I have always been interested in how children learn words and how vocabulary can best be taught, and over the years I have often tried to synthesize what I know about effective vocabulary instruction. My most recent publication (Nagy & Townsend, 2012) is the latest such attempt, focusing in particular on the challenges students face in understanding academic language. I am also interested in how students’ awareness of language contributes to their reading ability. In particular, I have been investigating morphological awareness – students’ knowledge about morphemes (prefixes, roots, and suffixes). In my recent work with Dr. Scott Beers, I have also begun dealing with another aspect of literacy, writing.
Everything I know about these topics is going to be needed for my upcoming research. Dr. Beers and I are now part of the research team led by Dr. Virginia Berninger at the University of Washington in the new Center for the Defining and Treating Specific Learning Disabilities in Written Language. This center is part of the Learning Disabilities Research Centers Consortium funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). (For a press release, see http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/011712-learning-disabilities-centers.cfm). We’ll be part of an interdisciplinary team, including not only educators, but computer scientists, geneticists, and experts in brain imaging. Our work will range from basic research on the nature of writing disabilities to very applied work on developing interventions to help students who struggle with writing.
Nagy, W. & Townsend, D. (2012). Words as tools: Learning academic vocabulary as language acquisition. Reading Research Quarterly, 47(1), 91-108.
Dr. Nagy has been a Professor in the School of Education at SPU since 1996. He teaches literacy and research courses and mentors many doctoral students. He was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame for his pioneering work in vocabulary development.