My research interests and goals all focus on the role of literacy in people’s lives. I seek to understand the relationships between literate subjectivities, literate contexts, and teacher and student learning.

In my role as professor, as well as in my constant reflections on my time spent as a classroom teacher, I continually make deliberate efforts to bridge theory and practice for my students. Sadly, I often find that people are unnecessarily either very “classroom oriented” or very “theory oriented.” Meaningful, relatable connections are always needed.

I devote all of my research towards the role of literacy in people lives across contexts– personal literacies, school literacies, and all of the important hybrid area between the two, for which I call upon third space theory (e.g. Gutierrez, Rymes, & Larson, 1995; Moje et al., 2004; Soja, 1996). My work is situated within the social traditions of New Literacy Studies (Barton & Hamilton 1999; Street, 1996) and Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, and Cain’s (1998) studies of “figured worlds” in relation to identity and agency in literacy.

My research trajectory consists of three interconnecting entities:

  • The roles of literacies in negotiations of gender, as well as in the ways we construct agency and embody knowledge, for which I am committed to feminist methodologies
  • The roles of children’s literature in promoting social justice
  • The role of portraiture in understanding school literacies

1. Literacy, Gender, Body, and Feminist Methodology

My doctoral dissertation focused on the role of literacy in late adolescent girls’ negotiations of gender. Using feminist methodologies, I discovered that girls used specific types of literacies to establish agency and to construct knowledge pertaining to such issues as understanding themselves, understanding others, and exploring a range of relationships through a form of safe reflection.

In retrospect, I realized that a great deal of the girls’ understandings through literacy were related to their growing awareness of their bodies. As a result of this, I consistently extend my doctoral dissertation research into various journal articles, exploring the roles of embodied knowledge as experienced through literacy, in both students and teachers.  For example, my article in the Journal of Literacy Research provided a cross-case analysis of adolescent girls, and the role of embodied knowledge in their literacy practices.  In addition, I recently extended that work to apply to literacy coaches, and the role of their bodies in their teaching when I was invited to be a keynote speaker and featured article author in the Journal of Language and Literacy Education.

In addition, since I am so committed to applications of feminist methodologies to the field of literacy, I am currently working on expanding the use of the Listening Guide, a feminist, voice-centered, relational methodology (e.g., Brown & Gilligan, 1992; Gilligan, Spencer, Weinberg, & Bertsch, 2003; Taylor, Gilligan, & Sullivan, 1995; Tolman, 2002; Way, 1998). By collaborating with colleagues, I am able to explore how this method of analysis traditionally used in psychology, can not only be used in the field of literacy, but in countless other disciplines as well, as a way of placing emphasis on the importance of human relationships, and by providing spaces to hear those who have been traditionally silenced.  One example of my extension into multidisciplinary journals was my article in Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research, and PracticeLG_Coach_Woodcock.  The Listening Guide has been applied my literacy research pertaining to adolescents in my article entitled, The Silenced Voice in Literacy: Listening beyond words to a “struggling” adolescent girl.

2. Children’s Literature

I have always loved children’s literature, and it is an integral part of my life. I am committed to looking at the relationships found within young adult and children’s literature. I consider texts to be representations of experiences that can be known and negotiated. In addition, texts are objects with which one may establish a relationship (Clinchy, 1996). Relationships in texts can help children and young adults explore their notions of self, and selves in relationship to one another. Engagement and reflection with texts can empower youth to re-examine and trust what they think and feel.

In teaching both my undergraduate and graduate-level children’s literature classes, I make concerted efforts to tackle controversial issues through the lens of children’s and young adult literature. It is my hope to empower my students to critically examine the contexts and questions surrounding dominant assumptions about childhood, education, and literature. By doing so, perhaps we can transcend personal and cultural biases in the act of reading, through awareness of cultural and historical circumstances.

