teaching.

Palincsar’s former advisee Dr. Miranda Fitzgerald, who currently serves as an assistant professor of reading and elementary education at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, says, “In addition to her scholarly achievements, Dr. Palincsar has an impeccable record of service to the profession, university, and community, and is an outstanding mentor who prepares her students to conduct rigorous educational research and serve in research, teaching, and service-oriented leadership roles.”

Palincsar has achieved top distinctions in both the education and literacy fields. She is an executive board member for the National Academy of Education and a member of the professional development committee. She has served on four of the National Academy of Science’s Research Councils: the Prevention of Reading Difficulty in Young Children; the Panel on Teacher Preparation; the Committee on the Science and Practice of Learning; and the study group for How People Learn: Vol. 2. Palincsar is an American Educational Research Association (AERA) Fellow. In AERA, she has served as a member of the executive council and as program chair and has chaired several divisions of the organization. She also served on the International Reading Association’s Literacy Research Panel, on the National Advisory Board to Children's Television Workshop, the International Reading Association’s Literacy Research Panel, and as chair of the Contributions to Research Award committee for the National Association for Research on Science Teaching. She was elected to the Reading Hall of Fame in 2017, and she received the P. David Pearson Scholarly Influence Award in 2019 for her contributions to advancing literacy research and instruction.

When asked what she hopes her professional legacy will be, she says, “Nothing is more satisfying than receiving a message from an educator telling me that my research and writing have had a significant influence on how they teach, whether it is reading comprehension instruction or science instruction, and that their teaching is more lively and their classrooms more productive because they are using curricula or instruction that my research group has designed and studied. Similarly, I get a real kick out of getting requests from young scholars (using Research Gate, for example) telling me that they are appreciative of the program of research we have conducted and that it has fueled their own scholarship.”

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