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Levine awarded National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation fellowship

Sarah Levine (photo by Sofia Kukhar)
Sarah Levine (photo by Sofia Kukhar)

Levine awarded National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation fellowship

Stanford education scholar Sarah Levine aims to devise better methods for instruction of interpretative reading.

The National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation has chosen Sarah Levine, assistant professor of education at Stanford, to receive one of its highly sought-after postdoctoral fellowships.

Levine, who taught high school English and radio for 12 years in Chicago, joined the faculty of Stanford Graduate School of Education last fall. She previously had been on the faculty at National Louis University in Chicago.

The fellowship will help Levine to continue her research on the teaching and learning of literary interpretation and writing in under-resourced urban high schools.  “The goal with this study is to help teachers better understand how interpretation works, and to help students connect out-of-school interpretive practices with in-school interpretive work,” she said.

In her application for the fellowship, she proposed to examine a particular heuristic approach to reading instruction — one that has students reading literary texts with a focus on affect and emotion. Students look for especially positive or negative moments in texts, interpret authorial tone, and examine their own positive and negative responses.

In previous studies, Levine found that when students used this feeling-based approach, they moved from literal to interpretive readings of literary texts. However, those studies were small in scale, focusing on two groups of students in one high school.

The new study funded by the Spencer fellowship will allow Levine to work on a larger scale. The study will involve 50 teachers in mid- to high-poverty schools across the United States who will first learn and practice this interpretive strategy in a two-week summer workshop run by Stanford’s Center to Support Excellence in Teaching. Then Levine and graduate students Mary Hauser and A.J. Alvero will track whether and how teaching and learning changes over a period of 12 to 24 months.

Levine is one of 30 scholars selected out of a field of 176 applicants. Now in its 30th year, the program has supported nearly 800 fellows, including  many of the leading scholars in the field of education.

“The Academy believes the fellowships enhance the future of education research by developing new talent in the many disciplines and fields represented by the scholars selected,” Jack Busbee, senior program officer at NAEd, wrote in an email announcing Levine’s award. “These fellowships are the oldest source of support for education research, nationally and internationally, for recent recipients of the doctorate.”

The fellowships are administered by the National Academy of Education, an honorary educational society, and they are funded by a grant to the Academy from the Spencer Foundation.  The award provides $70,000 to help cover research expenses and to provide salary relief for time off.

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