In relation to these research passions, I have written on three topics.  First, I have written and illustrated my own children’s picture books surrounding notions of social justice. Second, I have analyzed the discourse in my hybrid online children’s literature courses to examine in more depth the students’ aforementioned explorations of positions and power in social justice and literature. (Please see:  Third, I have examined ways to use process drama to promote justice and enhance comprehension. (Please see: Woodcock, C.  (2013).  How to use process drama to enhance comprehension and promote social justice.  The English Record, 63, (1), 27-44.Process_Drama_Woodcock

3. School Literacies Through the Eyes of Portraiture

As may be seen by the titles and nature of my published papers, I am committed to writing research that is aimed at the professional development of teachers. Furthermore, I am devoted to writing pieces that are truly accessible and useful to an audience of teachers. A delicate balance of theory and practice is needed. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for academic journals to be laden with specialized jargon, or highly theoretical articles that make no connections to everyday practice. Powerful, tangible connections between theory and practice are sorely needed. As a former classroom teacher, and now as a professor, I am dedicated to creating effective practice-theory bridges.

In order to make my work accessible, I often call upon the method of portraiture (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Hoffman Davis, 1997). I have a great deal of respect for portraiture, which unites systematic, empirical description with aesthetic expression. Portraiture is a genre of empirical research that reads more like literature because it takes into consideration not only the informant, but her entire surrounding aesthetic context as well. In portraiture, the thought is that this context plays a vital role in painting a clearer, more holistic picture of the informant, keeping her, and her surroundings respectfully intact. The method of portraiture includes the “larger picture” or the central question that is being explored by the researcher, and then defines why that theme is of personal importance to the researcher, and hopefully others as well. Since my ultimate goal is to further educational knowledge, I feel that this portraiture approach will broaden my audience beyond the walls of academe, making it more readable and aesthetically pleasing, presenting the fine and enlightening stories my informants share, providing a space to hear their experiences. I seek to not only inform, but inspire as well. As a researcher, I am committed to rendering documentation that is illustrative of the depth and dimension of the human experience, and exemplifying the perspectives of the people who are negotiating those experiences.

In 2015, I published a book entitled The Evolution of us: Portraits of mothers and their changing roles, in which I explored the sociological implications of the role of motherhood in modern America through the methodology of portraiture.  In the near future, my goal is to use portraiture to study the experiences of people involved in specific types of school literacies. My long-range goal is to write a literacy methods textbook for pre-service teachers that uses portraits of various, diverse teachers to illustrate fundamental concepts that are often handled in uninteresting ways in traditional textbooks. We learn through story, so why not allow the portraits of exemplary teachers to inform and inspire our pre-service teachers, while they learn the essential literacy methods?


Barton, D. and Hamilton, M. (1998). Local literacies: Reading and writing in one community. New York: Routledge.

Brown, L. M., and Gilligan, C. (1992). Meeting at the crossroads: Women’s psychology and girls development. New York: Ballantine Books.

Clinchy, B. M. (1996). Connected and separate knowing. In N. Goldberger, J. Tarule, B. Clinchy, and M. Belenky (Eds.), Knowledge, Difference, and Power (pp. 205- 247). NY: Basic Books.

Gutierrez, K., Rymes, B., & Larson, J. (1995). Script, counterscript, and underlife in the classroom: James Brown versus Brown v. Board of Education. Harvard Educational Review, 65, 445-471.

Holland, D., Lachicotte, W., Skinner, D., and Cain, C. (1998). Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lawrence-Lightfoot, S., and Hoffman Davis, J. (1997). The art and science of portraiture. San Francisco, CA: Jossey- Bass.

Moje, E. B., Ciechanowski, K. M., Kramer, K., Ellis, L., Carrillo, R., & Collazo, T. (2004). Working toward third space in content area literacy: An examination of everyday funds of knowledge and Discourse. Reading Research Quarterly, 39, 38-70.

Rogers, R. (Ed.) (2004). An introduction to critical discourse analysis in education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Soja, E. W. (1996). Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

Street, B. V. (1996). Social literacies: Critical approaches to literacy development, ethnography, and education. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Taylor, J. M., Gilligan, C., and Sullivan, A. M. (1995). Between voice and silence: Women and girls, race and relationship. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Tolman, D. (2002). Dilemmas of desire: Teenage girls talk about sexuality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Way, N. (1998). Everyday courage: The lives and stories of urban teenagers. New York: New York University Press.