Literacy: Systems Matter. A Q&A with Associate Professor Sarah Woulfin

Kendall Payne
March 18, 2022

On March 21, Sarah Woulfin, associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy will be a presenter in a webinar titled “Literacy: Systems Matter. An Infrastructure Approach To Reading Achievement” sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute.

Woulfin sat down to discuss her research, what brought her to UT Austin and the College of Education, and provide more information about the upcoming webinar.  

Photo of Sarah Woulfin
Sarah Woulfin

Tell us about your research and its impact.

I conduct research applying lenses from organizational sociology and qualitative methods to understand the role of district and school leaders in instructional policy implementation. My research aims to answer questions about why it is challenging to change the nature of teaching and learning.

I am deeply concerned about opportunity gaps for children and communities and about the pressures placed on educators and schools to resolve inequalities, including the weak social safety net. Further, my research aims to determine under what conditions policies can provide support and development to district leaders, principals, coaches and teachers so that they can do their best work.

What brought you to UT Austin and the College of Education?

I joined UT Austin to have the opportunity to collaborate with outstanding faculty, students, and staff and work toward positive change in the context of Texas' education system. In particular, I was eager to partner with district leaders to engage in relevant, mutually beneficial research. My scholarship, teaching, and service also strongly align with the College of Education's signature impact areas of equity, context and transitions, so I knew I wanted to contribute as a Longhorn.

Tell us more about the “Literacy: Systems Matter” webinar and what attendees will take away.

The pendulum of what is effective reading instruction and what is 'popular' for reading instruction has swung multiple times, yet it is now necessary to take the time to pause, paying attention to the conditions, or infrastructure, enabling teachers and leaders to implement high quality reading instruction. Dr. Rachael Gabriel and I will describe the infrastructure for improving literacy instruction and also engage with panelists on these issues. We seek to bridge policy, research and practice. 

The webinar will be insightful if you're interested in reading instruction, reading reforms or how the education system tackles change efforts. This is also perfect if you're curious why educational policies and programs often feel like fads, or why they are rarely deeply implemented. Additionally, if you care about the quality of curriculum, professional development, and leadership in U.S. schools, you should also join in.