Woodard Earns Teaching Award
By Rob Schroeder
February 16, 2017
As a teacher of future teachers, assistant professor Rebecca Woodard, PhD, says she talks with her students frequently about the critiques of high-stakes testing and assessment-driven culture in urban schools.
In her own classroom, she puts that theory into practice with opportunities to iterate and improve assignments, numerous field-based assignments, and portfolio assessments.
“We end up re-substantiating these things in teacher education with a big test or a final paper, which doesn’t really mirror what we say we value about practice,” Woodard said. “If what I believe about teaching and learning is that I always want you to be reflective and continuously improving, we need to choose assessments that say that to our students.”
Her commitment to instruction framed by an asset-based perspective earned her the 2016-17 Teaching Recognition Program Award from the UIC Center for the Advancement of Teaching-Learning Communities.
“It’s nice to have formal recognition of work that is often really invisible,” Woodard said. “It’s meaningful to me that this was peer-selected, that fellow educators recognize this everyday work.”
Through her teaching and research, she seeks to examine how teachers might engage in English language arts instruction that is more equitable, humane, and critical. She encourages her future teachers to recognize the linguistic, cultural and home practices of students not often valued in schools. Additionally, she supports teachers to draw from their own under-valued linguistic and literate resources to inform their instruction.
Woodard’s research includes an examination of how teachers face roadblocks implementing culturally relevant and critical literacy instruction. She found teachers often face resistance from administrators and official curriculum and even internally, moments where they experience tensions around ideologies that are deeply engrained.
Currently, she is seeking to expand the use of digital media in her classes, with future teachers composing videos as ways to talk about writing in a more expansive way than words on a paper. With the rise of fake news in the 2016 presidential election, she is also examining critical media literacies from a teacher’s pedagogical perspective.
She is also a recipient of a 2016-17 Dean's Community Engagement Grant for her "Project SUSTAIN: Supporting Urban Sustenance through Teacher Action Research & Inquiry," in collaboration with teachers at South Loop Elementary, Deneen School of Excellence, George Armstrong Elementary School, Curie High School, and Roosevelt Elementary. This action research project brings together researchers and teachers to collaborate on implementing culturally sustaining literacy units.
“All these things really represent both the teaching and the research I try to bring together in my classes and the ways I try to bridge beyond what we do within the walls of the College of Education,” Woodard said.